Elementary school verbal bullying is as damaging as anything physical. Bully-proofing your school transitions is critical for your classroom community.
I have issues with bullying when my students are between activities.
I'm starting to hear some verbal bullying during transitions. How can I best keep children engaged and focused during "down time" so they won't pick on each other?
~ Zoe Preston, Arkansas
Oh, those dreaded transitions!
As I've said on other pages on this website, "idle minds are the gremlin's workshop." Unoccupied children - or perhaps I should say unengaged children - are the greatest cause of misbehavior in elementary school.
Transitions are almost built-in periods of un-engagement and teachers must learn early on how to move smoothly from one subject area (or one activity) to the next...or they'll be fighting misbehavior multiple times throughout every school day.
Before we get into managing transitions, however, I must say a word about verbal bullying.
What is a bully? Anyone who picks on another person. It's that simple and everyone instinctively knows it when they see it...including elementary kids.
There can be absolutely no tolerance of verbal bullying activity. It's one thing for kids to be a little bit naughty during a transition time, but if they use that period to actually pick on each other, then you have a situation that must be dealt with immediately.
Certainly, you must follow your building's discipline plan, but if it doesn't specifically provide guidance for this scenario, then a minimum effective action usually involves a discussion with the principal and, most often, a call to the parents.
I've had a principal come to my room and read from the State Law about bullying and harassment to make a point.
Don't go overboard, however. Pestering each other in line is not bullying. Just be very cognizant that when a line is crossed, the behavior must be dealt with. Keep school safe, both mentally and physically.
Now about those transitions...
There should never be an unplanned transition. Essentially, the transition is part of the lesson that precedes it and part of the lesson that follows it since you are moving in from one to the other.
Elements of a successful transition include:
TIP: Don't forget to set appropriate expectations for any new transition steps...or if the kids start to drift from doing things the right way.
Of course, not all of you transitions include moving from one subject to another. Particularly difficult transitions include moving to a different location, such as lining up to go to lunch or recess or specialists (PE, Art, Music).
Line behavior is its own topic, and I refer you to this page about how to get your ducks in a row.
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