Try it Out: Anti-bullying Role-Play | Not in Our Town

Try it Out: Anti-bullying Role-Play

Grade Level: 
Elementary (K-5)


Grade Level: Elementary grades K-5
Film Run Time: 4:51
Description: Student leaders from Del Sur Middle School in Lancaster, California visit a local elementary school and teach 4th and 5th grade students how to be upstanders. Through role-playing and interactive activities led by the middle schoolers, the younger students learn the meaning of the term upstander and how to effectively intervene, get help, and support a peer who is being bullied. This process can be an effective tool to use with students in your own classroom and school. Please use the guidelines below and review the “Note of Caution” to ensure a positive and productive experience.
Note: This entire process could take place over 1-3 class periods or student-group meetings.
1. Prior to viewing the video, explain to the students that the goal of this video and of the subsequent activity is to help each of us develop and practice effective ways to intervene when a classmate is called names, teased or bullied. Invite the students to reflect and share privately in writing or through drawing their experiences with bullying. If you propose prompts that are personal in nature, it is important to be clear with students that their journals will not be publically shared. Possible journal prompts might include:
a. Have you watched when one of your classmates was teased or bullied? What happened? What did you do? (When working with younger students, have them draw pictures and write or dictate one sentence below the picture.)
b. How could you help when someone is being teased or bullied?
(When working with younger students, have them draw pictures and write  or dictate one sentence below the picture.)
c. How does our school currently respond to acts of bullying? Do you think it helps?
d. Some friends may say "I am just teasing" when they call someone a name or make a negative remark about a person. Have you ever been teased in a way that hurts your feelings? What can you do when it happens to you? What can you do when teasing happens to someone else? 
e. Why do you need to be careful when you intervene to help someone?
f. If you were an adult in our school community (e.g., a principal, a teacher, or a staff member) what would you recommend as helpful actions for them to take to make our school safe for every student?
2. After viewing the video, engage students in a discussion using some or all of the following questions:
a. What is the meaning of an active bystander or of an upstander?
b. Describe the way to help someone by intervening or stepping in. How can it be done safely?
c. Describe the way you can help someone being bullied by getting a trusted adult to assist you.
d. How do you think the girl felt when the boy offered to play with her? Why is it important to be kind to someone who is being bullied or teased?
e. What is the meaning of the term, “trusted adult”? Who are the trusted adults you can go to on this campus?
Follow-up Extension Activities
1. Engage students in a process to discuss ways to respond when helping a classmate who is being teased or bullied. Explain that after they discuss the issues, they will work as a group to create a role-play about a positive intervention that interrupts the bullying, exclusionary, or negative teasing situations. If your school has an anti-bullying curriculum in place, this is good opportunity to reinforce that model with the students.
One effective method is to ask students to write down an experience that they have had or witnessed and submit these privately to the teacher. These scenarios can then be re-written by the teacher into a several realistic scenarios that draw upon the most common themes or experiences. The teacher can include a range of examples. Alternatively, a list of sample scenarios is listed below. Remind students that some responses are more effective than others depending on the specific situation.
Note: Review the “Note of Caution” directions given to students when preparing their role-play presentations.
Divide students into small groups of four or less. Assign each group one teacher-prepared scenario or select from scenarios below to review and discuss. Multiple groups can be assigned the same scenario if needed.  Direct students as a group to:
  • Identify the problem: what is being said or done that is hurtful or problematic.
  • Identify who is involved: the target, the perpetrator, the bystander, or the “upstander” (the person who will intervene). 
Ask students to think about the consequences to all the people in the scenario if no one intervenes or interrupts what has occurred. It is important for students to consider the negative impact on all involved, including the target, the perpetrator, and those who may observe the situation.
Each group should discuss and decide on verbal and/or behavioral choices that people in the scenario could make that would be effective in interrupting or stopping the name-calling and bullying. Remind students that the person who is targeted could respond and/or the “bystander” may decide to help or intervene. Remind students that some responses are more effective than others depending on the specific situation. 
Once a response has been developed, direct students to decide on roles for their members and to develop a short skit with a presentation of their situation and their proposed response. Explain to your students that they will be acting out a scene for the rest of the class, with each group member assigned to play a different role in the scene.  Help students to identify the different roles that may exist– target/victim, perpetrator, ally or bystander. Allow students to practice their presentations in their small groups. Try to review each scenario before presented and redirect as needed to ensure that the interventions are appropriate and constructive.
Invite each group to present their scenario.  Be sure each group is applauded and thanked for their efforts after each presentation.
After all groups have presented, conclude the activity using some or all of the discussion questions below.
a. Describe the different types of positive interventions we saw presented? What forms of intervention did you feel were particularly effective?
b. Ask students to identify specific phrases and words that students used that were constructive in stopping the incident and/or supporting the target and would help to de-escalate the conflict.
c. Did you have any ideas for other actions that might have been effective in addition to what was presented? Be specific.
d.     Do you think practicing these role-play scenarios will be helpful to you if faced with a similar situation in the future? Why or why not?
To conclude the activity ask the class:
Is there any additional work we can do to share what we have learned and discussed with other classmates or school staff?  Ideas: Make posters with anti-bullying themes to place around school, present scenarios to younger classmates and lead discussions, compile and share intervention ideas with administrators for use with the school’s anti-bullying policy.
This process could take place over several class periods. Please review the Note of Caution below if conducting this follow-up activity.
Additional Extension Activities
  • Adapt the role-plays to have the students work with partners taking turns to practice speaking up for themselves.
  • Present role-plays to younger students
  • Brainstorm a list of trusted adults on campus.
Possible Role-play scenarios:
  • A student is making fun of another classmate’s looks. A group is watching this happen and some in the group even join in.
  • A group of boys play soccer at recess every day and one boy is continually called “gay” or told he “throws like a girl.” The other boys laugh.
  • A student is calling someone else names in the back of the classroom during class time because of the color of his/her skin.
  • A student is pushed against the wall by another student from an upper grade who is much taller and the older student threatens to do it again if the pushed student tells.
  • A group of kids won't let another student sit with them at lunch even though there's plenty of room at the table.
Note of Caution: The use of role-plays in exploring experiences with prejudice and discrimination can be effective.  However it is not without its potential pitfalls, especially with younger students. Please keep these cautions in mind:
1.  Direct students to take the role-play process seriously. While it can be fun to act out scenarios, the goal is to think carefully about the harm inflicted in these situations and to develop realistic and practical ways to confront them. Remember the scenarios are based on real experiences where others hurt people. Reinforce the need for empathy for how the people in the scenario might feel about what is happening.
2. Caution students not to stereotype others in their presentations – be it the language used, accents, physical manner, etc.  Again, they should aim to be as realistic and authentic in their presentations as possible.
3. Remind students that the targets of the name-calling are not without voice or options for response. Caution against showing the “victims” as unable to take any control of the situation.
4. This activity could bring up feelings of upset in students. Pay particular attention to how students are responding and speak to them privately if you notice anything.
Adapted with permission from Julie Mann and Joe Lobozzo and Facing History and Ourselves
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What video show you use for this activity?

Hi Kira,

Thanks for asking! This lesson plan accompanies this video:

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