Strategies and Activities for the Elementary School Classroom

1. Develop students’ problem-solving skills:

  • Read a book where bullying is a key element of the story. Assign small cooperative teams to brainstorm problem-solving options, and write alternative endings to the story.
  • Ask for students’ help in generating and evaluating options for resolving challenging situations.
  • Model appropriate problem-solving by ‘thinking out loud’ as you work through the steps to solve a problem with the class.

2. Promote healthy relationships between children:

  • Brainstorm with students about qualities that make a good friend, and about ways of making and keeping friends.
  • Have students create a bulletin board that displays words and/or pictures depicting friendship.
  • Encourage students to explore issues of friendship in literature. Discuss the social skills that are involved.

3. Encourage safe reporting:

  • Place a box or a container in the classroom. Ask students to contribute (anonymously) their concerns about bullying, including ideas for making their classroom a safe, strong and free place. As necessary, meet privately with students about their concerns.
  • Hold weekly class meetings to discuss related issues that are of general interest. During meetings, ensure that students’ confidentiality is respected at all times.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to listening to students and keeping them safe by implementing ideas generated by the class through the box or in class discussions.

4. Build common values:

  • Develop a ‘contract’ to keep everyone safe in the classroom. Brainstorm ideas with students for treating each other fairly and respectfully. Involve them in discussion about these ideas. Have students and teacher(s) sign the contract and post it in a prominent place.
  • Use the language in the contract when there is a problem. Encourage students to refer back to the contract to promote the ideas of fairness and respect.
  • Examine various societies (Pioneers, Native Peoples, Ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, etc.) Write a report on how common values such as teamwork and respect helped them.

5. Teach assertiveness:

  • Brainstorm with students a list of constructive ways of expressing their needs in difficult situations. Post the list in the classroom and distribute it to students.
  • Develop a list of positive ways to deal with conflict. Students can add to list when they experience or witness new ways to.
  • Role play the ideas the class generates or use the ideas for the ‘social goal’ in cooperative learning activities.

6. Emphasize cooperation and collaboration:

  • Avoid making comments about individual student performance in front of other students (Publicly announcing scores fosters a power structure in the classroom.)
  • As there are many different types of intelligences and abilities, encourage students to value the different strengths of others.
  • Create a bulletin board upon which students and school staff can affix notes thanking people for kind or supportive actions.
  • Ensure a balance between competitive and non-competitive games and activities. Organize groups and teams with balanced strengths and competencies. Avoid situations in which students select their own teams.
  • Work with students on a community service project. Find ways to involve all students by finding their interests or competencies.
  • Involve students in creating a welcoming classroom for new students. Assign a student to be a mentor to a new child for the first two weeks in the classroom. Involve all students in making posters or cards to give to a new student on her or his first day, as well as a list of all students and their favourite foods, sports, games, subjects, after-school activity, TV show, etc.

7. Foster empathy:

  • Identify and encourage the use of a range of ‘feeling words’. Post this list in the classroom and distribute to students.
  • Give students creative-writing assignments in which they explore their feelings and others’ feelings.
  • Find opportunities to encourage empathy in discussion of current events, literature and historical or school situations. Ask students to describe the feelings of people involved, as well as their own feelings.

8. Use humour as a positive influence:

  • Write an inoffensive joke on the board each morning before the students arrive in class.
  • Discuss the differences in humour that devalues or mocks people and humour that doesn’t do so. Showcase stories or books with positive humour.