What Is Bullying?

3, 4, 5

In this lesson, learners 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 Sessions

The learner will:

  • define stereotype and bullying
  • design and implement a survey to research bullying 
  • read-aloud copy of Mr. Lincoln's Way by Patricia Polacco 
  • read-aloud copy of  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
  • 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


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the learners whether they ever made up their minds about someone and then learned they were wrong. Discuss how first impressions are only on the surface, and we don't know people right away. Ask how they can act that helps them get to know people before they make up their minds. 

  2. Read aloud the book Mr. Lincoln's Way. Partway into the book, ask what the kids and teachers think about Eugene. As they learn more, discuss why they think Eugene acts the way he does. 

  3. Mr. Lincoln pays attention and listens, knowing that Eugene is more than a bully. What does he do to get to know Eugene and develop trust over time? What are some of Eugene's good traits? 

    How do his dad's stereotypes about people of color influence Eugene's bullying behaviors?

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

    • Why do you think Eugene was mean to other kids? What was confusing for Eugene between home and school?
    • How did Eugene's behavior affect others in the school? What could they do about it?
    • 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. 

  7. Read My Secret Bully aloud and discuss the behaviors that created confusion. The secret bully Katie wasn't pushing her or saying mean things directly to her (like Eugene), but her unkind behavior was making it hard for Monica to feel safe at school.

  8. Discuss how the bullying in the two books is different but still confusing and bad for the whole circle of friends and classmates. 

  9. Talk about whether there is bullying at your school. Ask the learners if they want to do research with a survey to find out what type of problem it is and how they can take action. 

  10. Guide them to create a questionnaire that is confidential and collects some helpful information. Questions may 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). 

  11. Help the learners make a plan to distribute and collect the surveys. They can practice introducing the survey to peers, school staff or family members including a definition of bullying behavior.

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.