No Name Calling Week

The lessons learned during No Name Calling Week can last throughout the year.

By Cathy Neushul


Name Calling

Even though next week is officially No Name Calling Week, the lessons learned can last throughout the year. By discussing the negative impact name calling, and bullying can have on children, and people in general, this observance can be a time to put some positive behaviors in motion.

We are all familiar with the old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." While everyone can see the damage caused by physical violence, the affect of name calling is insidious and hard to detect. Students might not feel comfortable telling a teacher, or even a parent, that they have been called names at school. This type of behavior can be destructive in a classroom environment and can have long term effects on a child's self-esteem. But there are a lot of ways you can create a positive classroom and school environment in which kids feel safe and free from the threat of unkindness.


It All Starts With a Name

We've all been called names at one point in our life - four eyes, shorty, etc. You can start an exploration of name calling by asking if any students would like to share personal experiences. You can share your own, and describe how you felt, what you said, and how this experience changed or didn't change your behavior in the future. For example, if you were called four eyes for wearing glasses, did you "accidentally" forget your glasses at home? Or did you risk failing tests and missing school work because you wanted to look "cool"?

You can have students share their personal experiences or engage in role plays in which they act out a scenario involving name-calling. In order to make this an easy to follow experience for students, you can write a scenario down on a piece of paper, including details such as what happened, and where. Students can act out the scene, and then the rest of the class can discuss what happened, why they think it happened, and what the students should do.

Feeling Safe at School

Since everyone wants to view school as a place to be themselves, and have a positive experience, you can brainstorm with students how they think this goal can be accomplished. Students might come up with a variety of suggestions. One of them should be getting to know each other better.

There are ways you can help students get to know each other and build better relationships. One suggestion is to have students interview one another. You could have each student name five interesting things they found out about their partner. After each student has shared, you can make a list of all the interests, strengths and descriptions the students named. When making the classroom list, don't attach any names. The idea is to make this chart a representation of who you are as a class, and convey the idea that each person contributes to the classroom whole.

Do Research on a Famous Person

A lot of the most famous people in history may not have fit into the "normal" mold. Have students do research on famous individuals and their childhood experiences. Many of the most famous and creative people had attributes that others could have been made fun of. It is good to help students realize that when they are looking at their fellow students, they need to look beyond the surface to see who they really are. Once students start to see each other as individuals, with unique and important contributions to make, the ability to see someone as an outsider, or an object of ridicule, is gone.

Lesson Plans:

Calling Names

This lesson has students explore the effect language has on shaping debate. Students learn what’s in a name. They complete the lesson with collages and poems.

Using Poetry to End Name Calling

Students use the work of Maya Angelou “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” to discuss difficulties in childhood. They discuss the qualities that make the poet rise above the labels. This lesson can be used in conjunction with a variety of books involving name calling, such as Blubber by Judy Blume.

No Name Calling Week

This activity has students use news reports to discuss name calling. Using this approach students can see the wide-ranging effects of name calling and bullying.