abcteach blog

Girl ReadingOur Eye on Curriculum: Common Core series delves further into the English Language Arts (ELA) standards with Reading: Informational Text (this is a link for the general ‘Informational Text’ section; click on the left-hand navigation bar for a dropdown of grades). As we did in our previous CC Reading: Literature blog, we will soon discuss specific classroom activities, along with paired abcteach materials, that your students can do to fulfill state requirements.

There are three main concept umbrellas for ‘Reading: Informational Text,’ which is similar to what was seen with the Literature section. As can be expected, different skill sets will be addressed here. There are other concepts that the Standards Initiative highlights, however, it is the following three that command the most attention.

1. Key Ideas and Details – Students demonstrate understanding of texts by learning skills such as questioning, identifying the main idea and supporting details, and understanding relationships and interactions between people, events, or ideas.

2. Craft and Structure – Students deepen their understanding of texts through the use of text structures, by identifying points of view, and the author’s purpose.

3. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas – Skills include analysis of illustrations, maps, diagrams, etc. to deepen comprehension. Students must also demonstrate the ability to compare and contrast as well as to understand cause and effect.

Related Skills:
These skills are interwoven within the themes above:
• Ask and answer questions
• Identify main topic and ideas
• Retell key details
• Identify author’s purpose
• Identify text features
• Use pictures and diagrams to facilitate comprehension
• Identify reasons and evidence to support the text.
• Explain relationships and interactions between ideas or events
• Define domain-specific vocabulary
• Compare/Contrast
• Explain cause/effect

Activities in the Class

reading bookmarksThe start of Reading Month and Women’s History Month is but a few days away, which means you that can cover both mandatory ELA standards and seasonal activities in one fell swoop.

The following highlights contain Common Core materials for early through upper elementary school students. Use them in conjunction with other abcteach word games, theme units, and interactive activities to create a more comprehensive lesson plan that fits the character of your class.

• Poster Packets – These packets include posters that identify the Common Core standards in student-friendly language. Use them in mini-lessons, PPT presentations, or as handouts. Included checklists can also be used by students to show their adeptness regarding a topic, or by teachers for classroom conferences.

Member Site:
Common Core: Reading Standards Poster Set – Kindergarten Informational Text
Common Core: Reading Standards Poster Set – 3rd Grade Informational Text
Common Core: Reading Standards Poster Set – 5th Grade Informational Text

• Generic Templates and Graphic Organizers – Use these templates with non-fiction texts. Students can also use the organizers with other creative projects, such as being a TV reporter, conducting a group interview, or performing a monologue.

Member site:
Common Core: ELA: Informational Text Template (1st grade)
Common Core: Reading: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas Template (2nd grade)
Common Core: Reading: Informational Craft and Structure Template (5th grade)
ELA: Compare and Contrast News (middle school 6-8) - This is classified for use with older students, but can be used in younger grades as well.

Free site:
Venn Diagram (Blank Form)

• Informational activities – Pair these activities with social studies, history, or language arts lessons and enhance with Clip Art images or special media. These contain non-fictional text as well as questions and common core-related activities.
Member site:
Booklet: Biography of Alexander Graham Bell (K-1)
Reading Comprehension: Reading Informational Text: Cruising the Caribbean: Port of Call – Cozumel – Part 1
Reading Comprehension: The Sport of Tennis (upper elem)

Our last Common Core blog will introduce and discuss math standards for the elementary classroom. Follow up articles will be posted in April, when we highlight activities and ideas to celebrate Math Awareness Month.

Posted by Kathy Butler and Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

Time to Read!This next article in our Eye on Curriculum: Common Core series dives into English Language Arts (ELA) activities. There are a number of sections within the ELA guidelines, however, we’re going to focus on one category, Reading: Literature, and provide you with specific discussion and activity ideas instead of an overall combination. We hope, with March Reading Month coming up soon, that this aids in your classroom planning and curriculum achievement goals.

As a starter, literature guidelines all contain the following sub-sects and skills, regardless of grade. The guidelines are the agreed-upon foundation that students need to learn in order to achieve a true understanding of what they read each year. As students advance, skill requirements evolve from concepts covered in previous years.

