See Through Their Eyes

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 ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe 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.

Get Laurie’s Books Here

Do I Make a Difference?

Do I make a difference? Has my work changed anything? These are the questions I recently asked myself before going on the Dave Congalton Radio program. For several years now, I have taught groups of fifth and sixth graders assertiveness, peer mediation, and communication skills but didn’t know if there’d been any lasting effects. So recently when Dave asked me for interview ideas I  asked him if he’d like to talk to one of my former student volunteers.

Dave agreed so I contacted sixteen-year-old Mikayla Thompson, a former friend mediator, about doing the show. She said she’d love to appear on Dave Congalton Hometown Radio to look at the long-term effects of early intervention. Mikayla Thompson was just ten when she volunteered her recesses to stop bullying on our campus. For two years of elementary school, she worked with a core group of students to promote peace on campus. Using scripts I wrote, non-violence techniques, and assertiveness training these kids helped to make our school a better place.

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I knew those kids helped our school while they were there but I had no idea if the prevention and intervention tools we taught had any long term-term effects.

But I hoped.

On Monday, November 19th I picked Mikayla up for the ride to the KVEC Studio. What she shared then and during the next two hours blew me away. Not only has she stood up to bullies for these past six years but she also has comforted victims, helped her siblings work out conflicts, and gone on to volunteer for the Make a Wish foundation. She was a resilient child. I was so proud I couldn’t stop grinning.

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During the interview she was poised, thoughtful, and kind as she shared some of her stories. Not only had early intervention made a difference in her life, but Mikayla was paying it forward and helping other teens to cope. For the entire interview, click on the following link:

Interview with Mikayla and Laurie

Tips for parents and educators:

  1. Be on the lookout for changes in behavior. If a child suddenly becomes withdrawn or reluctant to attend school, they might be experiencing bullying.
  2. Ask specific questions about how he/she is interacting with others.
  3. Be vigilant with social media. Cyber-bullying is on the rise.
  4. Role-play ways to deal with bullying as in the Peace Card.
  5. Seek help. My website, Artania.net has scores of free lessons and ideas.Copy of card back 

    A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe 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 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.

Stop the Cruelty

Why would a 9-year-old child take her own life? What would lead this beautiful being to such a tragic end? Were there signs that the adults could have been on the lookout for? Last week a loving mother walked in to find her baby, Maddie Whittsitt, a fourth-grader from Birmingham, Alabama unresponsive. Ms. Williams attempted CPR and called 911 but tragically the child died three days later in St. Vincent’s East Hospital.

She had recently been the target of bullying.

We must stop the cruelty! How? As a peace consultant and educator, I have worked for many years to give children tools to become more resilient. Recently I asked one of my former friend mediator students, now sixteen, to join me on Dave Congalton Hometown Radio to look at the long-term effects of early intervention. Mikayla Thompson was the same age as this poor child when she volunteered her recesses to stop bullying on our campus. For two years of elementary school, she worked with a core group of students to promote peace on campus. Using scripts I wrote, non-violence techniques, and assertiveness training these kids helped to make our school a better place.

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But I still didn’t know if the prevention and intervention we attempted had long term-term results.

On Monday, November 19th I picked Mikayla up for the ride to the KVEC Studio. What she shared then and during the next two hours blew me away. Not only has she stood up to bullies for these past six years but she also has comforted victims, helped her siblings work out conflicts, and gone on to volunteer for the Make a Wish foundation. She was a resilient child. I was so proud I just about cried.

daveconglshow11-18

During the interview she was poised, thoughtful, and kind as she shared some of her stories. Not only had early intervention made a difference in her life, but Mikayla was paying it forward and helping other teens to cope. For the entire interview, click on the following link:

Interview with Mikayla and Laurie

Tips for parents and educators:

  1. Be on the lookout for changes in behavior. If a child suddenly becomes withdrawn or reluctant to attend school, they might be experiencing bullying.
  2. Ask specific questions about how he/she is interacting with others.
  3. Be vigilant with social media. Cyber-bullying is on the rise.
  4. Role-play ways to deal with bullying as in the Peace Card.
  5. Seek help. My website, Artania.net has scores of free lessons and ideas.Copy of card back

Interviewed to Address Bullying

“I’ve tried to keep my FB posts positive throughout the summer, but I can’t ignore the grim reality of young children committing suicide. Earlier this month, it was a 9-year-old Denver student named Jamel who hung himself after being bullied for being gay.” Radio talk show host, Dave Congalton, writes on his Facebook page.

“9 years old. 9.

