readilearn: Learning to be friends to combat bullying

  • Published on March 16, 2018

 learning friendship skills through story and games to combat bullying

With today 16 March being the National Day Against Bullying and Violence and next Wednesday 21 March being Harmony Day in Australia, now is a good time to think about what it means to be a friend, what bullying is, and how to combat it. Of course, any time is a great time for developing friendship skills, but these special days help to raise awareness.

The purpose of the National Day Against Bullying and Violence is fairly clear in its title. Harmony Day is for celebrating cultural diversity. “It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.” That sounds very much like friendship to me.

The development of social skills, including the friendship skills of getting along, can not be left to chance. The skills must be actively encouraged and taught. Children must learn what behaviour is friendly, what is not friendly and what is bullying.

The teaching of these skills and behaviours should not be left to one or two days of the year but integrated into the teaching program. In fact, the best way to encourage friendship and discourage bullying is through the implementation of policies that foster respect and acceptance in a school-wide supportive environment.

What is bullying?

Sometimes the word bullying is used to describe any aggressive or unpleasant behaviour. However, bullying does not refer to single, isolated incidents.

Bullying refers to acts of aggression that are repeated over time, involve an imbalance of power, and in which the one being bullied experiences harm, either physically or psychologically.

The important words to consider about bullying are:

ongoing, repeated, misuse of power, causing harm


Children need to learn that there are safe people they can talk to about incidents that occur, and they also need to learn strategies for responding to unkindness and bullying.

Avoid labels

When discussing situations that involve bullying, it is important to describe the behaviour rather than to label a child as either victim or bully. Behaviour can be changed, but it is often difficult to remove a label once it has been applied.

Teaching resources

The Bullying No Way website has some great resources to assist you in educating children about bullying and the prevention of bullying.

This week I have uploaded two new resources to support your teaching of friendship skills. These supplement other lessons and activities that can be found here.

Be friends not bullies

This resource provides suggestions for teaching children friendship skills. It teaches them to identify the differences between friendly and unfriendly behaviour, to recognise bullying and to provide strategies for dealing with bullying that they may encounter personally or as an onlooker.

The resource includes:

  • a story to use as a starting point for discussions about friendly and bullying behaviour;
  • ideas for presenting the story
  • questions and issues to discuss
  • follow up activities
  • games for developing friendship skills
  • a poster to print and display.

Topics for discussion include:

  • surprises
  • bullying
  • being mean
  • being friendly
  • the responsibility of onlookers or bystanders
  • the need to talk to somebody safe

Mouse and Crow – a stimulus for writing

The purpose of this resource is to enable whole class discussion and stimulate imaginations for writing.

The resource contains a series of images and questions to get the children thinking about friendship, who can be a friend, and what friends do. The images focus on the unlikely friendship of a mouse and a crow. Children are asked to consider circumstances that may have led to these two being friends.

It includes:

  • slides to stimulate discussion of:
    • mice and crows
    • what it means to be a friend
    • under what circumstances a mouse and a crow could be friends
  • a retelling of the Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse
  • teaching suggestions, including of a video to watch
  • an original fable Crow and Mouse

Topics for discussion include:

  • friendship
  • what friends do
  • how you know someone is a friend
  • friends can be diverse
Other resources

Check back to the interviews here and here with Karen Tyrrell, Australian author of empowering books for adults and kids, for other ideas and suggestions.

Days of note

Other days coming up soon include:

International Read to Me Day on 19 March: Get ready to read with an armful of books.

Jennie Fitzkee - The Importance of Reading Aloud for International Read to Me Day

Be sure to check back to Jennie Fitzkee’s guest post in which she talks about the importance of reading aloud and shares some of her favourite books for reading aloud.

World Poetry Day on 21 March: Get ready to immerse yourself in reading and writing poetry.

