Preparing for Bullying Prevention Month

By Stephanie Filio

Preparing for Bullying Prevention MonthWith the unending pressures of social media and confusing behavioral standards for today’s children, it has become clear that students need a little extra help and guidance in their hallways. In response, most schools and school systems celebrate National Bullying Prevention Month in October. At my previous school, we made an effort every year to come up with a comprehensive four-week program for the entire school. This included activities, schoolwide counseling lessons, and inspirational and informative announcements. Bullying Prevention Month is one of the most fun times to plan each year, because it is all about positivity and having a blast together!

In the past, many bullying prevention campaigns focused on the negative effects of bullying and peer aggression. It felt as though kids were being scolded for having peers who bully and for having the potential to create harm. Luckily, we have since turned a corner and refocused efforts on the positive side of decreasing bullying. The fact that students are powerful, essential components of their schools has become the central message. The old “us against them” (students who don’t bully vs. those who do) mentality is being replaced with hope in the all-powerful “we.”

The goal of a good bullying prevention campaign is to shine a spotlight on how we should treat one another, how we can celebrate friendship and support, and how students can make connections. The best way to proactively combat bullying in schools is to first create a social norm of kindness and respect. To build an entire month around a schoolwide bullying prevention program, consider the following tips.

Determine your focus.
The idea of bullying prevention is broad and encompassing. By narrowing down a focus, you are more likely to deliver a clear message to students that they can apply in their daily lives. Maybe you want to have students think about their ability to do positive deeds for others, feel good about themselves and others, or feel safe to lay down their protective shields.

Make your outline.
Sending a message from different angles better ensures that you will reach all students in some way. Create a plan for spreading your message in the classroom (if you are able to), daily announcements, hallways, lunchroom, and so on. Think about all the things a student comes in contact with throughout the school week, and then figure out how you can infiltrate each avenue. Do you have bulletin boards in your hallways? Do you have televised announcements or videos? Is there a study period when teachers could deliver a mini-lesson? Can you send messages out through or another mass-text service?

Once you have your list, determine how you will access each avenue. This is where your relationships with sponsors, librarians, student activities coordinators, and so on really come in handy.

Next, brainstorm activities and schedule them throughout the month. You can do this before meeting with others involved in the program, or you can hold an initial meeting to generate ideas.

Mobilize your squad.
Put together a bullying prevention committee to get a full view of what your school needs based on what teachers are seeing in classrooms, what administrators are processing in their offices, and what counselors are seeing in the hallways. Set a time for your first meeting and send the invitation to grade-level teachers, administrators, and counselors to ensure the word gets out to all corners of the school. Come with your outline for the month and ideas for events. Ask the committee to spread the word in their department meetings, and take notes on who will complete each task.

Create your calendar.
Create an easy-to-follow calendar to help you carry out your plans. The calendar will also be a great resource to share with administrators and teachers to make sure everyone is on the same page and supporting the initiative. For a monthlong campaign, I usually use a one-page full-month calendar with space for specific details and short descriptions.

To organize my thoughts, I like to sort by communication medium. For example, you might outline what you will do on announcements and in the hallways and lunchroom. Click here to download this easy-to-follow calendar.

Preparing for Bullying Prevention Month

Counselors reinforce the message.
School counselors can help create a comprehensive message by conducting classroom lessons. Since the team is smaller, it is easier to ensure that the lessons stay true to the overall focus. These lessons may fill an entire bell or block or be as short as 15 minutes depending on how much time your administrator lets you pull from instruction.

