Gear Up for No Name-Calling Week!

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The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) will sponsor its 10th annual No Name-Calling Week, January 20-24, 2014. This event presents a chance for everyone to help stop bullying and fight bias. Although this time of year is extremely busy with the holidays and finals upon us, we should start preparing now for January activities to address name-calling, bullying and bias in our schools.

This year’s theme is Celebrating Kindness. According to anti-bullying experts, promoting kindness as a value is a best practice for creating school climates in which the students themselves become intolerant of bullying. This theme opens the door to numerous meaningful and exciting ideas.

Try the following suggestions for your own No Name-Calling Week or share other ideas in the comments section of this blog:

  • Challenge students to only call each other by their given names. Emphasize avoiding not only derogatory remarks but any non-given names—from calling someone “sweetie” to referring to them by last name only. Ask students to explore the difference it makes to the individual and to the school climate in general. Encourage the class to write about this experience.
  • Make nametags together that focus on what students want to be called. This may be the very thing fifteen-year-old David needs to avoid being called the nickname “Moose” that he has detested since hitting his growth spurt.
  • Evaluate how much name-calling is heard in a week. Ask students to keep journals that describe the name-calling they witness or experience in their homes, neighborhoods and the media. Help older students analyze political television shows, cartoons and commentaries to see how even adults disrespect each another with name-calling. Create a chart reflecting the number of occurrences observed by the class and discuss how each instance made them feel.
  • Host a random acts of kindness “marathon.” Give each student a token to “spend” on an act of kindness for someone else, or challenge every student in your class to do an act of kindness for each of their classmates. Create a kindness tree to hang leaves, snowflakes or other shapes that depict the acts of kindness they performed.
  • For younger children, read books about kindness, such as Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler. Also provide them with simple ideas for kind activities, such as sharing toys or allowing a friend to go first in line for a drink. Ask the kids to brainstorm together, and create a kindness poster that displays their ideas.
  • As GLSEN recommends, conduct a survey on how students feel about name-calling. Go a step further and create a media project for parents and the community, featuring charts, documentary footage and vlogs.
  • Host “What’s in a Name?” essay and poster contests for students. Suggest such topics as feelings about name-calling, what to do when you are called a name, teaching people how you want to be treated and what your name means to you.

For more background information on No Name-Calling Week and additional ideas, including lesson plans and general planning guides, visit GLSEN: The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.

Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Missouri.