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Strategies and Activities for the Secondary School Classroom
1. Develop students’ problem-solving skills:
- Read a newspaper article where bullying is a key theme. Assign small cooperative teams to brainstorm problem-solving options, and discuss possible solutions for the problem.
- Ask for students’ help in generating and evaluating options for resolving challenging situations.
2. Promote healthy relationships between children:
- Organize an essay-writing (or comic, or poster…) contest on the theme of mental health, racism, homophobia, etc. The winning essay could be published in the school newspaper to heighten awareness in the student body.
- Have students create a bulletin board that displays words and/or pictures depicting equality.
3. Encourage safe reporting:
- Place a box or a container in a discreet location in the classroom, where students can drop a note asking for help or report a concern about bullying.
- Hold a class discussion on the impact of bullying. During the discussion, ensure that students’ confidentiality is respected at all times.
- Clarify the difference between reporting a bullying situation and being a tattletale.
- Ask student to research and report on a historical figure who acted as ‘witness’ or a defender of people’s rights. Have the students make the link between these individuals and the students who refuse to tolerate bullying at school.
4. Build common values:
- Brainstorm ideas with students and involve them in discussion to develop a ‘contract’ designed to keep everyone safe in the classroom. Have students and teacher(s) sign the contract and post it in a prominent place.
5. Teach assertiveness:
- Brainstorm with students a list of constructive ways of expressing their needs in difficult situations. (E.g. look the person in the eye, use assertive body language, use ‘I’ statements, maintain a calm tone of voice, etc.) Post the list in the classroom and distribute it to students.
- Examine with the class a problem-solving process to deal with conflict. Practise the steps in the process using role-play.
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 by asking them, for example, to recognize a strength in a classmate.
- 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.
- In group work, assign specific roles to each group member (reporter, leader, checker, motivator, materials manager, time manager).
- 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.
- Organize improvisation or drama activities to develop teamwork.
7. Foster empathy:
- Distribute to each student a card describing a bullying situation. Ask the students to place themselves in order, according to the seriousness of the situation. As a class, discuss the reasons for their choices.
- 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.
- Read an article or describe a situation to the class and ask them to put themselves in the place of the person in the story and to write about their feelings in their personal journal.
- Organize debates in which students adopt a position contrary to their own beliefs.
8. Use humour as a positive influence:
- Write an inoffensive joke on the board each day before the students arrive.
- Show students jokes taken from various publications and help them to evaluate whether these jokes or caricatures devalue or mock people or whether they use positive humour.