Heartbreaking Lesson

So today in my 5th grade classroom we did an anti-bullying activity on how words hurt called “The Crumpled Heart”. Many elementary school teachers know of some variation of this activity, and the message. I drew the outline of a huge heart on easel paper and gave each of my students a small, colored, post-it. They were to write one word/phrase that a friend or peer has said to them that hurt their feelings and stuck with them. They then took turns bringing their word up and placing it on the easel and after they did, they crumpled the heart a bit to show how it felt to have someone say that to them. At the end, there are 20 words/phrases in a very wrinkled/crumpled up heart to represent the impact the hurtful words and behaviors can have on us.

I have done this activity for years, with many different classes, however this year it really stuck with me and I feel I got more emotional than I had in the past. I am not sure if it was the degree of nastiness of these words/phrases or just how well I’ve gotten to know my students this year. I do feel in the past, we have done it during October during Anti-Bullying Month. However, I waited until May this year and it was very fitting due to some “incidents” recently with students being mean to each other. I tried to upload a picture of the heart, but it was tough to see all 21 posts in the picture, so I thought I’d just write what was written in the actual heart. This list is really hard to read. 😦

  1. You’re ugly
  2. I’m going to kill you
  3. You’re gay
  4. You’re fat
  5. You’re stupid
  6. Nobody likes you
  7. You are dumb (dumbface)
  8. You are the Duff (definite ugly fat friend)
  9. You need to Grow up
  10. You look anorexic
  11. Who invited you?
  12. You have buck teeth
  13. You’re bad at everything you do
  14. You’re annoying
  15. Everybody hates you
  16. You’ll never be good enough
  17. Why don’t you just die

*A few of these were written by more than one student. Kids can be so cruel, and it’s so hard as an educator as we really want to teach them to be respectful, and kind, and just “Good” human beings! It breaks MY heart to think of my students being hurt and worse, that they might be hurtful to others. Sigh. I guess we just keep fighting the good fight and hoping that we can get through to some. Just keep swimming…

wrinkled heart



8 thoughts on “Heartbreaking Lesson

  1. Oh my. This broke my heart. I had to scroll back up to see what grade your kids were because I couldn’t believe that these were written by elementary students. The first three were just hard to read, but you’re right, the entire list was so difficult. I can’t imagine. These are the times when reading, writing and every other subject become so unimportant. Because if kids can’t even come to school and feel safe and loved, who cares what kind of academics we teach them? It just doesn’t seem worth it. Your kids are lucky to have you and I hope they realize one day what a treasure they had in a teacher like you who cared enough to take the time and point out how hurtful these words are. Hopefully they find power in these, so much so that they choose their words carefully with one another next time. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, WOW. I have tears in my eyes. I hope your students see the power of words when they saw how affected their classmates were. And I hope the power of being vulnerable with each other will connect them in some way. I hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing. I also teach 5th grade and can connect with your post. What a powerful activity to do with them! I might need to try this. At this point in the year, emotions (read: hormones) are starting to run high. How brave of them to step up during this activity and really share their hearts. Lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow that list was very hard to read. My heart is sad. How brave they were to write those things and share those feelings. I hope they started to see how word can affect others. You’re right though – we have to keep fighting the good fight and keep on swimming. Spread words and acts of kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is very sad to read. I hope that the lesson helps them to empathize with the feelings of others when nasty, mean things are said. I think it would have been a hard lesson to witness. Thank you for encourage your students to be kind to each other. It is so important.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my. So sad, and it really did break my heart to think any human has heard these comments made. It made me think of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder. As my librarian says, all humans need to read this book. I just read the new version for younger children — We’re All Wonders. You might like to share this with your students, too. They aren’t too old. 😦


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