They say you can never truly feel empathy for another until you walk a mile in their shoes. Now, as adults we can imagine the pain, suffering, and challenges of others because we have walked life’s path. But with their limited experiences, this can be challenging for a child. So, how do we help our young ones with bullying, assertiveness, and empathy?
This is what I wondered when I tried to design a lesson. I knew I couldn’t have my students take off their shoes and share them. Their feet are all different and that wouldn’t get the message across. But then I thought about how donning a mask frees up even the shyest of people. What if children made masks of either a bully or a victim and then role-played a scene where they resolved a conflict?
Following is the lesson I designed. Give it a try with your kids and let me know how it worked.
Objective: The learner will increase their understanding of what other children feel through making either a bully or victim mask then pretending to be that person while wearing it.
Materials: Pencils, construction paper or paper plates, thin paper or tissue paper, craft glue, craft sticks. crayons, markers, scissors. Chart paper, white board or electronic whiteboard. If you’d like a premade mask click on the words “Mask template” following for a link to a reproducible: mask template
Procedure: 1. List the four kinds of bullies on the board.
Verbal Physical Social Cyber
Cruel words Hurting bodies Excluding Text
Name calling Pushing Gossip Social Media
Intimidation Touching Cliques Email
2. Ask the children to imagine what the face of the bully looked like when he/she was bullying. Ask the children to imagine what the victim’s face looked like when he/she was being harassed.
3. Tell them that they are going to make a mask either of a bully or a victim. Encourage about half of children to be each.
4. Pass out art supplies.
5. Go over steps for masks:
Step 1: Sketch an outline of the shape you want to make, using the inside edge of the rim of a paper plate as a guide for the bottom of the face. Cut along sketch lines. Step 2: To make hair, cut paper into a rectangle about 2 or 3 inches wide and 2 to 18 inches long. Put this shape through a paper crimper if you want to make the hair even wilder. Fringe the rectangle to within 1/2 inch of the long edge. Cut the fringed rectangle into smaller pieces, and glue pieces around the top of the plate. Glue craft stick to bottom as holder. Let dry.
6. Once the masks are complete have students look through them and pretend to be the bully or the victim.
7. Keep the masks for role play. Or as an extension the children could write scripts and act them out.
Laurie Woodward is the author of several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles. She also cowrote Dean and JoJo: The Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.