Friday, January 6, 2012

Bully B.E.A.N.S.

First of all, let me state that I LOVE all of Julia Cook's books.  Her books have a very clever way of discussing issues.  Not to mention, they have accompanying activity books (purchased seperately) so planning is super easy!  I'm sure I will be writing several posts about her books.  With that said, my absolute favorite is Bully B.E.A.N.S.  Whenever I introduce this book to a class, they all say "What?!" A lot of them think I'm going to teach them how to be bullies.  In the book, the reader meets Bobette, the bully.  I always point out how the illustrator draws Bobbette so that she looks bigger than the rest of the kids.  We talk about why he must have done that.  We come to the conclusion that the author wants to show us that she has the power.  The kids (the bystanders) in the book learn that they must find the confidence inside themselves to stand up to the bully.  As a reminder, one girls mom gives her bully beans.  She tells her they are magical beans that help her stand up to the bully.  They finally figure out that the beans are just regular jelly beans, but just serve as a reminder of what they already can do. 

This book has promoted some awesome discussions in the classrooms I use it in.  Kids just open up and talk about the characters and immediately start making connections to real life.  We focus on the power of the bully vs. the power of the bystanders.  Then we do an activity from the Bully B.E.A.N.S. Activity and Idea Book to show the importance of the bystander.  The bystanders can take away the power of the bully when they work together.  In the activity book, there is an activity where you use a blanket and have students demonstrate this power struggle.  You label one student as the bully, one as the victim, and 3 as the bystanders.  They line up like this: bully, bystanders, victim.  The bully starts out with the blanket and then slowly the bystanders start pullying the blanket (the power) back over to the victim.  We talk about how the power needs to be equally balanced.  It's a really powerful lesson!

I also keep a jar of "bully beans" on my desk as a reminder for students.  Sometimes students come in to see me and say they need a bully bean.  They are asked to tell me how they're going to use it before I give them one.  This is one that the kids still talk about!

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