Here are some fun sample ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • The Giving Tree. Have students listen to the story The Giving Tree and discuss showing thankfulness. Have students write what they are thankful for about their school on a leaf. Post the leaves around a paper trunk in a busy hallway and create a thankfulness showpiece.
  • Bullying Prevention PSA. Have students look up PSA videos about bullying and kindness. Challenge them to get into groups and create their own PSA videos for a schoolwide competition. All efforts can be recognized, and you can have a grand prize for the top video students vote on.
  • Inspirational Videos. Show students inspirational videos about inclusion and respect on a global level. Have discussions in pairs and as a whole class about what large groups, such as countries and corporations, can do to increase inclusion and respect in the world. What about smaller entities like communities and schools? What about classrooms? What about individuals?
  • PACER’s Project Connect Lesson. PACER is a great resource for National Bullying Prevention Month. This page has several classroom activities. In the Project Connect activity, students write on a strip of paper a way in which they have helped others. Link the strips together and discuss how these actions can create a chain reaction of positivity and help a school become a stronger whole. Display the chain.

The heart of the bullying prevention message is inclusion and community. If people are conscious of their actions and caring about how they influence others’ feelings, the community is stronger and bullying falls naturally to the wayside. A comprehensive bullying prevention program involves the entire school and shows students how fun a positive environment can be. Students do not need to be made smaller by focusing on their negative potential, but rather empowered to better understand their capacity for valuable and lasting change.

For more resources for Bullying Prevention Month, check out Free Spirit’s Bullying Prevention & Conflict Resolution section online.

Stephanie FilioStephanie Filio is a middle school counselor in Virginia Beach. She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and her M.Ed. in counseling from Old Dominion University. In a discussion with one of her UVA professors about her desire to stay in school forever, her mentor wisely responded, “If you want to be a lifelong learner, go into education,” and so she found her place. Prior to her six years as a school counselor, Stephanie worked in private education, specializing in standardized tests, test preparation, and future planning. She writes about her career and hobbies at her blog, Weekend Therapy, and can be found on Twitter @steffschoolcoun. Stephanie also enjoys spending time with her books, crafts, and family.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Identifying and Supporting Gifted Students from Underserved Communities

By Dina Brulles, Ph.D, coauthor of A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning: Form, Manage, Assess, and Differentiate in Groups

Identifying and Supporting Gifted Students from Underserved CommunitiesCesar, a first grader, scored a 92 percent on the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT2). Although he did not officially qualify for gifted education services (requiring a score of 97 percent or higher), the school’s gifted specialist “flexed” Cesar into the gifted-cluster class because of his ELL status. Cesar attends one of the district’s Title I schools (where they have few gifted-identified students), so they were able to offer him this participation. In third grade, Cesar took the gifted test again, and with his new score in the 98th percentile, he was officially identified as gifted. Cesar continued receiving advanced academic instruction through the cluster grouping model and then in honors classes. Had he not been tested on a nonverbal assessment and then flexed into the program in first grade, his teachers may not have recognized his high potential.

Those in low socioeconomic groups remain largely underserved in gifted and talented (G/T) programs. Yet gifted and talented students span all cultures and socioeconomic groups. The inequity stems from two primary challenges. First, considerable controversy surrounds what it means to be gifted. States and school districts vary greatly in their identification procedures, program qualification criteria, and instructional methods. Second, educators wrestle with how to identify and then structure services for gifted students who are either not proficient in English or not currently academically advanced.

Schools can identify, group, and serve their diverse range of gifted students by:

  • Increasing the gifted program’s diversity by providing professional development and identifying culturally and linguistically diverse students
  • Enfranchising learners from disadvantaged and underrepresented populations by including them in their regular gifted services
  • Monitoring academic growth of all G/T students to structure services and professional learning

Identifying Hidden Potential
Gifted programs that require advanced academic achievement for receiving services create the unintended outcome of under-identifying—and thereby denying appropriately advanced instruction to—some students with exceptional potential. In many cases, identification and program placement, as well as school policies, prevent students from participating in G/T services. Schools must expand views on gifted qualification and provide tiered levels of gifted services and instruction based on students’ needs. This expansion helps create systems that incorporate multiple identification criteria to search for students with potential to achieve at higher levels.

How can program administrators gauge whether they appropriately serve their culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students and those from low-income families? The school population, demographics, and available resources should influence how students are identified and served.