1. Key Ideas and Details – comprehension, understanding tone, understanding details in text and characters, noting story grammar, etc.

2. Craft and Structure – observing how stories are presented and organized, realizing the language that’s used, recognizing structural elements, comparing and contrasting different versions of stories, etc.

3. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas – really understanding detail, inferences and meaning. This section takes ‘Craft and Structure’ to a higher level, requiring students to move beyond a rudimentary application of their skills to thoroughly understand and apply them.

Related Skills
These are the skills that are found within the themes above:

• Comprehension
• Questioning
• Understanding Character Descriptions
• Understanding Point of View
• Comparisone/Contrast
• Understanding Theme
• Understanding Inference
• Sequencing of Events

Activities in the Class
Boy readingThe Common Core Initiative site breaks down each grade and standard, leaving the application up to you. So how do you teach these skills in the class? And most of all, how do you make it enjoyable for your students, and for yourself?

Let’s go to abcteach’s Common Core: ELA page. As we mentioned in the first blog, we’ve created the Common Core section to provide you specific activities that address the guidelines. We’re also working to classify materials sitewide under their appropriate sections. You’ll find a diversity of topics and worksheet types so that you can creatively tackle each standard without lesson plans becoming monotonous. Variety is the spice of (classroom) life!

The following is a handful of literature activity ideas for early to upper elementary students. For additional materials, peruse the site for items that fit your class. If you can’t find a specific report form, writing prompt, or word wall, don’t forget that you can use Clip Art and abctools to create your own customized worksheets.

• Poster Packets – Posters that identify the Common Core standards in student-friendly language. Most poster packets also include checklists of each standard that can be used by students to demonstrate their mastery or by teachers at conferences (with students or parents).

Member Site:

Common Core: Reading Standards Poster Set – 1st Grade Literature
Common Core: Reading Standards Poster Set – 3rd Grade Literature
Common Core: Reading Standards Poster Set – 5th Grade Literature

Free Site:
Common Core Reading Standards: Poster 5th Grade-Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

• Generic Templates and Graphic Organizers – Use with stories, books, dramas, and poems.

Member site:

Common Core: ELA: Reading – Literature Study (1st grade)
Common Core: ELA: Reading – Fiction Book Report (3rd grade)
Common Core: Literature Comprehension Template (5th grade)

Free site:
Book Summary Form (any book)

• Comprehension Materials – Pieces which contain text as well as questions and common core-related activities.

Member site:

Biography: Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimmer (Grades 1 & 2)
Biography: Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimmer (upper elem/middle)
Comparing Stories: Playing Sports (elem/ upper elem)

• Book and Story Templates and Units

Member site:

Book: A-Z Mysteries; The Absent Author (elem)
Book: Maniac Magee (upper elem/middle)

Free site:
Book Summary Form: Charlotte’s Web

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments. Our next Eye on Curriculum blog will tackle more ELA-related activities to have you amply prepared for the fun of March Reading Month.

Posted by Kathy Butler and Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

Eye on Curriculum: Common Core

February 6th, 2013
Common Core on abcteach


Welcome to abcteach’s new blog series: Eye on Curriculum. Each month we will be highlighting a different subject or section, along with supporting categories, materials, and teaching ideas from the abcteach staff.

February’s focus is Common Core Standards. The Common Core Standards Initiative, which has been adopted by 45 U.S. states, four territories, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity, was created to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. They are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college, careers, and the global economy.”

abcteach realizes the classroom shift and your need to access materials that fit within the Common Core parameters. We’ve created a Common Core Section, individualized ELA and Math categories, and are classifying cross-site materials to reflect the required age and skill-based concepts.

Example: Grade 3 Standards
The following is an example of what you will find when searching for Common Core materials for Grade 3. Click on the ELA section, and locate activities that are assigned as Informational Text, Language, Reading, or Writing. Your Math materials are structured in very much the same fashion. Sub-categories for Geometry, Measurement & Data, and Operations & Algebraic Thinking provide worksheets that address those skills at the nationally recognized 3rd grade level. You will find additional items, including an ELA Middle School (6-8) category, on the abcteach Member Site.

