Let's face it, most children would much rather play with their friends than do long division. Who can blame them? Learning division will benefit students in the future, but friends are fun to be with in the present. A young child's selection of friends can be a good indicator of their peer group as they become teenagers. Help students grow strong friendship skills now so they will make good choices and develop positive relationships with their peers in the future.
Writing about Friendship
The Friendship Page is an excellent site to get students thinking about friends. Have students begin by reading Friendship Quotes. You might preview the quotes and select some to discuss from General Friendship Quotes and Famous & Historical Friendship Quotes. Ask if any of these quotes sound familiar to the students? Discuss the true meaning of these friendship phrases. Challenge groups of students to create their own quotes/phrases about friends and share these with the class.
The Friendship Poetry section is divided into several categories. These poems were written by students; your class might relate to the feelings of these student authors. Ask students if these poems reflect how they feel about their friends? Brainstorm as a whole class those qualities that students feel are important for a true friend to possess. Display a chart that lists these characteristics. Students may also submit a friendship poem to be posted on the class/school Web page.
Click Friendship Day Ideas for some great tips on how to celebrate Friendship Day. Since International Friendship Day is in the beginning of August (when many schools are still on break) consider selecting an alternative day as your class or school Friendship Day. Make it a day to strengthen bonds between peers. Choose activities that will involve all students, especially those who may be having a hard time making friends at school.
Review the friendship qualities listed earlier that are important in a ‘good’ friend. Which are the most important to each student? Some may suggest ‘honesty’, ‘trust’, ‘fun’, ‘respect’, etc. Vote and keep a tabulation of the results on the board. How about creating a survey? Create a form that the entire grade could fill out and have your class tally the votes. Be sure to post the results for the students to see either in the newsletter or on the Web site.
Now it's time for a little personal reflection as students click take the What kind of friend are you? quiz. (Older students may relate more to the friend quiz from Glamour Magazine). Allow students to answer these questions mentally and then discuss these with the group. Have groups of students create a similar scenario and combine these to make a class survey. Finish by letting students take the friendship quiz by clicking How well do you know your friend? How did they rate?
Coping with Conflict, Bullies, and Shyness
Whew! These are all tough topics but through discussion and setting expectations for your class you may help students feel more comfortable about these problem areas.
Visit PBS’s It’s My Life site for an excellent discussion about bullies for elementary students; it is geared towards creating harmony among friends. Conflict itself is not necessarily bad and friends will seldom agree all the time. Teaching students how to handle conflict when it arises will increase your chances for a peaceful school year. Discuss conflicts and successful ways to settle disagreements between friends. Make sure to allow time for kids to play Beat the Bully!
Then allow students to click and learn about what happens When Friends Fight (PBS). Does the class agree with these recommendations? Why or why not? Have groups make charts that list ways they will handle disagreements at school.
If a child is constantly a victim of bullying at school, his or her self-esteem and enthusiasm about school are likely to suffer. To get some advice about dealing with bullies, discuss the Facts about Bullying page. This site lists feelings that are possible when someone is the object of a bully. Validate that these feelings are normal when students are not treated correctly. Read all of the sections located at the left. To summarize, you can discuss the Golden Rule and practical ways it can be applied in your classroom daily. Have students write a journal entry about a time they were a victim of a bully. What were their feelings? How did they react? What would they do differently should the situation arise again?
Another sensitive topic involves shy friends or what to do if you are shy. The KidsHealth.org site contains an excellent article that discusses Shyness from an informative and positive viewpoint. The article is divided into six sections that are listed in link format at the bottom right corner of the page. You may assign each small group to a particular section and have them summarize the information for the class. You may also read the article as a whole class activity and allow plenty of time for discussion. Discuss some friendly ways classmates can include a shy friend in daily activities.
A fun way to include all members of a class is to create a friendship quilt. Before students arrive, create a large blank quilt out of butcher paper with one square for each student and one for yourself. To conclude the friendship study, let each student either draw or write on his or her particular piece facts about themselves that they want their classmates to know. Share pieces as a class and connect the squares as each one is presented. By the end, your class will have heard a little about each student and have a creative quilt on the wall to remind them that they are all friends.
The Friendship Page
PBS It’s My Life