Here’s the sad truth from the New York Times: “Jamel’s death comes amid a startling rise in youth suicides, part of a larger public health crisis that has unfolded over a generation: Even as access to mental health care has expanded, the suicide rate in the United States has risen 25 percent since 1999. Middle- schoolers are now just as likely to die from suicide as they are from traffic accidents.”

Middle-schoolers are now just as likely to die from suicide as they are from traffic accidents?????

We’re going to discuss this on the radio today (Wednesday) at 5:05 on 920 AM KVEC with local teachers Laurie Woodward and Mila Vujovich-La Barre, both of whom are heavily involved in their school’s efforts to combat bullying. I certainly don’t have the solution, but it begins with dialogue. Hope you can join us.”

And join him we did, spending two hours brainstorming with Dave and callers about how to prevent and combat this blight on our society.

For the entire interview please click below. And let’s all work together to prevent further tragedies like these from occurring.

 

Radio Interview Part 1

Radio Interview Part 2

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Thank you Dave and Mila. It was truly an honor.

In addition to hosting a popular radio show for the past 26 years, Dave Congalton is a screenwriter, producer,  former director of the Central Coast Writer’s Conference, and award-winning author.  His books include Three Cats, Two Dogs: One Journey Through Multiple Pet Loss, When Your Pet Outlives You: Protecting Animal Companions After You Die, with co-author Charlotte Alexander and The Talk Radio Guest Book with co-author Deborah Bayles. His screenplay, Author’s Anonymous, starring Kaley Cuoco and directed by Ellie Kanner was released as a major film in 2014.

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For more information about Dave see: http://davidcongalton.com/# or http://www.920kvec.com/

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe 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 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.

The Talking Stick

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“The two main purposes of class meetings are to help each other and to solve problems,” Jane Nelson says. According to William Glasser, the American psychiatrist who developed Choice Theory, class meetings are a time when “the teacher leads the whole class in a non-judgmental discussion.” I read when my students one day when I was frustrated by all of the complaints my students had.

Among the guidelines were a list of dos and don’ts. For example, blame or put-downs were not allowed. These meetings were a place to solve problems, listen to the person speaking, and give each child a voice.

Just what my class needed.

The next day, I told my students to get in a circle and then showed them a wooden mallet I use for a singing bowl.

“Today we are going to have a class meeting. This is the talking stick,” I said, holding it up. “It is for taking turns. As we pass it around, each person will have a chance to share, but only the person holding it speaks; everyone is quiet and listening.”

The kids started to giggle. A few poked each other in the ribs. I expected this.

“I’ve noticed that lately some of you have had some issues with other kids in our class,” I said in quiet voice. “Many of you have come to me with problems and I set aside this time to work them out. But remember we are talking about feelings, not tattle or name call. If someone shares a concern with you, you have two choices. You either say, ‘Thank you for sharing,’ or apologize. No arguing is allowed.”

I looked around the circle and waited for focus. Many kids nodded and sat up straight, seeming to understand the solemnity of what was about to happen.

I then explained that wanted to create a better class community.  We would get to to know each other better, share joys and gratitude, and work out conflicts. “I’ll start with an example,” I said, I turning to one boy in my class, whose name is changed to ‘Cole’ for privacy.

“Cole, I feel upset about the choices you have made lately. You have thrown things,  and disturbed kids trying to work.”

Cole’s face blanched at first but then he lifted his gaze to meet mine and mumbled a sincere apology.

Recognizing how difficult that was for him, I congratulated him on his bravery  before passing the talking stick to the child on my left.  She could either share an “I feel” messages or pass. She chose to pass but I was surprised to find that many children were very open to sharing.

Over the next twenty minutes, students found their voice. Some faced those who had bullied them and said how much it hurt. Bullies apologized and thanked the speaker for sharing. Two girls, who had been arguing and talking behind each other’s backs, shared about how much they missed each other. A few acknowledged friends and thanked them for being there. Even a couple of my shyest students spoke up to say how they felt about name calling.

On the second pass around the circle I focused on problem solving having each child say; “I know we’ve had problems in the past but I’d like to__________.”  As they filled in the blanks, I was amazed that every single child said they’d like to be friends

At the end of the meeting, I thanked them all with the reminder that this was a special time for our class, not something to gossip about. They could share it with their parents but aside from that, what was said in a class meeting was private.

At the next gathering I was thrilled to discover how much better they’d been getting along. Those who had been gossiping were now sitting next to each other with their arms draped over each other’s shoulders. There wasn’t a single report of bullying.

Oh sure, there are still days when my students push it. But when things start to feel out of control, I gather everyone in a circle to remind them that they have a choice. They can continue letting the bullying and disruption continue, or they can use their words to effect change.

I have found that when children are given the right communication tools, they can rise to the occasion. I think one of my students put it best in a pen pal letter she wrote; “We used to have bullies in our class but now kids are being nice. We know we have the power to make peace.”