Common Core Reading - Grade 3


Common Core Math - Grade 3


Over the next month, we will be highlighting new materials, classroom activity ideas,
and ways that abcteach can support your class in achieving these standards. Please let
us know your thoughts and comments; we’re here to help.

Posted by Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

Winter Learning Activities

January 30th, 2013

Although winter’s bitter presence has only reared it’s head a few times this year, our cold weather season isn’t leaving anytime soon. For those of us in the north, that means dark days, multiple layers, and oftentimes, more hours spent inside. (Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow!)

To help make the most of your students’ or child’s time indoors, abcteach has a variety of learning activities for all ages. Take a look at the listing below and adapt it how you see fit. The items are categorized according to age groups, and can be used in class or at home.

Family Activity Planners
"My Neighborhood" Activity Planner

abcteach’s Family Activity Planners are designed to turn everyday moments into learning opportunities. Activities contain related abcteach materials, and are grouped under specific ages and subjects to make it easy for the adults in charge. There are twelve in total, including “At the Restaurant,” “My Family and I,” and “Fun at Home.”


My Neighborhood Theme

Pre-K and K

• Write down your first and last name, address, and phone number. Practice this aloud to your parents or caregiver.
• Name community helpers from your neighborhood and create paper bag puppets to tell their story. Related abcteach Activity


• Read about neighborhood buildings. Related abcteach Activity
• Discuss “stranger danger” and what to do when strangers approach.

Upper Elementary

• Take a walk around your neighborhood and list all that you see. Then, using your list, map it out. Related abcteach Activity
• Using a cardboard box or poster paper, construct a model of your neighborhood. Include trees, buildings, cars – get creative!

Winter Activities

Snow Decoding Pre-K -1st

• Snowman Pattern Recognition
• Booklet: Play in the Snow
• Early Reader: Mittens
• I Can Make a Snowman: Early Reader Booklet and Activity Pages


• Snowman Glyphs
• Frostie’s Line Graph
Frostie's Line Graph
• Book Activity: The Snowy Day
• Book Activity: Stella, Queen of the Snow
• Decoding: Winter Snowflakes

Middle/Upper Elem

• Unit: Winter Precipitation
• Comprehension: Types of Snowflakes
• Snowman Word Search
• Snowman Glyphs
• Interactive: The Iditarod
• Snowflake Formation

Snowman Pattern

All Ages

• Snowman Grids
• Snowman Paper Bag – For younger kids, paper bag is used to read personal stories; Older students can use as a prop while reading stories to younger children
• Snowman Venn Diagram
• Snowflake Pattern – Can be used for collages, as a word wheel, color practice, etc.
• Winter Activity Chart – Useful as a homeschool activity, or an organizational tool by parents
• Snowflake Shapebook – Displays final drafts of writing projects,
coloring practice, observation journals, etc.

Posted by Lindsey Elton and Nancy Elton, abcteach Team

Here at abcteach, we’ve just launched a big upgrade to our search tool that will make finding the perfect teaching activity much easier. Here’s a rundown of the main improvements:

1.  More Relevant – Our search algorithm has been improved, and results are now more relevant to your searched keywords.

2.  More Visual – Results are now viewable in Thumbnail or List view, giving you quick access to a large document preview (click the  icon next to a search result), related categories, and more.

3.  More Control – We’ve added dropdown menus that filter your results, helping you find exactly what you need for your class or homeschool. You can easily filter results to specific categories (Math, Reading, etc.) and file types (PDF, Notebook, Flipchart, etc.). With the Clip Art on/off toggle, you can control whether or not to include images in your search.

4.  More Advanced – With the advanced controls, viewable by pressing the “Advanced” on/off toggle, you can search for a specific phrase or exclude keywords from your results. If you’re a power user and want even more control over your results, our search now supports Boolean search operators.

To find that special activity for your class, try abcteach’s search tool for yourself. You’ll find the search bar on the top right corner of any page on abcteach or the Member’s Site ( For a visual run through of the new features, watch the search tutorial below.


