3 Anti-bullying Lessons Using Children’s Literature

Like some of your students who seek refuge in the library, many characters in children’s books must learn to deal with a bully. What better way to introduce “survival skills” to students than sharing stories that show how to persevere in a world that is not always fair?

The following activities will help you teach anti-bullying skills through children’s literature. They’re also great for Bullying Prevention Month in October. Download these activity sheets to use with the three lessons.

Lesson 1: The Three Bully Goats

BullyGoatsBook Synopsis: Students of all ages enjoy fractured fairy tales. For the very young, these are silly stories that make them laugh.

Older students familiar with fairy tales delight in the inventive rewriting of a classic story and appreciate the unpredictable characters, plot twists, and overstated lessons learned.

In this retelling of the well-known tale “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” the main characters switch roles and get a surprise “in the end” (pun intended). The book takes less than five minutes to read, the illustrations are delightful and possibilities for extension activities are many.

Grade Level: K–3

Time Allocation: 20–25 minutes

Objective: 

  • The student will listen to and react to the retelling of a well-known tale.

Materials:

Procedure:

  1. Introduce the story by asking students if they have ever heard of the tale “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” Explain that the story they are about to hear is based on this tale, but in this case the goats are the bullies and the ogre is the buddy helping out others.
  2. Divide the class in half before reading the story aloud. Instruct half the students that every time they hear the word “trip” they are to stand up quickly and then sit back down, and the other half is to do the same every time they hear the word “trap.” Students will listen intently when given an opportunity to interact with a story.
  3. Read the story to the class.
  4. Define a bully as someone who is mean and intimidating to others, usually people who are different from the bully. Ask the students why they think the Bully Goats were mean and if they think they got the punishment they deserved.
  5. Continue with the following open-ended questions if time permits. Accept all feasible answers.
  • If the Bully Goats’ names are Gruff, Ruff and Tuff, what would be a good name for the little ogre? (Possible responses include Sweetie Pie, Buffy, Fluff and Awesome Ogre.)
  • When the Bully Goats crossed the bridge, they were mean to the little baby animals. Where do you think the baby animals’ parents were? Do you think the Bully Goats would have butted bigger animals out of the way? (Possible responses include: The parents could have been at work; the Bully Goats were bullies and probably would not have picked on bigger animals.)
  • Who do you think is the hero in this story — the little ogre or the baby skunks? Why? (Possible responses include: The little ogre was the hero because he was a problem solver. The baby skunks were the heroes because of their secret weapon.)
  1. Conclude the lesson by showing students the location of the library’s fables and fairy tales and encouraging them to check out these books.

Enrichment Activities for The Three Bully Goats

Compare and Contrast: Instruct students to research the original tale of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” and develop a list of five differences and five similarities to The Three Bully Goats

Discussion: After reading the book to students, ask the following open-ended questions:

  • The moral, or lesson, of this tale could be, “A bully will get embarrassed in the end.” What could be some other morals to this story?
  • The author liked to play with words in this tale. Why do you think she named the three bully goats Gruff, Ruff, and Tuff?
  • What would be another good title for this book?

Figurative Language: An idiom is a figurative expression that doesn’t mean exactly what it says. For example, “It’s raining cats and dogs” means it is raining hard, not that pets are falling from the sky. What do you think these “goat” idioms mean? 

  • Don’t let him get your goat.
  • Separate the sheep from the goats.
  • She is locking horns with her mother.
  • They are looking for a scapegoat.

Brainstorming: There are three Bully Goats in this story. The number three seems to show up often in folktales, fables, and mythology. Ask students to help you create a class list of at least 10 other stories that feature the number three. 

Writing: Challenge students to write their own fractured fairy tale or fable with the theme of a bully getting what he or she deserves. Examples include “The Tortoise and the Hare,” with the tortoise being the bully; “The Gingerbread Man,” with the cookie being mean to the fox; and “Little Red Riding Hood,” with the young girl picking on a poor defenseless wolf.

Lesson 2: You’re Mean, Lily Jean!

lilyjeanBook Synopsis: Siblings Sandy and Carly love to play imaginative games together. All goes well until bossy and demanding Lily Jean moves in next door.

Lily Jean seems to enjoy playing with the older sister, Sandy, while managing to belittle the younger Carly at every opportunity.

Initially the sisters go along with Lily Jean’s controlling behavior. When their weak protests become rightful rebellion, a shift of power ensues, and the sisters negotiate their way out of a tricky situation.

Grade Level: 3–5

Time Allocation: 30–35 minutes

Objectives: 

  • The student will define, understand, and apply the concepts of cause and effect.
  • The student will complete a chart using specific information.

Materials:

Procedure:

  1. Gather the materials before class.
  2. Introduce the story by showing students the cover of the book You’re Mean, Lily Jean. Explain that it is about three girls, one of whom is being very bossy and acting like a bully.
  3. Read the book to students. This takes about five minutes.
  4. Explain to the students that things happen in this story because of a chain of events. Note that when Lily Jean moved next door the sisters started to play differently together.
  5. Display the visual Charting Cause and Effect. Read the definitions of cause and effect to the students.
  6. Complete the chart with the help of students, writing in the correct answers.
  7. Distribute the Charting Cause and Effect activity sheets and writing tools. Read through the directions with the students and check for understanding.
  8. Allow students to work in pairs or small groups.
  9. Check for understanding as a group. Point out to students that when the chart is correctly completed, it is a review of the book.

Lesson 3: Buddies and Bullies

Lesson Introduction: Children’s literature often contains characters who are bullies. Educators can use children’s books that focus on experiences with bullying to initiate discussions that help students learn strategies to deal with these situations.

Grade Level: 3–6

Time Allocation: 30–35 minutes

Objectives: 

  • The student will review examples of well-known children’s literature that feature both bully and buddy characters.
  • The student will choose and complete three activities on a grid that is used as a differentiation tool to determine understanding of the concept.

Materials:

  • Fictional Characters: Buddies and Bullies visual and Tic-Tac-Toe Grid activity sheet from PDF download above
  • Paper and writing tools
  • Markers and/or colored pencils
  • Dictionaries


Procedure:

  1. Gather the materials before class.
  2. Explain to students that this lesson will involve following directions, making choices, and completing different tasks.
  3. Display the visual Fictional Characters: Buddies and Bullies. Tell students that today’s activities deal with the concepts of buddies and bullies and that the books listed on the visual contain examples of characters that either support or mistreat the book’s protagonist. Briefly discuss these titles and ask if students can think of any other examples. The information on the visual will be helpful in the completion of several of the tasks on the Tic-Tac-Toe Grid. Note: All of the titles on the visual have been made into movies, thus helping with student recognition.
  4. Distribute the Buddies and Bullies Tic-Tac-Toe Grid activity sheet. Review the choices on the grid. Show students where they may find the supplied paper, writing tools, and dictionaries. Instruct students to select three of the tasks and be prepared to share their work with the class. Toward the end of the instructional period, ask for volunteers to share their creative writing or interesting research with the other students.
  5. Students who are unable to finish all three of the activities may complete them either in the classroom or at home.

Author

Lynne Farrell Stover

Lynne Farrell Stover

Teacher Consultant at James Madison University
Lynne has been an educator for more than 40 years, serving as an elementary classroom teacher, a gifted educational specialist and a middle school librarian. She is currently a teacher consultant at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. She is the author of the “Magical Library Lessons series, From Snicket to Shakespeare” from UpstartBooks and the “From the Big Screen to the Classroom: Using Movies to Teach in the Content Areas” series published by Pieces of Learning.