I’m sure most students could tell you that bullying is bad, but we all know bullying still happens in our schools every day.
How do you impress upon your students that words can cause as much pain as punching or kicking? One idea is to teach a bullying lesson using apples.
Gather your students in a circle, and hold up two apples.
“Describe these two apples to me. How are they the same?”
“They’re both red,” students may suggest. “They’re both shiny. They’re about the same size.”
Ask your students if they notice anything different about the apples. (The apples you use for this activity should be as similar as possible, so your students shouldn’t notice much difference.)
After establishing that the apples look pretty much the same, start to insult one of the apples.
“Well, I don’t really like this one, here,” you’ll say. “I think it’s a gross apple. It probably doesn’t taste very good. And since I don’t like it, I don’t think you guys would like it either.”
Pass that apple to the student next to you. Have the student tell the apple what he doesn’t like about it. Continue passing the apple around while students hurl insults: “You’re a bad apple. You probably have worms. I should just throw you away.”
Now hold up the other apple. “This is my favorite apple. It looks so beautiful and juicy. I bet it tastes so good. I can’t wait to eat it.”
Pass this apple around and have students say nice things about it. “You’re a delicious apple. Your skin is so shiny. I bet you’d make a great apple pie.”
When both apples have come back to you, hold them up again and ask students if they still look the same. Their appearance hasn’t changed, right?
Now cut each apple in half.
The apple that you spoke to with love and kindness is clean and white on the inside.
The apple that you were all cruel to is bruised, mushy, and brown.
Unbeknownst to your students, you’ll have carefully tapped one apple on the table before the activity, creating invisible bruises underneath its skin. To your students, your words are what caused all of this damage.
Let your students react to the two apples. Why does one look so different on the inside than the other one?
When we say hurtful things to other people, we often can’t see the damage that we’re doing on the inside. Our classmate may appear fine, but they’re really hurting.
On the other hand, our kind words can be used to build someone else up, and make them feel beautiful on the inside.
Reflect with your students: What could we have done differently to stop the apple from becoming so bruised? If someone had stood up and said we should stop being so mean to the apple, would it have gotten that bad?
Now that the bullied apple is so damaged, is there anything we can do to make it clean and unblemished again? No matter how many kind words we say to this apple now, we can’t make these bruises go away. In the same way, we can make a person who has been bullied feel better, but she’ll always have the memories of the hurtful things that were done to her.
This is a great time to introduce (or reinforce) the vocabulary term “empathy,” or seeing things from another person’s point of view. Ask your students how they would have felt to be the bullied apple and how it would feel to be the beautiful apple. What are some ways we can show each other empathy every day?
After this activity and discussion, pass out our apple printable to each student, and have them write their names in large print at the top. Students will then pass their apple sheet around the circle, and each classmate will write a word or short sentence inside the apple, describing what they like about the student whose name is at the top.
Just like the second apple in the activity, your students will be using their words to make each other feel beautiful inside.
*The apple story in this lesson is adapted from a Facebook post by user Relax Kids Tamworth.