Posted by Stephen Kemsley, abcteach Team

Wishing All the Best in 2013

December 30th, 2012

Looking back at 2012, the year was full of new additions to both sites at abcteach.
Our staff continues to work towards the goal of creating materials that help reach your students and support their love of learning. We’ve collaborated with fellow educators, industry colleagues, and you, our abcteach community. The following are a few highlights:

• Math, ASL, and Science Videos – Free | Member
• New abcteach Video
• Common Core Standards Section – Free | Member
• Advanced Search Capabilities
• Math Magician App (available on iTunes)
• abcteach Blog – guests posts and anti-bullying series
• Hundreds of New Materials – Interactives, Special Needs, Cultural Holidays
• and more!

As you are home for the holidays, we wish you much happiness with your family, friends, and loved ones. It’s this time together, now more than ever, that is the true meaning of the season.

abcteach is proud to continue supporting your educational and classroom needs (and hopefully add a little fun, as well!). We thank you for being a part of our community, and we look forward to the opportunities ahead in 2013.

To your continued success,

The abcteach Team

The month of December is a celebratory time for many cultures and denominations around the world. It’s a time of history, religion, family, friends, and tradition.

Our December lesson planning blog features general holiday-themed ideas, along with activities that shine on multi-culturalism. The Festival of Lights segment comes from veteran teacher and abcteach staffer, Nancy Elton. She provides ideas that were successfully used in her class, along with lesson plan notes, group activities, and school-wide events.

Festival of Lights

• Break into groups and research a handful of December holidays. Spend time learning the history behind them and how they’ve changed through the years. Examples include: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Le Réveillon, St. Lucia Day, Las Posadas, Boxing Day, etc.

• With the help of parents, older siblings, or classroom aides…

• Food – Delve into the traditional meals of a country or culture, and pick a dish (or two) to share with the class. Be sure to make enough for the entire classroom to taste, and check with the teacher beforehand for possible food allergies

• Clothing – What is customary dress during this time of year? Are there accessories or small props that can be brought in? What is the meaning behind these items?

• Customs – Special music, dance, lights/candles, rituals… what do these activities symbolize? How long has the custom been practiced? How is it similar to activities in other countries?

• Culminate your monthly research with a holiday party representing all of the countries/cultures that you’ve discovered.

abcteach activities

• Holidays
• Seasonal Clip Art
• Holiday/Seasonal – Languages

Curriculum Resources

• Center for International Studies, UIC – Countries and Cultures Around the World
• ePals Global Community – Holidays and Festivals
• – December Celebrations


• Peace circle – Each week, the entire school would get together for our peace circle time. During the holiday season, we would play music, sing songs, wear festive dress, or display traditional items from a variety of cultures.

• Explore holidays class by class, or by grade. This would allow students to concentrate on various aspects of a singular country or culture. Projects were hung in the hall, and presentations were given in class or during peace circle.

• Holiday Bazaar – We held this event in the gym, but it can be done in various settings depending on how your school is laid out. Each class was responsible for a certain aspect of the holidays (food, music, clothing, etc.), or a certain country. We would have carolers, small craft activities, and treat bags to collect items given out at the booths. In certain years, we held either a multi-grade play or musical. Family and friends were invited to watch and participate, which played a huge role in making sure each activity was appropriately supervised.

Home Holiday Activity Planner Highlights
The following activity ideas are taken from our Family Activity Planners. These themed sets (12 in all) provide fun, age-appropriate learning activities that are intended to turn everyday moments into learning opportunities.

Math and Science

• Make holiday candy and treats. Learn how to follow a recipe with proper measurements and conversions. Enjoy!

• Design a colorful December calendar. Get creative by using as many types of materials as possible, including magazines, clothing material, and food.

• It’s a wrap! Gift wrap together; estimate the amount of paper, ribbon, and tape needed for each item.

Related abcteach Materials

• Fractions
• Fillable Calendars
• Measurement
• Recipes

Social Studies

• Locate the “North Pole” on a map or globe. Learn about weather and animals from that region. What do the trees and landscape look like? How do people dress?  Extend this to any of the other countries which your students are exploring.

