Identifying a Bully

3, 4, 5

In this lesson, students learn to identify bullying behavior using two literature books, Mr. Lincoln's Way and The Secret Bully.  They compare and contrast two examples of bullying behavior portrayed in the books and create a peer/staff/family survey to research bullying behavior in their own school community.

PrintTwo 45-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define and use vocabulary - stereotype, bully
  • explore definitions of bullying behavior
  • discuss how bullying behavior might make people feel
  • participate in active listening
  • discuss a variety of literature
  • design and implement a plan to research bullying in their school using a student produced survey

Mr. Lincoln's Way by Patricia Polacco 

My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig


bullying: habitual behavior with the intention of threatening, intimidating, or harming others, particularly people who appear different

stereotype: an oversimplified opinion formed by associating people with a group; an idea that many people have about a thing or group and that may often be untrue or only partly true
Home Connection 

Encourage students to take a survey home and ask a family member to complete it.


Write this definition of bullying in a display area: Bullying is when someone hurts someone else's body, feelings, or reputation on purpose. On paper or in student journals have the students write about or illustrate a time when they were deliberately hurt by someone else or saw another student being deliberately hurt. They should include how the incident made them feel and how they reacted.

Show this video made by an eleven-year-old boy explaining how he felt when he was bullied, and what he decided to do about it.

  • Polacco, Patricia. Mr. Lincoln's Way. Philomel Books, 2001 ISBN: 0-399-23754-2
  • Ludwig, Trudy. My Secret Bully. Tricycle Press, 2005. ISBN: 978-1582461595
Additional literature books that address bullying
  • Carlson, Nancy. Arnie and the New Kid.  Viking Press, 1990
  • Yashima, Taro. YashimCrow Boy. Puffin, 1972 
  • Levy, Janice. Alley Oops. Flashlight Press
  • Amos, Janine. Bully. Marshall Cavendish
  • McCain, Becky Ray. Nobody Knew What to Do. Albert Whitman & Co. 
  • Moss, Marissa. Amelia Takes Command. Pleasant Company Publications
  • Moss, Peggy. Say Something. Tilbury House Publishers 


  1. Session One

    Anticipatory Set: Ask the students to share, in a short brainstorm session,whatever words, phrases or pictures first come to mind when they hear the word "bully." List their responses in a display area. Tell the students that you are going to begin to read a story about a boy who acts like a bully toward others and then add to the list or words and phrases. Teach or review active listening skills.

  2. Introduce the book Mr. Lincoln's Way. Read aloud or play the YouTube read aloud. Stop and check for understanding and for discussion, as needed.

  3. Review with the students what they brainstormed about "bully" and ask: Is Eugene an example of what you know about a bully? Do you want to add anything to the description you brainstormed for "bully?" 

  4. Do a "Think, Pair, Share" with these questions:

    • Why do you think Eugene acted as a bully?
    • How did Eugene's behavior affect others in the school?
    • Do you think members of the school community have a responsibility to address bullying behavior? Why or why not?
  5. Session Two

  6. Show the cover of "My Secret Bully" and ask if they can tell which girl on the front is the "bully." Talk about "stereotypes" and that people often think of bullies as boys. Ask did the class seem to have that stereotype of a bully when they created the list?

  7. Tell the students that one of the girls on the front cover acts as a"bully" but that she is in some ways the same as Eugene in Mr. Lincoln's Way and in other ways very different from Eugene.

  8. Read My Secret Bully aloud to the class or play the YouTube reading, stopping when appropriate to check for understanding and to discuss.

  9. Create a Venn diagram with two intersecting circles in a display area, one circle labeled Eugene and the other circle labeled Kate. Ask students to compare and contrast the two characters Eugene and Kate. Each separate circle should list the characters' actions, and the intersecting section should list the results of their actions - how they affected others.

  10. Talk about bullying at your school. Ask "Do kids in our school get bullied? Where in our school does this happen? There are different types of bullies that could make it confusing about how to respond." Caution the students not to use student names but to give examples of bullying behavior they might have witnessed.

  11. Suggest to the students that they could do a research project to discover facts about bullying behavior in their school. Guide the students in developing a questionaire to give to their peers, school staff and family members. This should include 3-5 student generated questions. Questions that students might want to include: Have you ever been bullied? Have you ever seen someone else being bullied? How much of a problem do you think bullying behavior is in our school? (scale of 5-1) Where or when do you think bullying behaviors happen? Teacher Note:Using a Likert Scale (See Bibliographical References) or a yes/no response for some of the questions will facilitate using math skills (percentage, graphs, charts) in quantifying the survey data.

  12. Guide students in developing a plan to distribute and collect the surveys. Students can practice introducing the survey to peers, schools staff or family members including a definition of bullying behavior.

Cross Curriculum 

Students create a survey to assess a community issue.

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. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.