June and Magic Fish Dreaming

Poet June Perkins shared some wonderful ideas about poetry writing with children when talking about her beautiful book of poems Magic Fish Dreaming, illustrated by Helene Magisson, in this post.

poems and poetry writing for International Poetry Day

There are also many readilearn resources to support your teaching of poetry. Simply type ‘poems’ into the search bar and press enter.

early childhood teaching resources with Easter theme including lessons for the interactive white board, games, stories, printables and more

Easter, too, is just around the corner and readilearn has a range of resources across the curriculum to help you keep the children learning while celebrating this occasion. There are:

  • lessons for use on the interactive whiteboard
  • stories
  • games
  • logic puzzles
  • colouring sheets
  • cards to make
  • and more.


Subscribe  now for access to all readilearn resources, assisting teachers of children in their first three years of school.

Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
Let readilearn lighten your workload.


I appreciate your feedback and comments. Please share your thoughts below.


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    Hi Charli. I always believed there to be this distinction, though the Bullying No Way website explained it nicely. I remember talking to some parents quite a few years ago who felt that their daughter was “being bullied” because a child poked her tongue at her, once. I explained that bullying was much more than that and told the girl to tell the “culprit” that she had a tongue too and show her! A little bit of resilience goes a long way and it is better for children to not develop a “victim” attitude. On the other hand it is important to combat bullying, and mean behaviour, straight away. We should have 100% acceptance of kindness and zero tolerance of meanness. There is much to celebrate in Harmony Day. Thank you.

    Some wonderful thought, ideas and advice in this post, Norah. I read Jennie’s post with great interest too. Bullying has become such a huge problem in the schools. I am not surprised the suicide rate has gone up with children when I see how bullying occurs on social media. It is too much to bear for some children.

    Hi Robbie, Thank you for your kind words. The prevalence of bullying is so sad. I wonder what is the underlying cause, and even more importantly, the remedy. We just need to be kinder to each other, don’t we? Nobody likes being bullied. Those who bully must not feel much empathy if they do it to others. The more we can do to prevent it the better.

    Such a huge topic Norah – it seems everywhere. How is that parents are unaware of their child’s bullying behaviour? Are they perpetrators themselves? I suspect so, both overtly and covertly? Teachers also – who are the ‘parents’ while the children are at school … Brava to you and all who try to get to the roots of it and show children by other means such as you display here how it can be done – in the best way possible, education! Thank you. May I send it to help2read ..

    Hi Susan, You’ve asked some perceptive and probing questions to which I wish I had both answers and solutions. Like you, I believe education is the place to start. I am more than happy for your to share the post with help2read, and anyone else you think would be interested. I appreciate your support. Have a great week.

    You are not only educating on a global scale but also helping instill great values in those who read this blog to pass onto kids – thank you, Norah, for the wonderful message here of friendship over bullying xo

    Thank you for your lovely comment, Christy. That’s certainly my aim.

    I am glad you are picky about the books you share – means they are hand picked and good.
    also – three cheers for your awareness about bullying – it is shame that many are still ignorant about the acts and the outcomes – and the ways to mitigate

    Thank you, Yvette. I don’t get time to share all the lovely books I’d like to, though. There are just so many.
    It is good to have these “special” days to raise awareness and, hopefully, make changes.

    Thanks Norah,
    For the incredible work you do promoting author and books … and creating resources for teachers and schools.
    Thanks especially for your kind mention of my Song Bird book series and my website.
    See you tomorrow for the launch of my 10th book, Ready Set Discover Logan which has a Harmony Day theme.
    Karen 🙂

    Hi Karen.
    Thank you for reading and commenting. I am very picky about the books I share. I love the theme of empowerment in your stories. I guess that’s what I try to do with my teaching resources too – empower teachers to have fun with their teaching so that children retain their enthusiasm for learning, remain curious, imaginative and creative. School doesn’t need to be boring. It should excite children’s eagerness to know and to wonder and provide them with the tools to become lifelong learners.
    I am very much looking forward to the launch of your tenth book. What an achievement, Karen. Congratulations!

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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