Laughing Matters

Type of Activity: Being put on the spot, dealing with teasing and conflict

Props Needed: None

Set Up: Begin with a discussion about what it feels like to be teased.  Introduce a nonsensical word like fiddlesticks.

Practice saying the word in different ways. How would an opera singer say it, a baby, a goat, a dog, a rapper, a monster, or a ghost? Have the class line up in two lines facing each other.

Process: Tell the students that the object is to have someone walk between the two lines without smiling or laughing.

The rules are that the walker must keep his or her eyes open. The people in the lines must stay out of the walker’s way (give them space to walk) and may not touch the walker in any way. The only word that may be spoken is the nonsensical word that was introduced. The people in the lines, though, may say the word any way they want, and make any kinds of faces they would like.

Give everyone the right to pass by starting at one end and asking if that person would like to try it. She or he can either say “yes” and do it or say “pass,” at which point you will move to the next person.  Once through the whole line, go back to give the people who passed an opportunity to try it. They still have the right to pass.

Debriefing Topics:

  • Was this hard for you? How? What strategies did you use to try not to smile?
  • How did it feel to be the ones saying fiddlesticks?
  • How did it feel to walk down the line?
  • Was it easy or hard for you to decide to take a turn? Are you glad you had the choice?

Extensions: • Ignoring is one way to deal with teasing. When is it not appropriate to ignore it? Brain storm other ways to deal with teasing. • Discuss why some people chose to do this while others did not. Go around and ask each person an activity they might choose (or have chosen in the past) not to participate in. What caused them to make that choice? • Create a chart of activities in school where students have a choice and those where they do not. For example, you might have recess as not being a choice but what they do at recess as a choice. Other times you might have times when students must work in groups, but they have a choice about who they work with.

Notes: This activity is a way to build strategies for kids to learn to ‘ignore teasing’  because the strategies used to ignore someone who is trying to make them laugh are similar to the ones used when someone is trying to make them upset. Any strategies they choose to use are acceptable. Common ones include: looking away or focusing on something else, thinking about other things, and getting through it quickly (walking away).

It is imperative that students really feel like they have a choice to do this activity or not. Walking a gauntlet can be intimidating, even if it is about laughing.

For more resources see: Journey Towards a Caring Classroom, Setting the Conflict Compass

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