The crumpled paper lesson is a very powerful bullying activity which we believe was originally used by a teacher in New York to show her students the lasting impact that anti-social and cruel behaviour can have.
We love this bullying lesson but adapted it to use in conjunction with our primary and elementary school curriculum during assemblies and in the classroom. We substituted a plain piece of paper for a red heart or cutout of a person (an activity in the curriculum for older students) to make it more relatable for kids.
Try this very powerful group activity for your classroom, particularly if you have an issue with unkind behaviour. It can really help a bully to understand just how powerful their words and actions can be.
- 1Download and print the heart template onto red paper ensuring you have one for each student. If you don't want to cut them all out yourself, have your students cut their own.
- 2Ask students to look at how beautiful and perfect their heart is. Now ask them to imagine this is their own, real heart and to give it to the student standing next to them and ask them to love and care for their heart as they hand it over.
- 3Ask each student to say mean things to the heart they were just given and to crumple it up into a tight little ball, throw it on the ground and stomp on it.
- 4Have students pick up the crumpled little ball, look at the student who owns the heart and say they're sorry. Turn their attention back to the student's heart (paper ball) and apologise, say they didn't mean to be so thoughtless, they really didn't know what came over them and could they forgive them. While apologising, carefully uncrumple the heart. Place it on a table and try to smooth it out the best they can.
- 5Students return hearts to their owners. Each person holds up their crumpled heart. Ask them how it looks now. Is it still perfect? Did the person they gave it to care for it?
- 6Explain that every time a person hurls abuse, belittles, talks behind someone's back, bullies, writes unkind things on social media, etc. they are responsible for adding a crinkle to that person's heart.
- 7Even though they may apologize later, that crinkle cannot be smoothed out. Sure, it may fade over time but that person's heart will never really be the same and the scars will remain for a lifetime.
- 8Take the opportunity to talk about the responsibility we all have to care for other people and their feelings.
Updated: 8 October, 2019