• Using a world map, identify where each country is that the students are studying.  This is a great time to introduce the compass rose, prime and intermediate directions and terminology, longitude and latitude, and continents and oceans.

• Have students interview a parent, grandparent, or trusted adult. Have them learn about their childhood holiday experiences. How are their interviewees’ past experiences different from their current traditions?

• Learn about organizations in your community that are helping people in need. Pick a favorite and help the students donate time, money, or needed items to help in their cause.

• Create a time capsule. With your family, fill a container with items (personal and general) that are unique to the season. Fill the container, then save until next year to open.

Related abcteach Materials

• Family Theme Unit
• Weather
• Writing Prompts
• MapsMap Unit (Member Material)
• Grids

Reading and Writing

• Tell a story about a favorite holiday memory. If not old enough, have a sibling write it down. Draw a picture to go with your story.

• Find holiday books and share what was read with friends or family members.

• Create a list of 5 friends or family members to whom you would like to send holiday cheer. Locate their addresses and send them a card. abcteach offers many pieces of clipart to design that perfect card.

• That happened in December? Use the abcteach December journal prompts (Member item) to learn and write about December happenings.

Related Free abcteach Materials

• Patterns and Coloring Pages
• Christmas Books
• Greeting Cards
• December
• Seasonal Clip Art
• Holiday Book Units

Related abcteach Member Materials

• Activities to Favorite Holiday Books

• Clifford’s Christmas
• Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia
• Polar Express How the Grinch Stole Christmas
• Arthur’s Perfect Christmas

• Stories about Global Holidays

• Mikuláš Eve
• Boxing Day
• Al-Hegira
• Diwali

Holiday Activities and Games

• Winter Art – Use food coloring and water to create ‘paint.’ Using a spray bottle or similar plastic bottle and create winter artwork in the snow.

• Pine Cone Bird Feeders – Spread pine cones with peanut butter and roll them in bird seed. Hang them from trees with ribbons or string.

• Puppet Show – Create fun paper bag puppets or paper roll pals and put on a play for family or friends.

Related abcteach Materials

• Holiday Activity Planner
• Paper Bag Puppets
• Fun Activities
• Crossword Puzzles

We wish you the best of luck in the last few weeks, and we hope these holiday activities help support your students and class. If you have any ideas or activities that work well for you, please let us know! We’d love to pass it along to the abcteach community.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Lindsey Elton and Nancy Elton, abcteach Team







With Thanksgiving over and Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Las Posadas, and more just around the corner, we are definitely in the throes of the holiday season. As you’re stocking your lessons with seasonal plans, don’t miss out on the great items and curriculum extras to outfit your class.

Here is a sampling of categories from our Teaching Extras section. This is just a handful, so have fun perusing the entire collection!

• Alphabet Letter Patterns – Bring your class bulletin boards to life, or use for wall posters, writing games, theme units, and more!
Candy Cane
Christmas Theme (Member Section)

• Holiday Bookmarks – Encourage your budding bookworms with holiday fun! They come full-color or black and white, and are filled with themed graphics and cute sayings.

• Border Paper – Get creative! Browse the collection for great ideas for writing prompts, personalized notes, theme units, and more!
Border Paper

• Calendars – Keep track of progress, upcoming events, or classroom activities. Calendars come in holiday, seasonal, and anytime themes, and are available in full-color or blank templates.

• Candy Bar Wrappers – Tasty craft idea! Wrappers display cute graphics, fun sayings, and come colored or black and white, so students can color them..
Candy Bar Wrappers

• Desk Tags – Tags are great for handwriting practice or decorating desks with subject and seasonal fun. They can be used flat or in tented form, and come fully colored, or as black and white templates.
Desk Tags

• Flash Cards – Versatile cards for everyday use! Try them with bingo games, spelling and vocabulary practice, memorizing, ESL activities, and more.
Flash Cards

• Greeting Cards – Send personal notes to friends, family, teachers, and loved ones. They come in cute holiday, seasonal, and anytime themes, and are available in full-color or as blank templates.
Greeting Cards

• Newsletters – Fashion them for classroom reports, personal accomplishments, special announcements, and more! Newsletters come fully colored or black and white.

