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Teaching Strategies to Build Friendship Skills

Janelle Cox

Students may not get graded on their friendship skills, but having the ability to make and maintain friendship during the elementary years can greatly impact your classroom. The way students navigate their friendship in class can not only affect your classroom dynamic, but the way that your lessons go as well. Studies show 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 many children. Having at least one friend in the classroom can make all the difference in a child’s life. Here are a few teaching strategies for improving friendship skills at the elementary school level. Follow these teaching strategies on how to help your students make meaningful friendships.

Teaching Strategies: Read Stories that Focus on Friendships

Books are a great way to teach friendship skills. Stories like “Making a Difference” by Cheri J. Meiners teachers students kindness, character, and purpose, while the book “I’m Like You, You’re Like Me” by Cindy Gainer teaches students about understanding and appreciating one another for who they are.  

Sharing Friendship Stories

Sharing stories is another great way for children to learn that they are not alone, and that others have been through the same thing that they have been through. As you know, children love to talk about themselves, especially in the elementary grades. So it can really benefit children to help them hear how others have made it through their friendships. For this activity, bring students together on the carpet and have them sit in a circle so everyone can see one another. Then, give students a conversation prompt and a talking stick and allow them to pass the stick and share their thoughts or stories on the prompt that you gave them. Here are a few suggested conversation starters.

  • Think of a time when a friend helped you, what did the friend do? How did it make you feel?
  • Think of time when you got mad at a friend. How did you overcome it? What did you do?
  • 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?

For some students, having the opportunity to share their friendship stories in a small group rather than a large group is easier for them, because children tend to feel more safe and comfortable. Small groups give you the ability to 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 conversation starters when in a small group setting.

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  • Have you ever been teased before? How did it make you feel? Have you ever teased a classmate? Why did you do it?
  • You and your best friend want to do two different things, is this an issue? If so, how can you solve it?
  • Have you ever helped a friend who was sad? What did you do to make them feel better?

Write About Friendship

Students can learn the benefits of how to make a friend or how to be a good friend by completing an individual writing activity. All you have to do is use the same conversation prompts that you did above, but use them as writing prompts. This can be a great way for students who do not feel comfortable sharing in a whole group setting, to express their feelings in writing. Here are a few writing prompt suggestions.

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

Studies show that children who don’t make friends easily are said to be more aggressive and disruptive in school and in their life. As teachers, we can make a difference by providing our students with tips on how to navigate their relationships with their peers. By proving them this opportunity to learn about friendships, and how to care for them, as well as how to be a loyal friend, we are giving them the tools they need to succeed in school and in life.

Do you have any tips on how to help your students develop meaningful friendships? Please share your teaching strategies and ideas on this topic in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.


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 Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.