Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

The Inclusion Storytelling Project Takes a Cue from Students on Kindness

  • December 20, 2018
  •    BY Anna Griffin (Contributor)

By Anna Griffin, 826 Digital Manager

Last fall, 826 National invited students across the country to share their stories on bullying as part of the Inclusion Storytelling Project. One student at 826 Boston, Jekaya, recalled a time she witnessed bullying on a bus, sharing that “I wanted to say something [to the bullies], but in my head I was confused.”

Jekayaka is not alone. More often than not, students want to do what is right. But when the right thing means standing up to a bully, many freeze. At 826 National, the largest youth writing network in the country serving 65,000 students annually in 826 centers and online, we believe that writing is a powerful tool. Through writing, students ignite and channel their creativity, explore identity, and advocate for themselves and their community. We also believe in the power of student voices. But sometimes, students struggle to speak up when it matters most.

To that end, 826 National partnered with Cartoon Network’s Stop Bullying: Speak Up initiative and launched the Inclusion Storytelling Project with a simple idea: if students write about their experiences with bullying, it will help them summon the courage and words necessary to stand up for themselves and each other. It will help students to stop bullying before it starts.

Now is the time to listen to students and discuss how they can be a part of the solution. Bullying is on the rise, as one national student survey suggests, with one in three students reporting that they’ve experienced bullying. Incidents of bullying have increased during middle school in particular, and certain subgroups of students are being disproportionately affected at increasing rates.

The Inclusion Storytelling Project began with students engaging in discussions on the importance of kindness and empathy. They learned strategies to stand up to bullies and wrote stories featuring upstanding characters. They reflected on how bullying has affected them and those around them. At the project’s culmination, each 826 chapter published students’ stories, poems, and scripts, and a few student pieces, including Jekaya’s Story, were selected to be animated by Cartoon Network.

This year, 826 National and Cartoon Network have expanded the Inclusion Storytelling Project by launching free Social-Emotional Learning resources for educators on 826digital.com, which includes step-by-step lessons, writing prompts, and student writing examples encouraging kids across the country to share their individual stories about kindness, inclusion, and empathy.

Invite your students to join the national conversation on bullying prevention using best practices from the Inclusion Storytelling Project:

Share Your Story: Writing can be tough. For many students, sharing personal experiences about bullying is tougher. Break the ice by telling your students about a time when you were bullied, a time you were silent, or a time you spoke up. Whatever you share, keep the story real and get vulnerable. This will help build trust before asking students to do the same.

Shift Perspectives: Students build empathy when they expand their perspective and consider the experiences of others. Ask students to put the old adage of “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” to work by having them write from the perspective of a character, a friend, or, as in one lesson on 826 Digital, a villain.  

Build Purpose: Too often, student writing stops with a final draft. A critical piece of the writing process is lost when student writing is not shared with a broader community. Build purpose for young writers by submitting their stories to the Inclusion Storytelling Project, or by creating other opportunities for students to tell their story with a wider audience: publish their stories in a class book, host a book reading and release party, or ask students to make videos or PSAs that extends their message beyond your class.

Create Solutions: Talk to your students about what it would take to make their school or community a kinder, more inclusive place. The Compliments Project, which began from a student’s suggestion to anonymously give compliments to classmates, is a great place to look for inspiration. Encourage students to turn their ideas into words into actions, and they will make a connection: when I share my voice, I create positive change.  

Nana-Wadieh, a student at 826NYC writes, “People have feelings that are as soft as feathers.” It’s time for us to take a cue from our students on kindness. Their voices show us that in a world that is brimming with stories of cruelty, there is a rising tide of hope. Think of the difference that could be made—in your school and across the country—if we hear their words.

Anna Griffin 
826 Digital Manager 
826 National (826national.org)
44 Gough Street, Suite 206
San Francisco, CA 94103
digital@826national.org
T: (415) 864-2098

 

    • December 20, 2018
  •    BY Anna Griffin (Contributor)
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