• Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips: Stand Up in Silence

by Laura Barbour, M.A.
October 11, 2012
Bullying and relational aggression have been receiving a lot of attention in the media lately, but it's not a new problem. What is new is society's attitude towards bullying and relational aggression. What used to be accepted as a natural part of growing up has changed because now we know that bullying has serious consequences for everyone involved.

As a primary school counselor, I am devoted to the prevention of bullying behaviors. Every student can benefit from gaining the knowledge and skills needed to safely and effectively address bullying behaviors if encountered in any setting. My goal is to empower children to stand up for themselves and each other. My bullying prevention lessons are focused on developing a school culture of kindness and compassion; communication, problem solving, and conflict management skills; strategies for standing up for yourself and others; and reinforcing the importance of reporting bullying behaviors to a trusted adult.

Trudy Ludwig's books are the core of my counseling curriculum. She is a powerful advocate for children and the author of exceptional children's books. The themes of her books are relevant and meaningful to children. I read MY SECRET BULLY, JUST KIDDING, TROUBLE TALK, CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER BULLY and BETTER THAN YOU in my counseling lessons. These books address issues of aggression and help develop empathy in children as they navigate their complicated social world.

One of my favorite activities for building empathy is "Stand Up in Silence." There are variations of this activity, but after leading them through a reading of one of Trudy’s books, this is what I do with my students:

Stand Up In Silence


You may have strong feelings during this activity, but it is important that we honor each other's feelings by doing this activity in silence.

I am going to read several statements out loud to you. If I read a statement that is true for you please quietly stand up. If I read a statement that is not true for you, please remain seated or sit down.


Stand up if you have ever been teased about the clothes you wear, your height, your weight, or the size or shape of your body, or if any of these things has happened to someone you care about.

Stand up if you have ever been teased or made fun of for how you look or talk, or if this has happened to someone you care about.

Stand up if you or someone you care about has ever been put down, teased, or excluded because of skin color.

Stand up if you or someone you care about has ever been put down, teased, or excluded because of religious beliefs.

Stand up if you have used words to hurt others by calling them names or putting them down.

Stand up if you’ve been on the giving end or the receiving end of silent treatment or intentional exclusion from a group, game, or activity.

Stand up if you’ve smiled, laughed, clapped, or even remained silent when someone was being teased or bullied in front of you.

Stand up if you’ve ever emailed, texted, or posted something online about someone that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Stand up if you’ve been told that you act or look like a boy or a girl and that’s not who you are.

Stand up if you have ever been on the receiving end or the giving end of comments like “you're a loser,” “you’re so gay,” or “you're retarded.”

Stand up if you’ve ever felt pressure from friends to do something you didn’t want to do and felt sorry or ashamed afterwards.

Stand up if you’ve spread rumors or gossiped about someone else.

Stand up if you or someone you know was physically or emotionally hurt and you were too uncomfortable or afraid to say something.


It takes courage to stand up. Lots of us stood up many times. When you stood up, you remembered what it feels like to be the target, the bystander or the bully. That is what empathy feels like.

Everyone here knows what it feels like to be hurt, to see someone be hurt and to cause the hurt. If we can remember what we’ve learned here today—that we’ve all been hurt by bullying—we will stand up and stop it from happening to someone else. We share a collective responsibility to prevent bullying behaviors.

Remember! It's a choice! If you don’t like how you are being treated or how you are treating others, stand up and do something about it!

If you are a target of bullying, report to an adult you trust at school and an adult you trust at home.

If you are a bystander, stand up! Report to an adult.

If you are a bully, stand up and get help! Talk to an adult you trust and learn skills to manage your emotions and behavior.

Laura Barbour, M.A. has taught and counseled children from preschool through high school in a variety of educational and mental health settings for over 20 years. She presently works as an elementary professional school counselor at Stafford Primary School in West Linn, Oregon. Laura joined authors Trudy Ludwig, C.J.Bott, Deborah Ellis, and Jennifer Brown at IRA’s 2011 Annual Convention to present a bullying prevention workshop titled “From Kindergarten to High School, Bully Books Start Discussions and Create Safer Classroom Environments.”

© 2012 Laura Barbour. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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