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Classroom Activities to Help Students Make Friends

Janelle Cox

As an observant teacher, you see a lot of things in your classroom. One of the things that you may notice in the beginning of the school year through the implementation of classroom activities is how some children tend to make friends quicker than others. It seems as if these children instinctively know just what to say and do in order to make a friend. Then, you have your other students who sit shy and quietly, eat alone at the lunch table, or who are always getting picked last for games. You may wonder quietly to yourself, “What is it that makes these students go unnoticed or be disliked by their classmates?” Research has been conducted about this topic, and studies have found that having friends can help ease stress of children who are neglected at home or have a troubled household. They also suggest that friendships are a developmental advantage for children. If having at least one friend can make a difference for any of your students, then it is worth the effort that you put into using classroom activities to help them find that relationship. Here are a few effective classroom activities that will help your students make meaningful friendships.

Whole Group Classroom Activities

Here are two whole group classroom activities that will help your students feel at ease when meeting new classmates.

Getting to Know You

In the beginning of the school year, most teachers begin by having all of their students participate in a getting-to-know you activity. This is a great way for students to meet and greet their peers, in a fun and informal way. This is also a great way for students to meet some new friends. A fun activity that gets students up and moving is to create a student search game board where students must find a different student that correlates with each statement on the board. For example, one square may say, “Is an only child” while another may say, “Has flown in an airplane.” The students’ job is to mingle with the other students and fill in each box with the name of a different student. You can download the game board on the site Minds in Bloom.

Sharing Stories

Children love to talk about themselves, especially in the elementary grades. Bring students together on the carpet and have them sit in a circle so that everyone can see one another. Give them a conversation prompt and a talking stick and allow them to pass the stick and share their thoughts or stories on the prompt. Here are a few suggested conversation starters.

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  • Think of a time when a friend helped you, what did the friend do? How did it make you feel?
  • Think about a time that you had to encourage a friend, what did you do and how did it make you feel? How do you think it made the person feel?
  • A new student has come into class, what are three things that you can do to become friends with them?

Small Group Activities

For some students, having the opportunity to share in small groups rather than large groups is easier for them to meet and make new friends because children tend to feel safer and more comfortable. If you’re looking for a way to help your shy students open up more easily, then you can try having students do the “Sharing stories” activity using the talking stick in small groups or even with a partner. When in small groups you can ask more intimate questions for conversation starters, because children will feel more at ease to explore more complex issues. Here are a few suggestions for story starters.

  • Have you ever been teased by a classmate? How did it make you feel? Have you ever teased a classmate? Why did you do it? How do you think it made the student feel?
  • You and your best friend want to play different things, how can you solve this problem?
  • Have you ever helped a friend who seemed down? What did you do to make them feel better?

Individual Activities

Making friends doesn’t always have to involve children role playing or playing getting-to-know you games. Sometimes, students can learn the benefits of how to make a friend or be a friend, just by completing activities by themselves. One effective way to accomplish this is to use the same conversation prompts as writing prompts. This is a great way for students who do not feel comfortable sharing in a whole group, to express their feelings in writing.

Each student would be given a writing prompt about “Friendship” and would have to write their own piece on the topic. Then, all students would combine their writing pieces into a small “Friendship book.” This gives shy students an easy way to get their thoughts and feelings heard by their classmates, in a more personal way. Here are a few writing prompt suggestions.

  • I am an inspiration to my friends because …
  • I encourage my friends by …
  • I make my friends feel better by …
  • I help by friends when they are in need by …
  • I think it’s important to have friends because …

Peer relations are said to help both cognitive and social development in children. Studies show that children who are disliked in school or don’t make friends easily are said to be more aggressive and disruptive in school and in life. As teachers, we can make a difference by providing our students the opportunity to learn about friendships, how to care for them, and how to be a loyal friend.

How do you help your students develop meaningful friendships in your classroom? Do you have activities that work well for you and your students? Please share your ideas in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.