  • Compare student demographic data to gifted population demographics to determine which populations are underrepresented.
  • Explore alternative methods for identification and services.
  • Incorporate culturally sensitive procedures for identifying all students with high ability, with special attention to those from diverse populations.

Providing Programming
Schools can provide full-time attention toward gifted education instruction through cluster grouping. In this model, all students identified as gifted, including ELL students, former ELL students, and students not yet achieving highly, are automatically placed on the school’s gifted rosters and scheduled into gifted-cluster classrooms (and/or participate in the school’s gifted program). This recognizes that gifted programs need not cater solely to students who learn at advanced levels, resulting in more inequitable educational opportunities.

Using a cluster grouping model, schools identify one classroom at each grade level where gifted students are grouped with a trained gifted-cluster teacher. Cluster teachers are expected to plan appropriately challenging instruction that involves acceleration, enrichment, and extended learning opportunities.

Title I schools commonly have few students identified as gifted. Some school districts “flex” into cluster classes students who score highly on the gifted tests but do not formally qualify as gifted. Close monitoring of these students’ progress should accompany this practice to ensure the placement benefits these students. If students are not making appropriate academic progress, evaluate the instructional methods being used to determine how better to support them.

Siria came to her new school early in October of her third-grade year. She tested into the English Language Development (ELD) program as an emergent English language speaker at a Title I school. Upon entering her class, Siria’s ELL teacher, Mrs. Munoz, immediately recognized that the girl had exceptional insight and learned rapidly. Siria exited the ELD program in record time, was identified as gifted on a nonverbal ability test, and then was grouped together with other gifted students in her fourth-grade year. Mrs. Munoz recognized Siria’s potential because she had participated in a district training on identifying giftedness in culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Schools that group their gifted students should ask themselves the following questions to document progress and determine effectiveness:

  • Is the ethnic representation of the gifted population served reflective of the school’s demographics?
  • Do teachers receive the training necessary to understand the affective and academic needs of their diverse gifted students?
  • Do the designated cluster teachers have the tools and training necessary to differentiate instruction, accelerate curriculum, and provide enrichment?
  • Are the various groups of gifted students making significant yearly academic progress yearly in the core content areas?

Train teachers serving diverse populations to:

  • Recognize and nurture behaviors usually demonstrated by CLD gifted students
  • Create conditions in which all students will be stretched to learn
  • Incorporate students’ diverse interests into their independent studies
  • Facilitate research in a way that builds upon cultural influences
  • Provide flexible grouping opportunities for the entire class

There is no perfect system for identifying and addressing the potential of students from low-income families, from diverse cultures, or for whom English is a second language. Students like Cesar and Siria benefit when the district directs attention to equity in excellence for all student groups.

Dina BrullesDina Brulles, Ph.D., is a school administrator and the gifted education director for Arizona’s Paradise Valley Unified School District. Recognized for her expertise in creating and supervising schoolwide cluster grouping, she also assists districts throughout the United States in developing gifted education programs, including those districts serving culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students. She holds a Ph.D. in gifted education and an M.S. in curriculum and instruction and serves on the faculty of the Graduate College of Education at Arizona State University. Prior to becoming an administrator, Dina was an elementary classroom teacher, a bilingual teacher, an ESL teacher, and a gifted-cluster teacher. She lives in Peoria, Arizona.

Dina is a coauthor of A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning: Form, Manage, Assess, and Differentiate in Groups; The Cluster Grouping Handbook: A Schoolwide Model ; and Teaching Gifted Kids in Todays Classroom.

Flexible Grouping

The Cluster Grouping Handbook

Teaching Gifted Kids in Todays Classroom

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8 Ways to Help Teens Make a Difference in Their Communities

8 Ways to Help Teens Make a Difference in Their CommunitiesThe drive to make a difference in the world is a powerful one, but sometimes teens don’t know where to start. Here are eight ways teens can make a difference in their local communities. Share this list with the teens in your life to encourage them to create the change they want to see in the world, beginning right in their own backyards.

