Activity IV

Activity #4: It’s in the Numbers – the 5 Roles in a Bullying Situation


This activity defines the roles people play in a bullying situation. By defining the roles and the corresponding number of players in each role, we see which group deserves the most effort to achieve behavior change and therefore a safer school environment.


  • To define the 5 roles people play in a bullying situation.
  • To identify which roles the majority of people fall into.
  • To delineate the roles and define which group we need to target as a community to achieve the most change in combating bullying behaviors.


Requirements & Materials

Group Size:     any

Time:               15 for basic activity, 60 minutes if using the pair shares

Space:              any, no restrictions or recommendations

Materials:        flip chart paper, markers



1        Write across the top of chart paper – The 5 Roles People Play in Bullying Situations

2        Ask the group what the roles are and write the title on the flip chart down the left side. The five you want to get to are:

  • Targets – often called the victim – the person on the receiving end of bullying behavior.
  • Aggressors – also known as the bully. This is the person (s) who takes the action and does the bullying behavior.
  • Instigators – the cheerleaders in a bad situation who encourage the aggressor to take action and do the mean/bad behavior.
  • Bystanders – the people who watch and do nothing. There is no such thing as an innocent bystander and it’s worth having a discussion about. Standing by and doing nothing is a choice.
  • Ally – the person who takes action to stand up against the aggressors and/or in support of the target.

3        Once you have the five roles listed. Ask the participants how many people are in each of these roles in a typical bullying situation if the event occurred in a classroom. Find out what is the average number of students in a classroom – as a guide. For example, if there are 30 students the numbers might breakdown as follows:

  • Targets – 1
  • Aggressors – 1
  • Instigators – 4
  • Bystanders – 20
  • Ally – 1

(There might be a couple of people who didn’t know what is happening. The number of bystanders is always the largest number. This is the key to this exercise – we want to move people from bystander to action and ally.)

4        Ask the group which roles we spend the most time and efforts around when discussing bullying and/or services. This is the target and the aggressor.

5        Ask the participants the following questions: by sheer numbers which group do you think we should be targeting to change behavior?


Discussion Questions before the pair shares

  • What can we do to move people from bystander to ally? Lead a discussion and chart responses.
  • Ask for tools to use that can be rolled out all year long. Maybe ask for monthly activities.
  • Ask questions around taking this on for the entire year – inspiring people to take action when they see bullying or mean behaviors.
  • Lead a discussion on people moving from role to role, that they are not mutually inclusive.


Pair Shares Extension

1        Ask students to pair up with someone and discuss a time they were a target. If they were never a target – ask them to talk about a time they witnessed someone being targeted. Give about five minutes for each pair share.

2        Ask students to switch partners and discuss a time they were an aggressor.

3        Continue through the 5 roles asking participants to find a new partner who they haven’t worked with.


Discussion Questions after the pair shares

  • Ask for a couple of volunteers to share a story about a time they were a bully/aggressor. Ask after each one how it felt to be an aggressor?
  • Ask for a couple of volunteers to share a story about a time they were the target. Ask after each one how did it feel to be a target?
  • Ask for a couple of volunteers to share a story about a time they were an ally. Ask after each one how did it feel to be an ally?
  • Which roles made us feel good? Bad? Hurt? Etc.
  • Ask for general thoughts, comments, questions – lead any discussion.



  • Video: Battle at Kruger Park, South Africa. This can be shown to an entire assembly or individual classes – works either way. You can find this video on youtube. It’s 8 minutes of a gruesome battle between lions and buffalo. The lions (aggressors) capture a calf (target) and begin biting it, trying to eat it. You see an entire herd of buffalo watching this happen (bystanders). Then one buffalo turns and starts toward the lions, turns back, turns around again and heads to help the calf (ally). Meanwhile a crocodile gets in the fight trying to get the calf. Eventually the entire herd turns around and breaks up the fight and saves the calf who gets away. You can lead a discussion around the challenges of intervening. How it takes one person to start and many will follow. Extra point to add: the calf does get away. Will he have scars for the rest of his life? Yes but he lived to tell about it because others intervened and helped.
  • Lead into a discussion on defining bullying. See separate exercise.
  • Lead a discussion on the difference between an ally and a friend.
  • Start a book list that includes books about students who stand up against bullying or mean behaviors. Books on young people who made a difference.
  • Build an ally wall in school where students can add their name as a commitment to taking action / being an ally!! Can also be a wall of inspirational quotes to take action, be strong, be different. Names of people who defied the odds could be added!! 


Extra Facilitator notes

  • We encourage everyone in the school community to participate in this exercise. By everyone we mean: principal, AP, office staff and all administrators, janitors, kitchen help, security guards, teachers and assistant teachers, and every student. The only way to have community action is the whole community is on the same page for what bullying is and why we need to take action when it is seen.

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