They learn to use critical thinking and empathy skills to come up with preventative strategies and become advocates for themselves and others. The materials needed for this activity include balloons (at least one per student), markers and tape. [Note: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that children under eight years can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Adult supervision required.]
Talk with your students about bullying and how it affects everyone. Discuss standing up for one another and oneself and how “doing the right thing” relates to good decision-making, empathy and character. Explain that everyone has a choice—and it is necessary to think about the consequences that may follow.
Have students brainstorm a problem associated with bullying. Then give each student a balloon to blow up. Instruct them not to tie the balloons. After students inflate their balloons, have them use a marker to write the problem that they brainstormed earlier on the balloon. Tell them that the balloon represents a student filling up with negative emotions and “hot air”—the negative things they say when mad.
Depending upon the needs of your class, have students form groups or pairs to brainstorm solutions to their problems. One by one, students come to the front of the room and share their solutions. If the class agrees it is a good solution, then the student will let the balloon go and watch it fly as the “bully is deflated.” This “lets the hot air out of the bully.” If the class doesn’t agree, help them to explore good choices and effective problem-solving. Students talk about how it felt to problem-solve, deflate their bully and do the right thing.
Kids will giggle, laugh and love this activity. It encourages students to come up with great solutions to bullying.
Jessica Leo, LMSW
Queen Creek School District
Queen Creek, Arizona