• Recipes – Cook up fun holiday learning! Use in class or at home for tasty treats, learning clubs, and practicing core subject skills.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team

Thanksgiving Lesson Plans

November 11th, 2012

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, pairing holiday-themed activities with lesson planning is an easy way to keep students engaged and feeling festive. The following samples are multi-subject classroom activities, along with supporting abcteach materials, to help you get this accomplished in no time.



• Holiday cooking – During your Thanksgiving parties, use recipes to practice skills such as measurement, fractions, and time. This can be done as an at-home assignment for students to bring in, or as a larger in-class activity.
• Holiday Calendar – Create a November calendar and count down the days until Thanksgiving. How many days have already gone by? What percentage of the month is it? What fraction of the year does November represent? How about fall months?
• Reinforce key math skills, such as addition and counting, with holiday-themed interactives.

abcteach Categories
Health and Nutrition
Interactive Math Files


• Landscapes – Recreate the eastern shore landscape, along with regions inhabited by Native American tribes. Create drawings, mobiles, or clay figures. Discuss how the tribes’ homes were different. How did their clothing reflect this? What is the weather like and how does that affect their lifestyles?
• Flora and Fauna – In addition to the physical landscape, what were common plants and animals of that region? Draw a picture or paint the scene. How did that differ with various tribes?
• Mayflower – Discuss the makeup and mechanics of the Mayflower. How did it sail? What were the components? What are the parts of a ship? How might weather play a role? How does the Mayflower differ from other types of boats?

abcteach Categories
• Habitats and Biomes
• Animals
• Weather
• Boats & Sailing

• Vocabulary – With bingo flashcards, practice Thanksgiving-themed vocabulary words in multiple languages, including American Sign Language.
• Holiday Celebrations – Do other countries celebrate Thanksgiving? If not, do they have similar holidays, traditions, or customs? Create a word puzzle with abctools that includes key terminology.
• Watch a Thanksgiving movie with foreign language subtitles. Include a Turkey Day treat that’s either made as a class or at home. In the language that you are teaching, display the recipe, review the steps to make it, and identify the ingredients.

abcteach Categories
• Bingo Flashcards
• Recipes
• Thanksgiving
• abctools (Member Site)

Language Arts
• Books: “Thanksgiving Day,” by Anne Rockwell; “Thanks for Thanksgiving,” by Julie Markes; “If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620,” by Ann McGovern; “The Very First Thanksgiving Day,” by Rhonda Gowler
• Story Reporting – Have students select a book for at-home reading. During class time, students will share about what they read in a variety of fashions: create a poem, sing a song, be a TV reporter, or conduct a group interview.
• Play Time – Choose a holiday book to read in class, at home, or both. Pick a favorite scene and have students act out the scenario. They can be in traditional dress, include props, etc.

abcteach Categories
• Writing Forms
• Book Report Forms
• Interactive Reading Comprehensions

• Puppet show – Recreate a Thanksgiving scene using felt, paper bags, or paper roll puppets.
• Thanksgiving Collage – Create a collage of holiday images or Thanksgiving-themed shapebook with holiday terms cut from magazines.
• Leaf Turkey Wall Hanging (Member Activity) – Hand-craft a turkey wall hanging from leaves. Take a playground field trip to search for leaves, or have students bring them in.

abcteach Categories
• Paper Roll Pals
• Paper Bag Puppets
• Thanksgiving Clip Art
• Shapebooks

Social Studies
• Map It Out – Create a colonial community, complete with homes, gardens, and activity places. Include a compass and have a discussion about directions and location.
• Role Play – Take your students back in time and have them play certain figures in the community. How were the responsibilities of men, women, and children different? How did they feel? How did the viewpoint of Pilgrims differ from that of Native Americans?
• Thanksgiving Lessons – What lessons did the Indians teach the Pilgrims? Vice Versa? What do we think life was like during the 1st Thanksgiving? Research the facts and compare how they are similar or different. Use “KWL” (Know, Want, Learn) or graphic organizers to display students’ responses.

