Stop Bullying Before It Starts

By Ruth Manna on September 15, 2010
  • Grades: 3–5

Teaching pro-social values and carefully monitoring students now will prevent bullying behavior later. The strategies in this blog post will ensure a bully-free school and help students learn social skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Take bullying seriously

— The damage bullies do can affect their targets in deep, long-lasting ways. It's not enough to punish bullies when incidents occur. What's required is a change in school climate and in the attitudes of all students and staff, particularly bystanders.

Be vigilant
— Mobilize the entire school community to stop bullying. All staff and students need to be alert and prepared to stop a bullying incident. Pay special attention to hot spots like playgrounds, hallways, cafeterias, buses, and locker rooms.

Increase number of adults — Recruit parent volunteers, paraprofessionals, and administrators to assist teachers as they supervise students on the playground and in the cafeteria.

Keep a playground log — Designate an on-duty adult to carry a playground log and record incidents of bullying, exclusion, and isolation. A written record will give you data and help you see patterns of behavior over time. If you have to meet with parents, it's enlightening for them to see evidence, not just hear anecdotes.

Enlist bystanders
— All students need to know they can and should stop bullies. Teach and practice a ready response for students to shout like, "NO! Stop it right now!" Students need to be encouraged to stop bullies and seek adult help. This is reporting, not tattling, and students need to be explicitly taught the difference.

Monitor at-risk students
— A mentoring program is a simple, intentional way to monitor students who are emotionally and socially at risk of becoming targets or bullies. A school psychologist or guidance counselor in consultation with classroom teachers creates a list of at-risk students. This list of names is divided among all staff members, who agree to touch base with these students on a daily basis. This daily check-in only takes a moment, but helps students build connections with caring adults. When students feel genuinely cared for, they are less likely to become targets or bullies. 

Extra instruction for students who are socially challenged
— Students with Asperger's Syndrome or other disabilities may need extra, explicit instruction in reading social cues and behaving like their age-typical peers. 

Teach through literature
— A book does not have to have bully in the title to be about bullying. In fact it's more effective when this topic can be woven into literature students read or their teacher reads aloud. As students read and discuss literature with their teacher, they will have opportunities to talk about characteristics of bullies and targets such as poor self-image, anxiety, and insecurity.

What are your anti-bullying strategies? I hope you'll share them here on Top Teaching.


Thanks fir writing and sharing your resources with us. Here's information about Teaching Tolerance/Southern Poverty Law Center's Mix It Up Day. Mix It Up Day encourages students to make new friends.

I found a number of classic and contemporary children's books to discuss bullying.

Using Literature to discuss the issue of bullying: • Read the story, the Ugly Duckling to start a discussion on bullying. • Another story to read is Goose Girl by the Brothers Grimm. Find the story at this link: • Still another story is Cinderella.Find the story online at this link:

There are also many contemporary books that deal with bullying. Here is a small sampling for elementary and middle school student. • The Berenstain Bears and the Bully by Stan Berenstain • Blubber by Judy Blume • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes • Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco • Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Vedick. • The Bully from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler with Jared Lee. • My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig • Roxie and the Hooligans by Phillis Reynolds Naylor

Find more books on bullying and read summaries at this link:

Read and listen to a short story about bullying online at this link:

Hope you find these resources of help.... Gail

I've posted resources for teachers/young people on anti-bullying which might be of value. As educators, how can we help? Please share other resources/activities with this group:

Your daughter and her friends need to know that the "queen bees" are bullies and they should promptly report all incidents to their teachers. They need to continue to report incidents, if this behavior is on-going. You can help by contacting administrators and requesting conferences with teachers. Tell your daughter's school staff that you take this behavior seriously and that it is bullying. Chances are the school has a bullying policy and protocol and procedures for handling bullying incidents. If you take this seriously and call it bullying, your daughter's school should act on your request and the girls' reports.

Hello Ruth,

Do you have any suggestions on how to help my 11 year old daughter and her friends deal with "mean girls' or "queen bees"?

Thank you

Thanks so much for your suggestion. I will definitely look into this website. Is bullying a problem at your school?

I recently heard about this website on the John Tesch Radio Show. I used it this last week in class and the kids liked it. Enjoy!

Here are websites you might want to check out:

Southern Poverty Law Center – information about bullying, harassment, and hate crimes. Free pro-social values and anti-bullying curricula.

For students in grades 6-12, order a free copy of DVD, Bullied: A Student, a School, and a Case That Made History.

Teaching Tolerance magazine and Mix It Up Day – Free materials

Educators for Social Responsibility Curricula for conflict resolution, social responsibility, peacemaking, etc. for students in preschool through high school.

Committee for Children – publishers of Second Step and Steps to Respect

Olweus – Bullying Prevention Program

It Gets Better – For LGBT youth. True stories from famous and not-so-famous gay and lesbian adults, encouraging youth that life does get better after high school.

Hi, I'm not sure how old your students are, but here's a link to another post I wrote recently about specific books you can use to teach social skills. I will get you a list of websites. Right now I have to get ready for work. :)

Do you have a list of books that you like to use for bullying?

Do you have a list of websites that you've used that addresses bullying issues...especially in girls?


This is a very touchy subject. However, all teachers need to turn their eyes and ears on and teach good character values. I know everyone is bombarded with curriculum, however it is our job to teach life long skills and one of them should be how to treat each other. This is a serious problem, always has been, but now with social media, it has gotten worse. We need some form of anti bullying law, maybe then the 'mean girls/boys' in school will quit making the lives of others so miserable. I have seen this one too many times.

I agree, Myra, that young students in particular need help understanding what bullying behavior is. This lack of understanding can lead to under-reporting as well as over-reporting. A mother of a kindergartener told me that her son had been bullied on his school bus, but dismissed it as "that's how big kids treat little kids."

What about teaching the children and their parents to differentiate between bullying and uncomfortable social situations. I think many encounters that are labeled "bullying" are situations that children need to learn to navigate for themselves.

I'm so glad you wrote about this topic! I think it is an important issue and is often overlooked. Thank you!

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