Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to teach students about how bullying hurts and kindness heals. This idea comes from Judy, a Kindergarten Teacher, in Fenton, MO. Not only does it encourage students to identify what bullying behavior is, but it also shows them how kind words make a difference in how people feel about themselves.
One Teacher’s Approach to Bullying Education
When bully behavior is a problem with some students, I involve my whole class in this “heart-rendering” activity. I begin by drawing and cutting out a large heart shape from red craft paper. I use a marker to divide the heart into enough jagged-edged pieces so each child can have one piece. I also use a second length of red craft paper to draw the same heart, but this time, I flip the paper over so the heart appears on the reverse (or back) side of the paper. I leave this heart uncut and set it aside for later.
I introduce the activity by displaying the first heart. I spark a discussion about how teasing and mean comments can hurt us inside. (You can read a story about bullying as a discussion springboard as well.) I then invite students to take turns coming up and ripping off one piece of the red heart along the lines while sharing one negative or nasty-sounding bullying comment someone at one time said to them. (I ask children not to reveal any sources). I tell children to remember where on the heart their piece was located.
We continue until each student is holding a piece of the heart and each has shared a time he or she was the target of mean words. I then display the heart I have drawn on the reverse side of the second piece of red craft paper. I have the students reassemble the heart shape by gluing their torn heart pieces to this new heart. With the pieces reassembled into a heart shape, I tell the class that this paper heart is a reminder of how mean words can break and scar a real heart. I then cut out the “broken” heart shape along the outside edge. I flip the heart over to show the fresh intact red heart shape. I tell the class that this fresh heart represents a heart healed with forgiveness and kind words from others, and with kind words from themselves to themselves. I inform my class that when others say mean things, it’s because their hearts have been hurt and broken and the hurt makes them want to hurt others so they can get some control and feel better. (When someone feels good inside, they have no need to lash out at others.)
I also tell my class that if we understand that a bully’s actions come from his or her pain and not from our shortcomings, we can forgive the actions so we all can begin to heal as no one needs to suffer from a hurting heart. I guide my children to understand that part of feeling better comes from offering themselves the nice, supportive words they would like to hear from others.
I then help each child jot an uplifting word or phrase on the intact heart (e.g., “Great job!” “You can do it!”, etc.). I outline this new heart with glitter glue, let dry, and display it in our writing center. The heart then doubles as a Word Wall students can refer to when writing about positive ways they can help themselves and others cope with bullying behaviors.
By Brandi Jordan
This piece was originally published in 2012.
What are some of your favorite ways to teach students about bullying and kindness? Share them with us below.