Words Can Hurt

K, 1, 2

Learners define bullying and describe what bullying behavior looks and feels like. In contrast, they experience the feelings of being helpful and nice to peers when they need it.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo 20-Minute Sessions

The learner will:

  • define and give examples of bullying, bully, and victim.
  • describe how bullying behavior might make people feel and how it affects the community.
  • define trust and give examples of why trust is important in a school community.
  • describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
  • describe how helping others and being kind benefits the common good.

a read-aloud copy of one of the books listed in the Bibliography

  • bullying: repeated teasing, hurting, or scaring of someone who seems different from oneself

  • bully: a person who likes to tease, hurt, or scare people. A bully often picks on smaller or weaker people.

  • service: help given to others; helpful work one is not paid for

  • trust: belief that you can count on someone or something

  • victim: a person cheated, fooled, or harmed by another

Read the book The Village Bully by Maria Broom. Read aloud the following practice from the book and discuss with the students whether they think this would work to stop bullying.

"In one African village, when a person does something truly hurtful, work stops as everyone, young and old, circles around the accused. Each one tells all the good things they remember about the person. Every positive incident, strength and kindness is recited in detail. The ceremony can often last several days and ends in celebration. The 'circle of love' helps the person to feel and remember who he is."




Alexander, Clair. Lucy and the Bully. Albert Whitman & Company, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0807547861 

Broom, Maria. The Village Bully. http://www.mariabroom.com/village-bully 

Lovell, Patty. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon. Putnam Juvenile, 2001. ISBN-13: 978-0399234163 

O'Neill, Alexis. The Recess Queen. Scholastic Press, 2002. ISBN-13: 978-0439206372


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Hand out to all students a piece of paper and ask them to crumple it up (but without ripping it). Then have them unfold it, smooth it out, and look at how scarred it is now. Ask them whether they are able to bring the paper back to its original look and feel. Relate this to an incident where a child bullies another child. It is very hard to take back unkind looks, words, actions or behaviors. Ask the children what they might do to repair the paper. They may suggest ironing, turning it into a piece of art, or pressing it between heavy books. Tell them that in just a few seconds they could cause harm, but it takes more effort to restore the hurt. Apologies, acts of kindness, and other positive efforts can help the bullied person feel better--and possibly even become a friend. Discuss what kind of "emotional scars" bullying leaves on someone. Tell the students that in the next few days they will be learning strategies for avoiding bullying behavior.

  2. Read Lucy and the Bully by Clair Alexander. Have students look at the pictures/listen carefully and then discuss how they feel about Tommy who was acting like a bully and Lucy who felt hurt. Discuss how the characters felt during the bullying and after they resolved the issue.

  3. Define bullying, bully, and victim. See Vocabulary, above. The following resource has kid-friendly background information on bullying: http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/friends/bullies/ You may explore the site with the students and ask them to describe the behaviors they have seen that look like how a bully or victim might act.

  4. Ask students to describe situations that can make people feel hurt and bad. Ask students to express how a person might feel in these situations.

  5. Explain that all hurtful situations are not bullying. Explain that bullying is making people feel bad repeatedly and on purpose. Then share the following examples of hurtful behavior and discuss whether they qualify as bullying or not:

  6. Note: Some of the following actions are deliberate, but not all of them show repeated behavior.

    -- A student says aloud in your class that your ideais silly.

    -- You shared your opinion with your classmates during a discussion and another student disagrees with what you said.

    --The same student cuts in front of you in the lunch line almost every day. (B)

    -- A student makes fun of you often because of the clothes you are wearing. (B)

    -- A student accidentally trips you on the playground and apologizes to you.

    -- You ask your friend to sit next to you, but he chooses to sit next to someone else.

    -- Students push other students in line for the swings at the playground.

    After reading each example above, discuss with the students the following: How would that make you feel? Is it bullying? What can someone do in that situation?

  7. Reflection: Have students look at the crumpled piece of paper and reflect on the book or stories/pictures about bullying. Then ask them to describe possible emotions of the victims. Write answers on the board. Then discuss that everyone in the class has a choice of how to act and react at all times. Discuss how they can act when they see that they have hurt someone or have seen someone hurt by another person.

  8. Day Two:

  9. Ask the students if they know the verse "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."Talk about whether words can hurt. Then have them brainstorm how the victim of unkind words might feel. Discuss whether bullying with words hurts as much as hitting and pushing. Ask how they think they would feel if they saw someone using unkind words with someone else at their school. Tell them that bullying behavior affects everyone at school because students feel bad for the victim and worry that they might be a victim next. This makes people feel that school might not be a safe place.

  10. Move the students into pairs and have them discuss the following questions without using names:

    • What unkind acts have you seen at school that made you feel bad?
    • What are some kind things kids can do at school that make you feel good?
  11. Have the partners share one of their positive acts and one of their negative acts with the whole class. Discuss what it feels like when you are not kind to someone or when someone is not kind to you. Discuss what it feels like when you are kind and when someone is kind to you.

  12. Ask the students what they can say to a best friend to help him or her feel better. Ask if the same things can be said to the whole school.

  13. Discuss how helping others and being kind at school could affect bullying. How would the school be different if everybody said and did more kind things?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify ways that trust is important in all communities.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define the word <em>trust</em> and its role in all communities.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.