Bully Bystander Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Part of learning about bullying is learning what to do when you witness it. This lesson will help students understand what it is to be a bystander and practice standing up against bullying.

Learning What a Bystander Is

Over the course of their growth and education, most students start to become familiar with the concept of bullying. Bullying is understood as the targeted persecution of a person or group of people who have less power than the bully does in a social situation. It is important for students to learn that they should not bully others, but it is also important for them to understand what it means to stand up to a bully when they see one in action.

This lesson focuses on activities that teach students about the concept of being a 'bystander,' or someone who witnesses bullying in action. Students will learn about what it feels like to be a bystander as well as what a bystander can do to stand up for what is right.

Activities for Early Elementary School

These activities are well suited to students in grades K-2, who are coming to understand what it means to behave kindly in different situations.

Read-Aloud

Read your class a picture book that contains teasing or bullying. Some great examples for this age include:

  • Willow Finds a Way, by Lana Button
  • Oliver Button is a Sissy, by Tomie de Paola
  • Ben Rides On, by Matt Davies
  • Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes

After you read the book to your students, lead them in a discussion about the following questions: Who was treated badly in this book? Who treated them badly? Who else saw what was happening and did something or could have done something? Use the final question to introduce students to the concept of the bystander.

Picture It

Ask your students to work with paper and colored pencils for this activity. They should draw a picture that shows what it means to them to be a bystander. They might draw a bullying situation in which someone else is watching, or they might draw a child speaking up against bullying, either to a bully or to a friendly adult. Let students share their pictures as a lead-in to a discussion about the responsibilities of the bystander.

Activities for Upper Elementary School

Students in grades 3-5 are more familiar with the problem of bullying and might have increasingly sophisticated ideas about bystanders.

Letter to a Bystander

Ask your students to imagine that they are writing an open letter to all people who might witness bullying at some points in their lives. Their letters should concretely outline some of the strategies a bystander might take in response to bullying and in order to do the right thing by the victim. Give your students a chance to share their letters with each other.

Bystander Comics

Students can work in small groups for this activity. Each group is responsible for creating one comic strip that assigns superpower capacities to a bystander in a bullying situation. They should tell a story about bullying through their comic strips, and then they should show the amazing powers that a bystander can actually have. Display their completed comics so that others in the school can also read them.

Activities for Middle School

By adolescence, it becomes necessary for students to think about bullying and bystanders on an even more sophisticated level.

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