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Cruel SchoolsCruel-Schools

  • Subject: Social/Emotional Health
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
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  • Duration: Three class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


By the end of these lessons, students will be able to:
1. Describe the continuum of violence;
2. Identify ways to personally make a difference in their school;
3. State and carry out the basics of research and data collection;
4. Gain experience in drawing conclusions and summarizing concepts; and
5. Participate in group/team activity to solve problems.


For this lesson, you will need:
Large bulletin board paper
Overhead (if available)
Student Survey on Bullying and Violence handout
Reality Matters, Cruel Schools Facts handout
Continuum of Violence handout


1. As a class, talk about what it means to be a "bully".
2. Have students think of words that might be associated with a "bully" (examples: loud, mean, popular, etc.) Write these words on the board or overhead.
3. Have students think of words that might be associated with a "victim" (examples: weak, different, studious, etc.) Write these words on the board or overhead.
4. Place additional vocabulary words (attached list of 10) on the board, overhead or in hand out form. Have students work in assigned groups of two. Try to pair up students who might not usually choose to work together. Have them define the 10 vocabulary words. Using a dictionary or computer, the paired groups should write their definitions on paper or handout.
Note: By pairing students who might not usually work together, you are creating an assignment within your assignment. Watch how students try to get to know each other. How do they work on building a new relationship? After the class has completed the vocabulary, ask the students how they felt about getting to know someone they might not have known before the assignment. Other questions might be: When you know a little bit about someone, does it change your view about that person? Why? Is it easy to make new friends?
5. After students have written their definitions, have each group give their definition of one vocabulary word to the class. These definitions can be placed on the board or overhead.
6. Once students have an understanding of the word "bully" or "bullying", introduce the Student Survey on Bullying.
7. Student Survey on Bullying and Violence- Part Two-Second Lesson
Print copies of both handouts for this segment of the lesson: Reality Matters, Cruel Schools Facts and The Student Survey on Bullying and Violence.
8. Introduce the facts handout first, review the details with the class, and ask the students how they feel about their school. Where does our school stack up against these facts? Do our students and teachers feel safe? Let's take a look at bullying at our school.
9. Next, introduce the survey form and instruct the students on how to administer the survey, The Student Survey on Bullying and Violence. They can do this during class time and as additional homework. They are to survey 3 students and 2 adults (on campus). Students will need 5 copies of the survey. They will only need to note if the person surveyed is a student or an adult, and that the person has not answered the survey for another student.
Note: Individual names of those surveyed should not be used. Students should be aware that confidentiality is important so as not to promote reactions from others and to ensure the safety of those being interviewed.
10. Once surveys are complete, have students compile their individual responses. See the example of the spreadsheet to use to help compile and review the results.
11. Individual Reports and Class Summary-Part Three-Summary Lesson
With information gathered from the survey, have students write a synopsis of their findings. Have them include their answers to the following questions:
Can one person make a difference?
If bullying has no audience, can it exist?
How is empathy the first step to stopping violence?
How can you become part of the solution to bullying at school?
12. Once students have completed their individual summary, time should be given for students to voluntarily share their responses with the class. Lead the class in a summarization of their surveys to create a profile of their school. Record the profile of the master survey results and conclusions by using overhead or on a large bulletin paper in classroom.

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Older students:
Older students should also prepare a research analysis of the number of reported violence acts in schools over the last five years, ask them to draw conclusions on trends, and/or have them plot a geographical map of the locations. These activities will enhance the school survey. Students can submit their reports to the teacher and selected reports should be shared with others in the class.
Younger students:
Have the students role play different bullying situations (examples: name calling, teasing, spreading rumors). What are the feelings that are being displayed? Talk about the different solutions to these situations and how an observer can get involved. This may help students prepare for the types of questions they are going to ask adults and their peers.

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Discussion Questions

1. What does it mean to "take up" for someone?
2. What does it mean to "put yourself at risk"?
3. If you see someone being bullied, what are some things you could do?
4. Whose responsibility is it to stop bullying from occurring?
5. In what type of situations might adult involvement help solve bullying situations?
6. In what type of situations might adult involvement hurt solving bullying situations?
7. What are some of the ways young people learn to socialize with each other?
8. How can we learn to better accept each other's differences?

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Students may be evaluated by using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points: student has followed all given instructions with full participation in group and class discussion. They have completed vocabulary list and school survey. Individual summary is well thought out and conclusive.
  • Two points: student has completed vocabulary list, school survey and individual summary with some participation in group and class activities.
  • One point: student has completed portions of the three-part assignment with limited class involvement.
Note: Each individual section can also be evaluated by giving letter grades or on point system per given section.

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From Ridicule to Rage
Students will learn about The Continuum of Violence. Begin with the Continuum of Violence Handout. Ask each student to get out a sheet of paper and rank the behaviors from least to most violent. Ask one student volunteer to write his/her own "violence continuum" on the board next to the original list. Students can suggest other bullying and violent behaviors to add to the continuum. Have all students compare their list to the one on the board and make adjustments to meet the class consensus.
Then discuss the following: Are all of the acts violent?; What makes one act more violent than another?; Do you think a person who acts at the low end of the continuum and gets away with it might move up to commit more violent acts?; At what point should you tell an adult if you witness these acts?

Choosing My Own Actions
Divide the class into groups of 3-5 students. Ask each group to complete one of the stories (assign each group a different story) in the Decision Making Action Plan (listed below). They should provide their best solution for dealing with the problems presented. Ask each group to present their solution to the class. Discuss the solutions for each scenario with the class.
  1. A student shows you a gun he brought to school
  2. A bully makes another student hand over his lunch money every day
  3. A student always sits alone at lunch, others sometimes throw stuff at him
  4. Three students paste a note on the back of another student that said " kick me"
  5. A student is hit or punched by another student at his locker almost daily.
  6. You just heard of a plan for a big fight on the school bus, there might be knives involved.
  7. Two girls wrote a song with bad lyrics about another girl, they plan to sing it in the school talent show
  8. You overhear a bully threaten another student several times during the school day.


