This is an incredibly simple yet effective lesson that I found from which enables students to examine the qualities that differentiate “Mean” vs. “Kind” behaviours and the feelings that surround the two, respectively. The purpose of this lesson is to foster positive, kind classroom and school culture, where students believe wholeheartedly that they belong and are respected.


When you search this online, it’s tough to get to the root of the lesson, so I thought I’d simplify it and lay it out so you can teach this to your students immediately. As always, I’ve made sure to include resources, links, and sources for your viewing enjoyment and to give credit where it’s due!

This lesson could be spread out throughout several days, one day (split into chunks), or an afternoon. It really is up to you to gauge your students and what their needs/abilities are.

Here’s how I would teach the lesson in the classroom:

  1. Start by showing a video which outlines strategies to deal with bullying. Here are some helpful links to various YouTube videos that might work for you (please always make sure to preview all videos):

Anti-Bullying PSA  

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Josh Shipp: Be the Difference (Middle/HighSchool)

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  1. Clear your whiteboard or screen completely of all distracting materials and simply write the word, MEAN,  on the board.Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.45.30 PM
  2. Have students and examine the word “mean” through various points of view (the bullied, the bystander, the “bully” or person causing conflict based on the frame of reference they have established upon reading the books or videos listed above). Ask students to brainstorm, think-pair-share, journal, break into groups to come up with words, actions, descriptions of what the word “mean” brings up for them.
  3. How you record their ideas can happen many different ways. Here are three different options for share-out: Option A) Students use black and blue markers  to write their brainstormed words, phrases, and descriptions on the board. Option B) The teacher can record them as they are shared out using black and blue markers. Option C) Teacher collects brainstormed material and writes them on the board after school using black and blue markers (impactful start to the next day, but tedious task). This could be a wonderful and authentic opportunity to introduce new vocabulary. Here are just some of the words recorded by the creator of the lesson, Eric Johnson.
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  4. Next, discuss how hurtful and long-lasting the effects of unkind acts can be. Share some personal stories where you might have been on the receiving-end of bullying or unkind acts. THIS IS KEY!! By being appropriately vulnerable, yourself, you open the door for students to follow suit!
  5. Lead the students in a discussion to explore new words they might not know yet, bullying within the context of their own actions and experiences, and even talk about where unkind behaviour might originate (here’s some information about the 6 Human Emotional Needs).
  6. Now, erase the word “MEAN” and replace it with the words: “How do you want to be remembered?” These will stand out in the midst of the “mean” words. This is a good time to talk about legacy…how your actions have a big, lasting impact on those around you. As Jim Carrey says, “the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.”Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 1.45.37 PM
  7. Show middle-high school students the powerful video by

Jonah Mowry (not for younger grades; raw and emotional 6th Grader talks about suicide), screen-shot-2017-11-15-at-2-31-00-pm.png

this one by Josh Shipp (appropriate for middle and high-school),Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 2.33.41 PM

Wentworth Miller’s Talk about Coming Out and Suicide Attempts Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 2.27.44 PM

Boomerang of Kindness by Life Vest Inside  (more appropriate for younger grades)

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or this one Imagine If Everyone Did This (appropriate for all levels)

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Go to the board and silently erase one of the mean words. Replace it with a kind word or action.

  1. Invite the students to come and replace words with a variety of bright and uplifting words, actions, feelings using a rainbow of different colours. Invite the students to take ownership on redefining themselves positively within the context of the classroom and school.
  2. Extension activities could include journalling or writing about the legacy the students wish to have, creating lists of kind acts that could leave behind a trail they are proud of, or to work on the following inquiry question within groups or individually: What actions can I take to contribute to a positive and supportive school culture, where students feel like they are significant and like they belong?


This lesson would fit well into Pink Shirt Day, Kindness Day, Bell Let’s Talk Day, and the Erase Bullying framework recently rolled out by the Government of British Columbia Ministry of Education.

Leave a comment below to share how you used and adapted this lesson for your classroom! I always get inspired by people’s stories and the things they do. You might just inspire someone today!

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