In the novel Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli, pre-teens describe what it feels like to be the victim of bullying. EDC’s new curriculum Taking Action to Stop Bullying: A Literacy-Based Curriculum Module, uses the book and a short story as a jumping off point to help students build skills to deal effectively with a variety of difficult situations.
A team of EDC experts in health education and adolescent literacy worked together to produce the middle grades curriculum, which is sponsored by MetLife Foundation and aimed at 5th through 8th grade English language arts classrooms.
The curriculum defines bullying as “deliberately aggressive or hurtful behavior toward another person that is repeated over time.” Research shows that bullying affects up to 30% of students in grades 6 through 10. And the behavior can have long-lasting negative impacts for everyone involved. “Our curriculum gives young people strategies to respond to bullying and to become nonviolent problem-solvers,” says Christine Blaber, who directs the project along with EDC colleague Leslie Hergert. “We teach a decision making method called “Think First,” as well as techniques for communicating effectively, and seeking assistance from adults. Equipping students with these strategies is an important step toward confronting this challenge.”
The curriculum unites two streams of research and development at EDC—adolescent literacy programs aimed at building discourse-rich classrooms and skills-based health education. “The curriculum uses a supported literacy approach to engage students in reading, writing, and discussing literature to build their comprehension skills,” says Hergert. “Our goal is to help kids develop valuable life skills and learn, first-hand, how books can make a difference in their lives.”
For example, in their discussions of the novel, Wringer, students examine the role of not just the aggressor and the target, but also the bystander. They go on to write journal entries about how and why the main character finally stands up for his beliefs. Finally, they examine three critical skills in a bullying situation: communication, setting and reaching goals, and decision making.
Language Arts teachers who pilot-tested Taking Action to Stop Bullying reported that it helped students discuss difficult issues and build crucial social skills. EDC has released 1000 free copies of the curriculum around the country. Because of the initial success, MetLife Foundation has decided to grant EDC a second round of funding for additional dissemination and training.
Taking Action to Stop Bullying includes the pilot-tested curriculum module of twelve lessons, a game “Communicating About Bullying (and other Tough Issues),” a five-minute video for parents, Talking with Your Young Adolescent About Bullying, and an implementation guide. The video and game are available in English and Spanish. The curriculum aligns with the national health education and English language arts standards, making it easily adaptable to a variety of classroom settings.
Originally published on March 1, 2004