We build relationships with our family, friends, and our colleagues every day, and it’s a very natural process for many of us. But for our students, solidifying these skills requires direct instruction. Teaching friendship skills in the classroom requires making time in our day for thoughtful discussions and community building activities. Below you will find a variety of lesson ideas and activities to help build these skills in your classroom.
Teaching Friendship Skills in the Classroom
For those children in your class who may not have the necessary skills to make and nurture friendships, you will need to help build those skills and provide opportunities to practice them daily.
Why Teach Friendship Skills?
There are many good reasons why you should teach children about healthy and friendly relationships. The atmosphere of your classroom will improve. The relationships between you and your students will flourish. And, looking at the bigger picture, you will make a positive difference in the world.
- Spread kindness in a harsh world – Some of these children whom you are entrusted have come from difficult backgrounds. By showing and teaching them kindness, generosity, loyalty, trust, selflessness, and other traits of friendship, you are showing them that your classroom (and other places outside their home life) can be a nice place to be. They will learn that they can be part of growing and spreading love and kindness to others even if their private world isn’t like that.
- The atmosphere of your classroom community – The attitudes and perceptions of the children in your care will gradually improve as each child learns new skills and begins to try them out. You’ll see new friendships between your students begin to grow, and you’ll relate better to your students in return. The things that you will teach them will have an effect on each person within your class.
Lessons & Activities
Friendships and good relationships are built on several key concepts and skills. It’s important to address each one in your purposeful lessons on friendship and relationship skills. Here are some ideas of what social skills and character traits to focus:
Listening and Speaking
Good listening and speaking skills are important for children to learn in healthy relationships. Have children practice these things through role-playing, discussion time (learning not to interrupt, speaking respectfully when it’s your turn), and through group projects in which everyone is required to participate equally.
Being able to share with friends and peers is important in helping students get along with others unselfishly. Help them by giving them scripts for practicing this important skill. Sometimes just providing them the words and sentences they can use in a situation requiring them to share is all it takes to empower them to do so. Read the book Rainbow Fish for an excellent example of how sharing is important when making and keeping friends.
The ability and willingness to take turns is a necessary skill for young children to adopt. Especially in the younger grades (Kindergarten and first grade), these skills take lots of practice and time for children to understand and use naturally due to their stage in emotional development. So help them by repeating and practicing often!
How to be a Good Friend
Children should be able to describe what a friend is and demonstrate how to be a good friend through words and actions. Give them the vocabulary and the understanding they need to apply to their own relationships with others. You can do this by brainstorming ways to be a good friend, sorting good and bad ways to be a friend, and giving them concrete descriptions of ways they can be a good friend.
Sometimes the act of just trying to make a friend can be intimidating for students. You can teach them that it’s not so scary, and give them the tools they need to overcome their anxiety in meeting new people. Interviews can help them get to know others, or activities that require them to find people with things in common (such as a scavenger hunt). As a class, students can brainstorm ways to make new friends or share about the new friends they’ve met over a holiday break or just over the weekend. Read the book Peanut Butter and Cupcake for great examples of ways to make friends and write about it.
Good friends try to pay attention to emotional cues and behaviors that can show whether someone feels included. Explain to students how to recognize when they have the opportunity to make another child feel welcome as a friend.
Cooperation and Teamwork
Students must learn the necessary life skill of being able to work with others, whether friends or peers in teamwork activities. This skill is important in the classroom as well as in life, so give them plenty of opportunities to practice.
FREE New Friend Scavenger Hunt
The Relationships SEL Curriculum includes 5 lessons and many activities to help build empathy, community, and inclusion in your classroom.
Social Emotional Learning Curriculum
The mind + heart Social Emotional Learning Curriculum includes 8 units with 5+ detailed, character education, research-based LESSONS filled with TONS of hands-on and mindful ACTIVITIES that encourage children to express themselves and build important emotional and social skills.
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