  1. Plant a community garden. Do you like getting your hands dirty? Plant a community garden to help feed those who are hungry. In addition to producing food, cooperative gardens beautify communities, help nurture and sustain the environment, and bring people together in support of an important cause.
  2. Volunteer to help community members in need. There are many ways to help those who are struggling economically. Volunteer at a food bank or shelter, or check out opportunities to get involved through your school or faith group. If you’re not sure where or how you can help, visit the DoSomething website ( for ideas.
  3. Join the effort to provide housing for all. Are you the type of person who doesn’t mind rolling up your sleeves to get a job done? You might be a perfect candidate to help build homes for others. Talk with neighborhood housing organizations, or visit the websites of Habitat for Humanity ( and UN-Habitat ( to find out how you can help.
  4. Help kids on the streets. An estimated 200,000 young people are homeless in the United States. Kids end up on the street for many reasons. Some run away to escape abuse. Others are addicted to drugs or have homeless families. StandUp for Kids is one group confronting the issue, using a range of approaches. Find out how you can help at
  5. Collect items for those in need. Organize a drive to gather basic necessities and more. Ask the public for donations of nonperishable food, blankets, clothing (including winter items), toys, and any other supplies that can be distributed to local families. Collaborate with public officials, school staff, and local businesspeople to create drop-off spots around your area.
  6. Help others find work. Unemployment can often be a cause of homelessness. Volunteer at job training and placement centers in your community. Or, spread the word about these centers and help people who are homeless become aware of work opportunities. You might also support laws that expand job opportunities in your area.
  7. Spread the word about poverty in your area. Interview local experts on poverty and share what you learn with others. Raise awareness using flyers, posters, public service announcements, and video sharing. You might also express your views in newspapers (with a letter to the editor), at online news sites, or on a personal blog.
  8. Support laws that help the homeless. To learn about pending laws that affect the homeless, visit and Circulate petitions supporting laws that you believe in, or contact state representatives and ask for their help to initiate proposals helping the homeless.

For more service ideas (both local and global), check out The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change by Barbara A. Lewis.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Tips for Building Successful Partnerships Between Special Education and Mainstream Teachers

By Benjamin Farrey-Latz, author of I Can Learn Social Skills! Poems About Getting Along, Being a Good Friend, and Growing Up, and Amara Danielson

Tips for Building Successful Partnerships Between Special Education and Mainstream TeachersTeachers work with many individuals to support their students. Special education teachers and general education or mainstream teachers often share students throughout the day. A strong relationship between special and general education teachers is essential to helping students succeed.

We are special education teacher Benjamin Farrey-Latz and fifth-grade teacher Amara Danielson. We have had a great working relationship and have compiled a list of tips for a successful partnership between a special ed. and a general ed. teacher.


  • Before school starts, meet together so the special education teacher can give advice and instruction on how the general education teacher can support the student(s). Discuss IEP goals and objectives, adaptations and accommodations, and information on behavior plans if applicable.
  • The special education teacher should provide a copy of each student’s IEP at a Glance. This gives the other teacher information about goals, objectives, and accommodations. For general ed. teachers, it’s important to pay close attention to accommodations that apply in their settings. These may include a separate room for testing, seating near the teacher or board, short breaks during the day, and so on.
  • Discuss schedules for students together to determine the best times to pull a student out of the general education classroom for special education services. Because each teacher’s schedule can be complex, this can be a complex process, and it’s important to remember that the schedule probably won’t be perfect.
  • Throughout the year, meet for check-ins/updates—communication is key! Formal and planned meetings are best, but informal and as-needed meetings are also important. For example, an unscheduled meeting might be helpful if the student is showing changes in behavior or performance in class. Meetings are essential for problem-solving and ensuring consistency between teachers.
  • Take the time for co-planning so that instruction is relevant, connected, and fluid for your shared students.

Check-In Sheets for Students

  • These provide specific documentation and communication between adults (home and other teachers). They contain information about daily or weekly progress on goals and behaviors in each setting.
  • Check-in sheets can be fairly simple, with a box for each part of the day and a mark (such as a smiley face, a straight face, or a frown) for how the student did during that part of the day. Or they might just require a check mark or an X to show whether tasks were completed.
  • Teachers can also write short comments about specific behaviors.


