Lesson #2: "Penny For Your Thoughts"

Unit: Bullying

Unit Essential Question: What is bullying, and how can we deal with it as a classroom community in a positive, healthy way?

Grade Level: 6th – 8th

Lesson: “Penny For Your Thoughts”

Lesson Essential Questions: How has/does bullying affect us all? How can we look at our common experiences with bullying as a way to feel united as a classroom community?

MMSD Standards:
  • Key Concept: Analysis of Issue
  • Participation Skill: Show respect for the views of others

NCSS Standards:
  • Individual Development and Identity
  • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

  • Students will consider and reflect upon their own experiences with bullying.
  • Students will become aware that bullying has, and does, affect almost everyone in some way or another.
  • Students will recognize the commonalities amongst themselves and their classmates, in terms of dealing with bullying.
  • Students will develop a sense of unity within the classroom community, considering the idea that bullying is a common experience within the class. This will hopefully lead to stronger feelings of comfort and belonging within the classroom community.

Materials Needed:
  • Room with hard flooring (not carpet)
  • Stacks of pennies (at least 16 pennies per student)
  • Blindfolds (1 per student; can use bandanas)
  • Paper or Notebooks

  • Bring students to a room in the school that is not carpeted – this may be the regular classroom, or a different room such as the gymnasium or lunchroom.
  • Give each student a stack of pennies.
  • Give students each a blindfold, and instruct them to put it on so that they cannot see anything (no cheating!). 
  • It may help to dim the lights in the room, to both lessen the chance of the students seeing/watching each other, and also create a serious mood.
  • Instruct the students that you will read a series of statements out loud. The students should meander around the space very slowly and quietly as you speak. As they listen, they should drop a penny if they relate to/agree with/experience(d) the statement. 
  • During this time, the students should not only look inward and reflect upon their own experiences, but also listen to the sounds of the pennies dropping around them. 
  • Remind the students that they should feel safe in expressing how they truly feel – they should drop the pennies when appropriate, and not be concerned or worried about what their classmates will think – everyone is blindfolded so the activity is completely anonymous. They should feel secure and comfortable. 
  • After the instructions have been given, begin to read the statements to the class:

  1.  I have experienced feelings of loneliness, at times.
  2. I have felt left out of an activity that other people were doing, either during the school day or out of school.
  3. I think that others have told secrets about me before.
  4. I have told someone else’s secret to others.
  5. I have contributed to the spreading of a rumor by sharing it with others.
  6. I have felt embarrassed because of other’s actions.
  7. I have embarrassed a friend or other peer for some reason – to make people laugh or to make the person feel bad.
  8. I have witnessed physical aggression between others.
  9. I have felt physically threatened by another person.
  10. I have been made fun of because of my appearance, my religion, my personality, my preferences, or any other reason.
  11. I have made fun of someone else for his or her appearance, religion, personality, his or her preferences, or any other reason.
  12. I have seen someone being bullied around school, but did not do anything about it.
  13. I have felt threatened or attacked online before, whether through instant messaging, a social network site, or another way.
  14. I have made another person feel upset or attacked through some form of technology, whether it on the computer or phone.
  15. I have told a trusted adult about a bullying situation, either about myself or someone else.
  16. I have seen bullying in this school, and I think it is a problem.

  • After the last statement is read, tell the students they can take off their blindfolds and gather the pennies off the floor.
  • Bring the students together in a large circle and hold a discussion about the activity. Ask the following questions (and others, as well, depending on where the students take the discussion):
    • What did you notice during the activity? Did you hear a lot of pennies being dropped? What statements in particular brought a lot of penny sounds?
    • How did you feel when you heard the statements? Did you feel comfortable enough to drop the pennies and agree when you felt moved to?
    • How did it feel to hear other pennies dropped when you dropped yours, as well?
    • What kinds of statements, in particular seemed like they were bigger issues in the class? What does this mean for us – what do we need to work on in this class and in the school?
    • Did you feel more united with your classmates with this activity, or more separated?
    • What did this activity make you consider about yourself and your own behavior and actions? (Some students may feel reluctant to share this, as it is not as anonymous, and requires some accountability).
    • What else did you think about or realize during the activity? Any other thoughts?
  • *One key point to bring up with the class is that bullying is not a black and white issue – there are gray areas. Some of us have been the victims of bullying, while also having bullied others at times. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It is a positive thing to identify times that you have perhaps not acted at your best, or made others feels bad, so that you can learn from them and improve yourself in the future. Examining our own actions and contemplating why we do things are steps towards understanding ourselves.
  • After the discussion comes to a close, have the students journal about the experience in their notebooks. They can address the above questions, or anything else that came up during the activity or discussion. This is a chance for students who may not yet feel completely comfortable or open enough to speak during the class discussion to still fully reflect on these important issues. It is also a chance for all students to contemplate some more personal issues.

            I will be assessing the students in several ways throughout the activity, as well as afterwards. During the blindfold penny activity, I will not be checking to see which students respond to each question, but rather monitoring to make sure that students are participating in productive ways (staying on task, being respectful, not peeking at other students, remaining quiet, and perhaps dropping a few pennies to show that they are being reflective – each student should most likely be able to respond to at least one of the statements). I will also be assessing the students during the discussion to be sure they are thinking critically and being reflective. I will check to make sure the students are actively listening and paying attention to their peers, and maintaining a high level of respect. The issues being discussed may not allow for every student to offer honest, open answers, but I will assess the students’ contributions, when applicable, as to whether they are thoughtful and reflective. Finally, I will assess the students’ journal entries after the activity. This is where the students should hopefully be able to open up and thoughtfully consider the penny activity and the issues at hand. I will assess their writing as to whether they were thinking critically, reflecting upon the experience, and offering relevant thoughts on the issues.

            In terms of differentiation, I believe that this lesson includes content, process, and product that is all varied for the different students and different needs in a classroom. The content on bullying is varied so that students of varying readiness levels can be successful in grasping it. The goals of this lesson, and the content that I am teaching, are concerned with developing an awareness of how bullying is a universal struggle and experience – I believe that students of different readiness levels will grasp this in varying ways, and the lesson allows for that. The processes in this lesson are varied to allow for different students’ preferences and such. There is large group discussion as well as more personal, independent reflection, so different students can respond and thrive with what suits them best. I am assessing the “product” in varied ways – by observing behavior, monitoring participation, and analyzing reflection. Students have many varied ways to respond and show what they have learned and gleaned from the activities.