Monday, April 1, 2013

An Animated Reading Comprehension Activity that Boosts Comprehension and Curbs Bullying

Bullying isn't just the stereotypical lunch money theft.
Over 13 million kids will be bullied this year. With our culture's overemphasis on positive thinking (ie., "Don't worry, it'll get better,") and such notions as "boys will be boys," or "the kids will work it out on their own," many students don't feel like the adults in their lives are able to stand up for them. Bullying has prevented millions of kids from feeling safe at school and in too many cases, it has ended lives. A variety of parental and nonprofit groups have brought the issue of bullying to center stage, but one governmental initiative stands out as an overlooked and underrated resource for addressing the issue. is a website so full of tips, resources, graphics, and videos that it would take hours, perhaps days, to get through all of it. The site is also available in Spanish and it stands out as an engaging resource with research-based suggestions for kids, parents, and teachers.

This isn't just a site that dishes out common sense advice or tells kids to ignore the problem.

For Teachers & Parents

The links and sections for teachers and parents have tons of tips and suggestions for dealing with bullying, including:
Common mistakes adults make in response to bullying
Tips to help kids be more than bystanders when bullying occurs
Risk factors, warning signs, effects of bullying, and considerations for special groups

Not a teacher, parent, or student? There are suggestions for community members, too, including a section on how all of us can facilitate conversations about bullying.

For Kids

The site's kids section has facts, videos, games, and addresses what kids can do about bullying
Aimed at elementary school students, the kid videos are mini webisodes with comprehension questions about bullying. The videos are short and engaging. I was surprised to see that they didn't take a lecturing or condescending tone. They also don't suggest dealing with a serious issue by just looking on the bright side or telling kids they are special or that it will all get better with time. They offer real suggestions and focus on empathy, not just telling kids that bullying is bad.

Turning it into a Reading Activity:
* Click here to watch one of the videos (I suggest watching it alone first, to get a sense of when to pause and what to discuss with students)
* Hit the CC button (on the bottom of the video frame, toward the center) to turn on the captions
* Click the [  ] symbol on the bottom (far right) of the video frame to make it full screen
* The first time you watch it with students, turn off the volume so that kids are reading, not just watching.
* Then watch again with the captions and audio on
* If students are okay with it, watch it one more time, this time without the audio (but leave captions on)
* Work on the comprehension questions together. As I've mentioned before, doing reading comprehension activities using videos is a great way to level the playing field and make a reading activity meaningful and engaging. Doing comprehension questions away from books is a great way to assess understanding without damaging a child's love for reading.

Kumar R. Sathy is the author of the award-winning Chicken Nugget Man Series of Educational Children's Fiction books and blogger for, a nonprofit resource with tips, strategies, and resources for making learning fun. Feel free to comment on this article below and follow @KumarSathy on twitter to read more tips from the author or to ask questions about elementary instruction.

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