abcteach Categories
• Native Americans
• Pilgrims
• Graphic Organizers
• Interactive Social Studies


The Thanksgiving season offers great opportunities to get festive, but more importantly, it instills the value of sharing and caring for others. We hope these activities help relay that message and add excitement to your classroom plans.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Lindsey Elton and Nancy Elton, abcteach Team

Our concluding post in the “Let’s Talk Bullying” series peers into the overall strategy at an alternative high school. The approach in this setting includes consistent discussion, personal responsibility, and immediate action.

Alternative High School
MSW case manager, Gina Sineni, counsels teens at an alternative high school in suburban Chicago. What is unique and challenging about this environment is that anti-bullying behavior therapy is directly and indirectly infused in everyday class, and is even more imperative due to the background of her students.

The Daily Routine
As an alternative high school, our job is to break through the emotional barriers that students face so that they can deal with their stressors in a healthy manner. Our counseling approach addresses their current behavior (and precursors to it) so that they can experience more positive outcomes at school, in relationships, and at home. They are very much a part of this conversation. A lot of the children we see cannot cope with everyday life due to their past, but we don’t accept this a predetermined condition for their present or future. We face the situation, as hard and unfair as that may be, and make action plans for what they need to do. They need to know that they have the resources and the power to create change. They also need to know that that change can and will only come from within them.

Specifically addressing bullying, we do activities on a consistent basis. Overall, students are receptive, but they need to think through the scenario and their actions more comprehensively and with higher frequency than their peers.

• Weekly Round Up Discussion – Each week we talk to our students in an open format about various topics that they want to cover. We go over specific behavioral issues, how they feel in certain scenarios, give proper anger management tips, etc. This is their chance to speak whatever is on their minds at the time. Outside of the benefit of giving positive instruction, these meetings also allow staff and students to deal with issues and not to have them build up.

• Anti-Bullying Discussion – During our weekly meetings, the specific topic of bullying is sometimes addressed. We discuss questions such as: why/how do people bully? What are the feelings inside? How does this makes people feel? How do you stop the phenomenon by taking away the power exerted by bullies (stop being vulnerable, taking away the control)? We want the students to think through the harm that these behaviors are presenting to others and themselves.

• Confronting on the Spot – Inappropriate behavior simply isn’t tolerated. If we witness a student doing or saying something out of line, it is confronted on the spot. Oftentimes we’ll say something like, “You are being mean and that talk/action will not be tolerated.” We are trying to change their behavior, so passive approaches and insinuations are not effective.

• Speaking Up – Students who witness bullying are encouraged to tell an adult and speak up. They are also given the description of what a bully is so they can see if their own actions are similar. If they see similarities, we strategize a plan (based on their own opinions) for them to change.

• Secure Environments – Students need to know that they have a support system and that they can feel safe reaching out to adults. Our school provides an encouraging environment where there are outlets (i.e. teachers, social workers, counselors), both for the bully and the victim.

• Cyberbullying – This is a big problem for our students because phones and Facebook are the main ways that they communicate. Like other activities, we use the same discussion platform as other bullying topics and address cyberbullying, sexting, and “trolling” directly, with a no-tolerance stance. (For our students, “trolling” is when someone sets up a fake account and writes mean or derogatory messages on FB, blogs, etc.)

• No-tolerance School Policy – There is a school-wide no-tolerance bullying policy. If it’s witnessed at all, students are written up and are given an in-school detention. The only way to end this is by the student directly addressing their behavior, why it was wrong, and how they will amend it.

Additional Resources

If you have any questions or comments regarding the types of activities that Gina’s students engage in, please let us know.

This article concludes our “Let’s Talk Bullying” series. We hope that these varying perspectives – an elementary school teacher, a parent, a special needs teacher, and a therapist – have provided you with additional support, direction, and/or assurance that, although bullying happens to our students and children, we do have resources at our side. We can do something about it.

Posted by Lindsey Elton, abcteach Team; and Gina Sineni, MSW

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