Lesson Idea: “Students Map Bully Zones to Create a Safer School” | Not in Our Town

Lesson Idea: “Students Map Bully Zones to Create a Safer School”

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)

 Created by Facing History and Ourselves

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In this lesson idea, the short video “Students Map Bully Zones to Create a Safer School” is explored through teaching strategies such as barometer, think-pair-share, pre-viewing, four corners and anticipation guides. By observing how the students in the video raise awareness about bullying in their school, students may consider their own school climate around bullying and open the conversation about how to create a safer school.
This lesson is part of the Not In Our School Video Action Kit, a comprehensive toolkit featuring films, lessons, and resources designed to motivate students to speak out against bullying, and create new ways to make their schools safe for everyone.
Suggested Activities
Pre-viewing:  To prepare students for the themes and situations they will explore in the video, you can use the following prompts as the focus for journal writing or small group discussions.  (Note: The think-pair-share teaching strategy combines time for individual writing, small group conversation, and whole class discussion.)
  1. Identify a recent example of bullying you witnessed or experienced in your school or community.  Identify a recent example of friendship, tolerance, or kindness you witnessed or experienced in your school or community. Which example was easier for you to come up with? What do you notice more – acts of kindness or acts of bullying? Why?
  2. What risks are involved in standing up to bullying?  What can help people overcome those risks?  Under what conditions, if any, might it be unwise to stand up to bullies?
  3. Why do people sometimes engage in bullying?  Why do people engage in acts of kindness?
  4. What does it mean to “do the right thing” when you see students being bullied? What makes it hard to always do the right thing?  Have you ever been in a situation where you were not sure about what was the “right” thing to do? Describe this situation.  What made it difficult for you to determine what was the best or “right” course of action?

Defining bullying: Many of the resources on the Not in Our School website concern “bullying” – a term that people use in different ways to describe acts of hate, intimidation, and harassment among young people. (Consider what acts of bullying are often called when the perpetrators are adults. Hate crime? Physical assault? Libel?) Before students explore the examples provided on the website, you might ask students to clarify their own definition of bullying.  At what point does a joke, a comment or an action become inappropriate, offensive and/or hurtful?  While some examples of bullying or intolerance appear obvious, others may be more subtle, including the imbalance of power that exists when one individual is the “bully” and the other is “bullied.” We might not even agree about what actions should be labeled as “bullying.” For example, does bullying involve repeated acts of bullying behavior or can it be an isolated incident? Here are two ways to help students clarify their definition of bullying:


  1. The barometer teaching strategy can be used to help students discuss their definitions of bullying.  Label one end of the continuum “appropriate behavior” (or “should be okay in our school”) and the other end “inappropriate behavior” (or “not in our school”).  Then ask students to share examples of behaviors they see around their school. Students then stand on the place along the continuum that represents the degree to which they think the behavior should be allowed.
  2. To check students’ assumptions and clarify their thinking, ask them to brainstorm a range of actions from “not serious” to “gravely serious.” Encourage them to include examples of behaviors that take place online or through cell phones as well (in other words, possibly examples of cyberbullying). On the wall, create a continuum with one side labeled “not serious action” and the other side labeled “gravely serious action.” Then have students post the situations where they think they belong on this line. (You could have students write their scenarios on post-it notes to make this step easier.) After all students have posted a scenario or two, have students stand near the line to review this work.  Do they agree with where scenarios are placed? Are there any posts they would like to move?  This exercise can help students clarify their definition of bullying.
Anticipation guide: Anticipation guides ask students to express an opinion about ideas before they encounter then in a text of unit of study.  Often teachers ask students to return to their anticipation guides after exploring new material, noting how their opinions may have shifted or strengthened as a result of new information. Here are examples of statements you can use to encourage students to think about the ideas addressed in this video:
  • Students are the most powerful influence on their school’s tone and climate.  They decide what kind of behavior is acceptable and unacceptable.
  • Stepping in when you see someone treated unfairly is easy.
  • The adults in the school are the ones who are responsible for creating a safe learning environment for all students.
  • It is unrealistic to think that schools can be places where all students are treated fairly and kindly.
  • If students feel unsafe at school, they should go to a teacher or school administrator for help.
  • If someone is verbally or physically attacking another student – someone you do not know – the best thing to do is stay out of it.
  • If someone is verbally or physically attacking a friend, the best thing to do is intervene to stop it.
  • Bystanders have the power to stop injustice.
  • If bullies knew their behavior was unacceptable, they would stop acting that way.
  • The best way to stop teasing, harassment and bullying is to have a stronger system of enforcement and punishment.
(Note: Many teachers use the Four Corners strategy to structure a conversation about controversial statements.)
Debriefing questions: Ask students to contemplate the following, either in small groups or as a journaling activity:
  • What do you think was involved in planning this activity? What were the risks students had to consider?
  • Could this idea work in our school? If so, how? If not, what would you modify?
  • What else could be done to mobilize students around this issue?
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