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Suggested Readings

Bullying at School
Dan Olwens, Ph.D., December 1994
This book helps you take a look at what children go through when bullied at school. Based on research in schools and with middle schoolers, Dr. Olweus offers a basic approach to bullying prevention. His book provides interventions to help prevent bullying.

Bullying Prevention Handbook: A Guide for Principles, Teachers, and Counselors
John Hoover and Ronald Oliver (1996) National Education Service
This handbook targets to a wide range of audiences. The topics are understanding, preventing, and reducing the act of bullying. There are strategies given for teachers and school personnel as well as parents and families. An intervention model is given with detailed assessment tools offered for anti-bullying efforts.

Bullies & Victims: Helping Your Child Survive the Schoolyard Battlefield
Suellen Fried and Paula Fried
Bullies & Victims explores peer abuse and takes a look at the power of relationships between children today. The book has suggestions for parents and others on reaction, intervention, and how to understand different forms of bullying, along with different levels of responses to bullying. The concept of teasing is also addressed.

Beyond the Chocolate Wars
Students, Robert Cormier, 1991
This book, a powerful novel for young adults, deals with the issues of teasing, bullying, fighting, and peer pressure. The book help students explore what happens in a high school and how it could happen in their school.

How to Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies
Kate Cohen-Posey, 1995
This book is appropriate for grade levels 4-7, it contains useful tips for students to use to deal with name calling, taunting, and teasing. It does not deal with more escalating violence but does offer practical techniques on dealing with bullying.

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Health Adventures—Cruel Schools
Are you worried about a bully? Do you wonder when it is the best time to get help? Play Cruel Schools and discover solutions to managing anger, getting help, and stopping the violence in schools.

BBC Education
This is a Bullying Survival Guide which offers guidelines for addressing bullying from school to work. It offers facts, stories, and resources for those wanting to learn more about dealing with bullies.

Bully B'ware Productions
Bully B'ware is a site that offers detailed information about bullying to students, parents, teachers, and administrators. It addresses specifically how to take action against bullying in your school.

The Scottish Council for Research in Education
The SCRE web site looks at different publications that target bullying in schools and offers a specific overview of their content.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    bullying
Definition: overbearing person who tyrannizes the weak; intimidation, a person hired to do violence
Context: The act of bullying is usually targeted at others who are not as strong. Bullies are often very aggressive.

speaker    empathy
Definition: intellectual identification of oneself with another, understanding the attitudes of others.
Context: When one demonstrates empathy they are putting themselves in another's shoes to learn how they feel and or act.

speaker    alternative
Definition: offering a choice of two things, selecting a course of action.
Context: We can choose alternatives to our behaviors and look for various ways to react to others. Talking over an issue is a better alternative than hitting someone who has made us angry.

speaker    victim
Definition: person, or thing, destroyed or sacrificed; person who suffers; dupe or prey.
Context: People usually do not choose to be victims but often cannot solve the problem without help from others.

speaker    taunting
Definition: to reproach with insulting words; sarcastic remark.
Context: Words do hurt. Constant insults can be damaging and taunting can escalate to anger or worse.

speaker    relentless
Definition: showing no sympathy, unyieldingly severe, mean, or harsh.
Context: Relentless behavior means it goes on without end, it is continuously harsh behavior.

speaker    ridicule
Definition: mocking; to make fun of, speech or action intended to cause contemptuous laughter at another person.
Context: To get others to laugh at someone else because of their dress, look, or actions is to ridicule someone.

speaker    ethics
Definition: relating to morals or moral principles; philosophy of human character and conduct, of distinction between right and wrong, rules of conduct.
Context: To behave ethically means to conduct oneself within society's rules of accepted behavior. This is often considered "doing the right thing."

speaker    intervention
Definition: to come or be between, to "intervene" between others to stop behavior, solve a problem, speak for another, and avoid an incident from happening.
Context: Examples of acts of intervention are physically stopping someone from doing something, talking to adults who can help stop a situation, helping two people solve an issue, and assisting someone in need.

speaker    influence
Definition: power over men or things; to act on the mind; to have the capacity to effect others' behaviors and opinions; to move or compel a person to some action
Context: Positive influence means to have an improved effect on others, negative influence has the effect of making others do bad things.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Health
Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health
Understands how peer relationships affect health (e.g., name calling, prejudice, exclusiveness, discrimination, risk-taking behaviors)

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Health
Knows essential concepts and practices concerning injury prevention and safety
Knows potential signs of self- and other directed violence
Knows the various possible causes of conflict among youth in schools and communities, and strategies to manage conflict
Knows how refusal and negotiation skills can be used to enhance health

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Life Skills- Thinking and Reasoning
Understands and applies basic principles of logic and reasoning
Understands that personal values influence the types of conclusions people make
Recognizes situations in which a variety of conclusions can be drawn from the same information

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Life Skills-Thinking and Reasoning
Applies decision-making techniques
Identifies situations in the community and in one's personal life in which a decision is required
Identifies the values underlying the alternatives that are considered and the criteria that will be used to make a decision among the alternatives
Makes decisions based on data obtained and the criteria identified.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Language Arts
Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Gathers data for research topics from interviews (asks relevant questions, makes notes of responses, complies responses)
Organizes information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways (outlines, notes, etc.)

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CWK Network
Connecting with Kids provides television programming and products focused on the health, education, and well-being of children and young adults. To contact CWK Network, write to Lee Scharback at

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