7 Strategies to Tackle Name-Calling in Upper Elementary

Encountering name-calling in school is unfortunately a given. Coming back to physical school after spending a year or more online, has only seen an increase in cases of name-calling. The visible lag in social and conflict resolution skills might make one wonder where and how to start tackling this issue. Here is a cheat sheet you could use if this is something you're dealing with as a school counselor.

  1. Set Expectations of Appropriate Behavior

One of the first things most primary schools do at the start of the year is co-create class essential agreements. Some examples are 'Be Kind', 'Be Respectful', 'Share and Take Turns', etc. Encourage teachers to spend time not just coming up with these agreements collaboratively with their students as we generally do in our counseling groups. Make sure to motivate them to review these class agreements on a daily basis and not just when a rule is broken. Students should be so familiar with what is expected of them that they automatically know if and when they have broken the agreement.

2. Encourage Teachers to utilize Circle Time

circle time building social and emotional learning

I absolutely love and advocate for circle time for all ages! Building social and emotional learning at the start and/or at the end of the day is super important to build a classroom community that is kind, caring, respectful, and empathetic. Circle time creates a sense of belonging. Here's where students can be themselves and talk openly about their cares knowing their voice matters. Circle time gives teachers an insight into what is really going on when they are not around/the students are at recess. Other skills that children develop include confidence, self-esteem, friendship, and active listening, among others. It plays a vital role in strengthening the bond between the teacher and the class. And you know I recommend throwing in a feelings check! Try using these discussion cards to get your circle time going.

3. Go into the Classroom for Class Counseling Lessons

As a school counselor, it is not surprising that everybody looks to you for support when name-calling incidents take place. While we often have to intervene in a crisis and respond reactively, I always encourage fellow counselors to act proactively. One of the best ways to do that is to ensure you go into classrooms for class lessons at regular intervals, addressing topics and issues in a preventative manner. Tier 1 classroom counseling lessons on Self Regulation, Bullying Prevention, Cooperation, Friendship, and Empathy are all great ways to get the conversation started on creating the right classroom/school culture that is safe for all students.

4. Set up Small Groups

As you know, there will always be some students who need more support than others when it comes to managing strong emotions, following rules, responding appropriately, and being kind. It would be wise to ask teachers to identify students who might benefit from group sessions, and based on the need, you could run appropriate groups on topics like Self Regulation, Friendship, Social Skills, and Conflict Resolution.

5. Teach Students how to Report Name-Calling Incidents

Does your school use Kelso's Choices? Do you ask students to try at least two of Kelso's strategies before they take their 'problem' to an adult? Do they know who they need to report to? Is it their homeroom teacher, the teacher on recess duty, or the principal? Making sure students are able to differentiate between rude comments, mean behavior, and bullying is highly essential before they are taught how to report an incident.

6. Talk about Consequences

As a school counselor, you are not a disciplinarian. Yet, it is important for students who are constantly pushing boundaries in this area to understand that there are consequences of their behavior. In the same way that class agreements are explicit and clear, students should also be made aware of the consequences they might have to face as a result of name-calling.

7. Get Parents Involved

While we do our best at school to help students get along well with each other, we have to understand that it is important for families too to model appropriate behavior at home and to reiterate what we are talking about at school. This could look like including a snippet in your Counselor's Corner of the weekly newsletter, providing a few tips for parents to raise kind kids. You could also share about the classroom lessons that were facilitated on the topic. Parent workshops are also a great way to get parents more involved in creating a climate that is kind and respectful for their children to thrive in.

parent workshop

How have you dealt with name-calling among students? Which new strategy from this post might you try in the future? Let me know in the comments.

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