Equity and Diversity Newsletter

Elementary Edition November 2019

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Bullying And Bias

“Hate, bias, and passivity toward harm to others all thrive on a lack of knowledge. We stand up for one another when we get more informed about fellow human beings and the world.”

Mica Pollock

With nearly one in five students encountering bullying each year, it is no doubt that the topic is on educators’ minds. Educators want to make their classrooms safe, supportive learning environments, and Administrators want a positive school climate. Both teachers and administrators are working to sustain these conditions in their schools.

What is bullying?

According to Teaching Tolerance, bullying has three key components—unwanted, aggressive behavior, a real or perceived power imbalance, and repetition; and the potential to be repeated over time (stopbullying.gov). The combination of these three factors creates a situation that moves beyond conflict to become persistent persecution.

What is the connection between bias and bullying?

There’s a strong correlation between bias and bullying. The targets of bullies are often those from a marginalized group because of a particular characteristic beyond their control (such as immigration status, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender expression/identity, size or religion), about which others hold prejudiced assumptions.

What is the most effective tool against bullying?

Prevention is the most powerful tool against bullying. It is necessary to create an inclusive learning environment that supports all students; educators maintain a space that has zero tolerance towards those who would bully. Everyone, including Administrators, teachers, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, assistants, substitute teachers, parents/guardians, and students— we all have a role to play in creating an anti-bullying climate in our schools.

How do I know if students are encountering bullies at my school?

Just because you don’t see bullying in your classroom doesn’t mean it isn’t happening at your school. Bullying often occurs when—and where—adults aren’t present.

Your student may be bullied if they:

  • Leave school with torn, damaged or missing clothing, books or other belongings;

  • Have unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches;

  • Have few, if any, friends with whom to spend time;

  • Seem afraid to be in school, to leave school, ride the school bus, or take part in organized activities with peers;

  • Have lost interest in schoolwork or suddenly begins to perform poorly;

  • Appear sad, moody, teary or depressed;

  • Frequently complains of headaches, stomach aches, or other physical ailments; or

  • Avoids the cafeteria or doesn't eat.

Which students are most vulnerable to bullying?

Any child at any school may be the target of bullying, but some children are at higher risk. Teachers should look for students that exhibiting the following risk factors, defined by stopbullying.gov:

  • They are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider fashionable.

  • Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves

  • Are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem

  • Are less popular than others and have few friends

  • Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention

Now that I know bullying is occurring, what can I do to stop it?

  • First and foremost, you must understand your school’s anti-bullying policies. Being familiar with these expectations allows you to respond appropriately and immediately.

  • It is also important to remember that anti-bullying measures should address bullying behavior. Never label a child a bully. Bullying is an action, not an identity.

  • When you address bullying constructively, it is possible to both support the bullied child and transform the behavior of the child who has been bullying others.

Library Corner

The Star People written by S.D. Nelson is an old Lakota Indian tale of Sister Girl and Young Wolf, who were caught in a prairie fire one afternoon. The fire burned over the plains, and the two took cover in a river. When the fire passed, the siblings were lost and could not find their way home.

As the stars shine brightly, the spirit of their grandmother, Elk Tooth Woman, appears to guide them: "The Star People are always with you, she told them. Look up, and you will see me among the stars."

The Star People is a mirror for those readers from the Lakota nation who have had this tale passed down from generation to generation.

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What’s in your Tool Box?

Best Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension to Elementary Students

For some students, reading comes natural, but for others, reading comprehension is not so easy. In most cases, it is up to the teacher to find a balance between the two.

The following strategies for teaching reading comprehension to elementary students should help maintain that balance, push your students creatively, and give them the support they need:

1. Encourage openness, make your classroom a safe space for learning. Many elementary students are shy, encourage them to ask questions. Connect with your students by relating a personal example of a time you did not understand.

2. Identify specific problem areas (and solutions). Ask your students to tell you what they are having trouble with, whether it’s a specific element (e.g., a subplot they can’t quite follow in a novel) or a particular sentence or paragraph. Take note of patterns and find the solutions that work best for them.

3. Use visual aids to help them “see” structure and individual elements. Graphic organizers are not just for brainstorming; they can be used for reviewing a reading assignment as well. Especially for those students who may find building their reading comprehension a challenging process, rearranging the information presented in the text can help them “see” and separate individual pieces of a literary puzzle.

4. Compare and contrast to other assignments. Discuss with your students how, one persuasive essay may be more effective than another, or what differences they can spot between the structure of a narrative piece and an informative one.

5. Practice what they have learned with a publishing project. Writing is a good reading practice because reading and writing go hand in hand. This project will help you find out what they’ve learned and ensure they won’t forget it anytime soon. Base the topic of the project around something they have read in class. Include self-editing and peer-editing steps in the process. A publishing project is a great way to push your student’s creative boundaries and make reading and writing more fun.

Studentreasures. “Top Tips for Teaching Reading Comprehension - Studentreasures Blog.” Studentreasures Publishing, 4 Oct. 2019,

Did You Know?

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November is Native American Heritage Month or commonly referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of Native people.
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