  • The special education teacher can observe the student in the general education classroom and then meet with the general ed. teacher to discuss what went well and what could go better to support the student in the mainstream classroom. This is an opportunity to look at a student’s academic, social, communication, and behavior progress in this setting.
  • The general education teacher can observe the special ed. teacher interacting with students in order to learn skills and strategies. Consider meeting afterward to discuss the strategies and how the general ed. teacher can implement them in the classroom.


  • Teachers can write emails to each other with updates on daily activities, issues that come up, and positives they want to relay (if these are not already included in check-in sheets).
  • Classroom teachers can also email special ed. teachers to share updates on parent communication. However, be careful about confidentiality. It is better to discuss personal information in person without other people around.
  • Notify each other of field trips and special events in the classroom. Teachers often forget to do this, but it is very helpful if everyone knows about trips and events.


  • Co-teaching is beneficial for student engagement, behavior management, inclusion, and providing differentiation.
  • Co-teaching encourages students to build more relationships and helps them see all teachers as their teacher. This makes sure no one is singled out.
  • Many different co-teaching models are successful! Some examples that we found beneficial are as follows:
    • One teacher leads the class while the other supports students as needed. Depending on the needs of the students, special education teachers may need to focus particularly on their students in special ed., or they may move around the room supporting all students so special ed. students don’t feel singled out. This is completely individual and based on the needs of students.
    • Each teacher takes a small group to work on the same materials or differentiated materials to give all students more support. We found this approach especially helpful when we were doing reader’s theater. Each teacher acted as the “director” of a different play, and at the end of the week, groups performed for each other.
    • Team teaching, or taking turns lead teaching the same lesson, is also a great approach. This style of teaching is engaging for students and encourages them to see all teachers who enter the room as their teacher.
  • These models are just a few examples. Try out different models and determine which work best for you.

Friendly Relationship! 🙂

  • This provides a model for students of a positive relationship.
  • Strong communication is a key to maintaining a friendly relationship.
  • It is important to understand that things will get messed up or forgotten. For example, sometimes one teacher will forget to let the other teacher know about an upcoming event, test, or field trip. Remember that we are all busy, and most teachers are not intentionally trying to make things more difficult for one another. Forgiving and moving on is important. A mistake may even help you put a plan in place to make sure similar issues don’t happen again. A shared calendar can help with this.

Different personalities can make working relationships easier or harder in any field. As teachers, we can be models for our students of making working relationships strong and positive.

Benjamin Farrey-Latz is a special education teacher at Jefferson Community School (grades 2–6) in the Minneapolis School District. He has worked in education since 1996 in private, public, and charter schools as both a general and special education teacher. After working several years at the elementary level, Benjamin completed his master’s degree at the University of Minnesota. His thesis focused on methods of teaching social skills to children with special needs. He is the author of I Can Learn Social Skills! Poems About Getting Along, Being a Good Friend, and Growing Up.

Amara Danielson Amara Danielson has been teaching since 2015. She taught in Minneapolis at Jefferson Community School (fifth grade) for three years and recently made a transition to the Des Moines Public School District. She enjoys working with upper elementary students and hopes to start a master’s program at Drake University for culturally relevant teaching and leadership this winter.


I Can Learn Social Skills! Benjamin is the author of I Can Learn Social Skills! Poems About Getting Along, Being a Good Friend, and Growing Up.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Enter to Win the Real Kids, Real Stories Series!

Enter to Win the Real Kids, Real Stories SeriesThis month we’re giving away all three books in the Real Kids, Real Stories series. The books include true stories featuring young people overcoming adversity to achieve great things, making a difference around the world, and showing extraordinary character. One lucky reader will win:

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling us how you inspire kids and teens to take personal, community, and social action.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s four chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight, September 21, 2018.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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