The Literature of Bullying

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Overview: 

Lesson includes resources for tackling the bully problem.

Nearly one out of every three students between the ages of 11 and 18 has experienced some form of bullying. Our school chose two pieces of literature in every grade level dealing with the reality of bullying. Our selections were:

6th-grade stories

  1. Joan Bauer's story A Letter from the Fringe, included in the anthology On the Fringe (ISBN# 0-8037-2656-2)
  2. Norma Fox Mazer's story Tuesday of the Other June, included in the anthology Short Takes: A Short Story Collection for Young Readers (ISBN# 0-6880-6092-7) 

7th-grade stories

  1. Susan Cooper's story Muffin, included in the anthology When I Was Your Age (Volume I) (ISBN# 0-7636-1034-8)
  2. Nancy Werlin's story, Shortcut, also included in On the Fringe 

8th-grade stories

  1. Gary Soto's story Your Turn, Norma, included in Soto's anthology Petty Crimes (ISBN# 0-15-201658-9)
  2. Alden R. Carter's story, Satyagraha, also included in On the Fringe

We developed reading strategies — before, during and after — to go with each story. We created materials to activate students' prior knowledge of the subject and make predictions both before and during reading.

We included graphic organizers that feature story elements such as setting, characterizations, plot and theme. Pulling from the book Mosaic of Thought, we included suggestions on questioning, drawing inferences and using sensory images. We had students compare and contrast not only the two stories but also the characters' experience with their own schooling experiences.

We got the community involved by bringing in Imagination Theater and its "Ease the Tease" presentation. Finally, other departments collaborated with us to enrich students' comprehension of the concept of bullying.

The social studies classes discussed historical situations where countries and people had experienced bullying and talked about how it could be prevented. Our language classes discussed stereotyping, prejudice and racial profiling. Music courses sang and discussed Peter, Paul and Mary's "Don't Laugh at Me" and The Beatles' "We Can Work it Out."

As students reflected on the ideas in the stories, each reading class created a statement and an image to be represented on a quilt square. On another square, each student in the class signed his or her name. The quilt, which is prominently displayed in the front hall of school, is a tangible and beautiful reflection of the ideas developed and lessons taught through literature.

Order Mosaic of Thought ($26.10) by Susan Zimmermann and Ellin Oliver Keene. (ISBN# 0-435-07237-4)

Carol Hillsberg and Helene Spak
Wood Oaks Junior High School
Northbrook, Ill.