Two Apples, One Torn Heart: Simple, Effective Classroom Lessons About Bullying

IMG_4902Sometimes simple really is best. We love highlighting effective classroom lessons about bullying—especially the ones that “get to got it” quickly and easily.

In June 2016, a teacher shared a Facebook post on a recent lesson she’d taught. She held up two red apples for her students to see. Before the class started and out of view of her students, she had repeatedly dropped one of the two apples on the floor.

She encouraged her students to describe the apples. Outwardly, the students noticed that the apples looked similar and they anticipated that they would taste similar.

Then the teacher took the apple that she’d dropped on the floor and started to tell her students how much she disliked it. She called it “disgusting” and encouraged her students to also dislike it and call it names.

Next, she asked the children to say very positive, complimentary things about the second apple, such as “Your skin is beautiful,” and “What a beautiful color you are.”

After a conversation on similarities and differences, and pointing out again that both apples looked similar, she cut them open.

The apple to which the children had been kind was “clear, fresh, and juicy inside,” and the apple toward which she’d encouraged the children to say unkind things was “bruised and all mushy inside,” according to the teacher.

“I think there was a light bulb moment for the children immediately,” she shared in her post. “They really got it. What we saw inside that apple, the bruises, the mush, and the broken bits is what is happening inside every one of us when someone mistreats us with their words or actions. When people are bullied, especially children, they feel horrible inside and sometimes don’t show or tell others how they are feeling. If we hadn’t have cut that apple open, we would never have known how much pain we had caused it.”

Needless to say, this lesson went viral on social media. (Since June, it’s been shared nearly 240,000 times.)

This beautifully simple, effective lesson of the bruised apple reminded us of an Operation Respect lesson called the “Torn Heart”.

Teachers are instructed to create a large heart made out of paper, which is shown to students while they are being told that they are about to hear a story about a boy named Jimmy. The heart represents Jimmy’s heart. Every time the students hear a “put-down” in the story, the teacher asks them to give her a “thumbs-down” sign.

Every time she sees the thumbs-down sign, the teacher tears a piece of the heart.

By the end of the short story, Jimmy’s heart has been “torn” 15 times.

This lesson offers children an opportunity to learn about empathy; develop a common language around put-downs, put-ups, and thumbs-down, thumbs-up behavior; become aware of actions that constitute put-downs and put-ups; and, become more aware of how words and actions can hurt or heal.

The only supplies needed for this lesson are a paper heart and the story.

Simple is best.

For more ways to combat bullying, check out our classroom lessons and other online resources.

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