Bullying is Not Okay: Identifying and Stopping Bullying Behavior
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Bullying is Not Okay: Identifying and Stopping Bullying Behavior

Book Title: Thank You, Mr. Falker

Author: Patricia Polacco

Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Book Summary:

When Trisha starts school, she can't wait to learn how to read, but the letters just get jumbled up. She hates being different, and begins to believe her classmates when they call her a dummy. Then, in fifth grade, Mr. Falker changes everything. He sees through her sadness to the gifted artist she really is. And when he discovers that she can't read, he helps her prove to herself that she can - and will! Thank You, Mr. Falker helps students examine the repercussions of bullying and the encouragement that all of us need in life.

Topic(s) Addressed:

Bullying, Preventing Bullying Behavior, Respect. 
This lesson will help to prevent bullying by teaching students to recognize bullying behavior and to understand its emotional consequences.

Enduring Understandings:

  • Bullying behavior is never okay. It is hurtful, unkind and the antithesis of so many of our Jewish values including respect, friendship, and kindness.
  • Words have the power to hurt or heal. We must use our words carefully in ways to help and be kind – if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.
  • "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”- Rabbi Hillel

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


  • A copy of  Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco 
  • Writing paper and materials


Digital display screen

Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

1. Without revealing the rest of the book or the text, project image of the picture on pp. 15 – 16 of Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. (The text on this page begins “But at the new school ... “ and the picture shows a girl crying.) Ask students to jot answers to the following questions:

a. What is happening in this picture?
b. Why is the girl upset?
2. Ask students to define bullying. Begin with a class brainstorm of what the word means. Then ask students to draw a picture and write a sentence based on their understanding of the definition of the word.

Reading The Story

Introduce Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco by telling students that they will be reading a story about a girl, Trisha, who is bullied. Read the book aloud and Involve students in a class discussion based on their comments and questions as well as the following:

a. What do the students do to bully Trisha?
b. Why is Trisha bullied? Is there ever a good reason for bullying another individual?
c. What happens when Trisha is bullied? Encourage students to reflect on the role of the perpetrators, bystanders, and victim.
d. How does Mr. Polacco treat Trisha? Contrast his behavior with her classmates’.
e. On the final page of the book, students learn that the story is actually autobiographical. Discuss what this means?
e. Why does Trisha thank Mr. Polacco?
f. How has Patricia Polacco’s early life affected her life today?

After The Story

Look again at the illustrations from the text. Ask students to imagine that they are Trish and write a simulated journal entry, assuming the role of that character. Have them focus on the way in which she was bullied and how it made her feel. An alternative to this is to allow students to write a simulated journal entry taking on the role of one of the other characters in the book (i.e. the bully, one of the children witnessing the bullying, Mr. Falker) and focus on the issue of the way Trish was bullied from their viewpoint.

Discuss the famous quote from Rabbi Hillel, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” Consider teaching the students the song "Rabbi Hillel s Golden Rule" to further explore the idea. Have students create a class “Mission Statement” to reflect the ways in which they wish to be treated and how they plan to treat others. Have each student sign it. Display this in the classroom as a constant reminder.

Students will demonstrate their understanding of bullying and its effects by completing one of the following writing assignments:

  • Write a story about a time that you were bullied, or witnessed someone else being bullied. 
  • Explain how it made you feel. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently? 
  • Write a realistic fiction story involving a character that is bullied. 
  • Write a letter to one of Trish’s classmates convincing him/her to stop bullying. 
  • Create a picture book to teach younger students about bullying, the ways it affects people and what they can do to help stop bullying behavior.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Hurtful Words Cannot Be Erased:
Instruct students to write hurtful words that a bully may say on a piece of construction paper cut into a heart. Students should then crumple up, crush, and stomp on the paper. Then instruct students to apologize to the paper and do their best to smooth out the wrinkles. The wrinkles that remain and the bully’s words written on the paper represent the lasting effects of hurtful words and how they can never be unsaid.

Forgiveness Forgiveness is an important Jewish value- it is highlighted at Yom Kippur but is important everyday. Think of a time when you have used bullying words, or have been a bystander, when someone else was being bullied. Write a letter to a person you might have hurt, explaining why you were wrong to do so and what you will do differently in the future.

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

Students are able to articulate what bullying is, its effects, and why it is wrong.

Students’ writing reflects empathy for those bullied and what can be done to eliminate bullying behavior.


Encourage students to teach younger students about bullying by sharing their products from this unit.

literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
One Kathryn OtoshiKathryn OtoshiRED likes to pick on BLUE. YELLOW, ORANGE, GREEN, and PURPLE don’t know what to do, but they know that RED isn’t being nice. ONE joins them when things get out of hand, and by example, shows the colors how to stand up for each other and for themselves.
The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others Bob Sornson and Maria DismondyKim ShawHave you ever seen a bully in action and done nothing about it? The kids at Pete's new school get involved, instead of being bystanders. When Pete begins to behave badly, his classmates teach him about "The Promise."
Bully Laura Vacero SeegerLaura Vacero SeegerBully doesn't have a kind word for any of his friends. When the other animals ask him to play, he responds in the way he's been taught:
Chicken! Slow poke! You stink!
Laura Vaccaro Seeger's bold, graphic artwork, along with her spare but powerful words, make for a tender, hilarious, and thoughtful tale.
* PJ library Books
Lesson Contributors

Maura Hollub, Teacher-Temple Beth Am Day School, Miami