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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom

Your Classroom

by Kenneth Shore

The most effective way to deal with bullying is to prevent it from happening in the first place. The following are some specific teaching strategies to bully-proof your classroom.

1. Send an anti-bullying message by reinforcing acts of kindness and communicating values of tolerance, respect, and responsibility.
• Incorporate lessons and activities that promote understanding of students who are different.
• Use cooperative learning projects in which students must work together to attain success.
• Give out courtesy awards to younger students for such actions as helping a classmate with an assignment, inviting a new student to join in a game, or coming to the defense of a child who is being bullied.
• Establish a box where students can place notes complimenting their classmates for something they said or did. At the end of the week read these notes to the class.
• Have a class meeting periodically in which students gather in a circle and compliment or express appreciation to a classmate.
• Avoid using sarcasm or put-downs of any kind.

2. Catch a bullying student being kind. Make a special effort to find something positive to say about students who are prone to unkind behavior, even if it is a small gesture.

3. Hold a classroom meeting early in the year to discuss bullying. This will raise students’ awareness of the issue and help decrease bullying incidents. You may want to revisit the issue of bullying at periodic class meetings throughout the year. Describe what you mean by bullying, perhaps offering examples. Make it clear that bullying of any kind is unacceptable and not permitted in school while stating an underlying value: that all children are to be treated with respect.

4. Role-play social situations with your students. Have them assume the roles of bully, victim, and bystander, and give them common social situations where bullying might occur: a student calls you a name; a student cuts in front of you in line; a classmate doesn’t let you join in a game during recess. After the role play, have your students talk about how they felt and what they might have said or done differently.

5. Closely monitor students who are at high risk for being bullied. Children are more prone to be bullied if they are withdrawn from their classmates, stand out in some way (for example, they are short, overweight or have an accent), attend special education programs, speak English as a second language, or are new to the school. Students who are isolated from their classmates are particularly vulnerable to being bullied.

6. Inform other school staff, including paraprofessionals, about a bullying incident in your classroom and ask colleagues fro their help in monitoring the bullying student’s behavior.

7. Present classroom lessons have a bullying theme.
• Read a book to your students about a child who is bullied, then lead your students in a discussion.
• Have students design a survey about bullying, then have your students complete it anonymously.
• Draw a large picture of a child on the blackboard. Then ask your students to describe the characteristics of a bully as you write them on the picture.

8. Closely supervise areas where bullying is likely: the playground, the lunchroom, the bathroom, and even the back of the classroom. While some of these areas are outside your control, you can be especially vigilant and visible during less structured activities.

9. Encourage bystanders to bullying to take action.
 They can:
• Tell the bully to stop.
• Distract the bully by getting him or her to focus on something else.
• Reach out to the victim in friendship or support.
• Inform a school staff member.

Tell students that doing nothing is saying that it’s okay to hurt other students. If they laugh at the bully’s behavior or go along with it, they are contributing to the bullying.

Dr. Shore, a school and family psychologist whose work has appeared in the Journal before, has written six books, including Elementary Teacher's Discipline Problem Solver, and developed a bullying prevention program entitled The ABC's of Bullying Prevention. He gives workshops to school districts and parent groups on bullying and other topics. He can be contacted at and has a website at

Essay Contest Boosts
Natural Sciences

Got any budding conservationists and outdoors types in your classroom? Do they enjoy writing? The American Museum of Natural History is looking for students in grades 7-12 interested in tackling questions about the natural world, investigating them, and writing about their findings in the 13th Annual Young Naturalist Awards, a nationwide essay contest presented by the Museum and supported by the Alcoa Foundation.

The Awards program was begun in 1997 to promote participation and recognize excellence in the natural sciences: biology, environmental science, Earth science and astronomy. Twelve winners who demonstrate insight, originality and accuracy in observation and research, as well as creativity in writing and documentation will receive a free trip to the Museum in New York City and be eligible for cash awards ranging from $500 to $2,500.

Deadline for entries is March 1, 2010. For more information, visit

Inside Information for
the College-Bound

University Visitor’s Network, a new information portal for college-bound students, enrolled students, parents and admissions counselors, provides necessary information regarding academics and cost for each school, and also includes photos, videos and links to help paint a picture of the lifestyle on campus and the local community.

With sections such as Prepare Me for College, Financial Services and Scholarships, Green Scene and Study Abroad and Gap Year, UVN offers access to information on a wide range of subjects. The site is created by Campus Publishers, the originators of the official university Visitors Guide magazine concept. To begin searching, visit

How Does Your
Garden Grow?

If the Green Education Foundation has its way, there will be more green at more schools in the U.S. than ever before. GEF has launched the Green Thumb Challenge, the largest school gardening initiative in the country, with a goal of 10,000 schools and youth groups planting indoor or outdoor gardens next spring.

The GEF website will get you started, offering checklists, plot location guidelines, funding sources, garden plans, and vegetable and flower suggestions. Every effort has also been made to connect the gardening activities with academic standards in subject areas such as science, math, language arts, creative arts and technology.

To facilitate the Green Thumb Challenge, GEF will host an online community where students and educators can share ideas, watering and weeding schedules, success stories and photos. Enrollment in the Challenge is open now; you can begin the process at

Professional Courses
Offered by NEA

The NEA Academy, NEA’s online source of professional development courses, is continuing to expand its offerings. A course created by Association staff, in partnership with the Illinois Education Association and the Center for Research in Education, Diversity and Excellence, has now been qualified for graduate credit by several universities. The course, called “Effective Teaching in Diverse Classrooms,” is available for $69, with an additional fee for graduate credit.

More than 10 graduate schools are now in the process of submitting proposals to offer an online master’s degree through the NEA Academy, and four additional courses, in addition to the Academy’s existing lineup, will be available at press time. They are:

•         21st Century Teaching and Learning
•         Web-enhanced Classroom
•         Web 2.0 Collaborative Instruction
•         Making Diversity Count

More courses are being added regularly. Check the Academy website at

Looking for a Snicker,
Guffaw or Giggle?

John Wood, a full-time Minnesota teacher and association member, has created a resource for educators, and it’s one that will be welcome to most. It’s called Learning Laffs, and its website features free and reproducible education cartoons and humor, including the trials and tribulations of Mr. Woodhead, Schoolies cartoons, and the adventures of the country’s most confused school district, Fuddle River Schools.

You’ll also want to check out Edlets, new words for educators, such as “adlibabble,” defined as “what a student does when forced to present a report that is not ready.”

All materials on the site are free for educators to use, not for profit, under a Creative Commons License.

Check it out at



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