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe 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 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.

Tips to Start the School Year Peacefully

Well, it’s getting closer to that time we teachers both dread and look forward to. The beginning of a new school year. Along with the mad rush to get everything ready, I try to also think of how I’ll promote peace this year. Here are a few things I do that you might find helpful.

1. Create a Peace Zone. Here I have a small table for both peace and discipline cards below inspirational posters.

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2. Plan your reward system. What rewards will you use?  Personally I have two reward systems: cooperative and individual. My students sit in cooperative groups and get points for on-task behavior. That group with the most points receives a prize at the end of the day. For individual behaviors, each student has the opportunity to get two tickets weekly: one for completing all homework and another if they did pull their card. They can use these ticket to purchase toys from the treasure box.

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3. Think about your rules and your assertive discipline plan. I find that a few  general rules are easier to manage than a long list of specific ones. Examples include: Treat others, property, and self with respect. Follow directions. Wait to be called upon to speak.

For discipline, my students make their own cards. On one side, they color their name and a positive scene doing something they like. This affirms their uniqueness and what privileges can be lost when rules are broken.On the opposite side are three columns: Date, Problem, Next Time. These are filled in when students get to the “pulled card” level of misbehavior. I believe writing the problem down and then writing what would have been a good choice helps children reflect on their behavior. I do have this caveat: Next time must be stated as a POSITIVE. If the problem is pushing in line, then he/she should write, “Keep hands to self.”

Copy of card back

4. Write Discipline into your lesson plans for the first weeks of school. Give yourself plenty of time to train students. This is not the time to rush into the standards but to establish procedures.Believe me, it’ll pay off. Whenever I’ve rushed because I’ve felt under the gun, discipline got a heck of a lot tougher. And you don’t want to start the year like that.

keep-calm-and-go-slow-4

5. Plan an art project that will make every child  feel successful. Need ideas? Pinterest has tons.

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of 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 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.

Seeing Through Another’s eyes

drama-mask-3If your children or students are having trouble with bullying, assertiveness, or empathy here is a lesson you might want to try.

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.

Five Tips to Start the School Year Peacefully

Well, it’s getting closer to that time we teachers both dread and look forward to. The beginning of a new school year. Along with the mad rush to get everything ready, I try to also think of how I’ll promote peace this year. Here are a few things I do that you might find helpful.

1. Create a Peace Zone. Here I have a small table for both peace and discipline cards below inspirational posters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Plan your reward system. What rewards will you use?  Personally I have two reward systems: cooperative and individual. My students sit in cooperative groups and get points for on-task behavior. That group with the most points receives a prize at the end of the day. For individual behaviors, each student has the opportunity to get two tickets weekly: one for completing all homework and another if they did pull their card. They can use these ticket to purchase toys from the treasure box.

8182147

3. Think about your rules and your assertive discipline plan. I find that a few  general rules are easier to manage than a long list of specific ones. Examples include: Treat others, property, and self with respect. Follow directions. Wait to be called upon to speak.

For discipline, my students make their own cards. On one side, they color their name and a positive scene doing something they like. This affirms their uniqueness and what privileges can be lost when rules are broken.On the opposite side are three columns: Date, Problem, Next Time. These are filled in when students get to the “pulled card” level of misbehavior. I believe writing the problem down and then writing what would have been a good choice helps children reflect on their behavior. I do have this caveat: Next time must be stated as a POSITIVE. If the problem is pushing in line, then he/she should write, “Keep hands to self.”

4. Write Discipline into your lesson plans for the first weeks of school. Give yourself plenty of time to train students. This is not the time to rush into the standards but to establish procedures.Believe me, it’ll pay off. Whenever I’ve rushed because I’ve felt under the gun, discipline got a heck of a lot tougher. And you don’t want to start the year like that.

keep-calm-and-go-slow-4

5. Plan an art project that will make every child  feel successful. Need ideas? Pinterest has tons.

A Dolphin’s Legacy: The Story of Dean and JoJo

When Dean told me he was lowering the price of his ebook because Discovery’s Animal Planet had plans to air Dolphins I couldn’t help but spend some time reflecting.51TsZtDmxVL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

A few years back I had the honor or working with naturalist and dolphin advocate, Dean Bernal, on his biopic. I spent months interviewing him, taking notes, and learning about his relationship with one amazing bottlenose dolphin named JoJo. I even traveled to Turks and Caicos to swim in JoJo’s crystal blue waters, seeing for myself the impact Dean had had on this beautiful creature. I am so proud to have been one small part of a story that moved me beyond words.

And am so glad that more people can now share in this inspirational story. Available on Amazon.com