By Teachers, For Teachers
Making friends and “Fitting in” is usually at the top of the list when it comes to survival tactics for middle schoolers. The need for peer acceptance is at an all-time high during these years, and strongly affects the choices that tweens and teens make – so much so that it can greatly impact your classroom. In fact, the way students navigate their friendships in the classroom can not only affect your overall classroom dynamic, but also the way that your lessons and teaching strategies go. Studies have shown that having friends can help ease the stress of children, and 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. That’s why it’s so important (especially in the middle school years) to use teaching strategies that help your students make meaningful friendships. You can do this my having students partake in classroom discussions and activities that focus on friendship making and what a “Good friend” and “Bad friend” may look like. Here we’ll take a closer look at the characteristics of good and bad friends, as well as a few teaching strategies that focus on friendships.
Learning how to maintain friendships in middle school is important. There are several qualities that “Good” friends have, as well as several qualities that “Bad” friends may display. Start the conversation about friendships with students by discussing what a “Good friend” and a “Bad friend” each look like. Write each of these “Identifiers” as students brainstorm them on the front board, so students can compare the two. Here is an example of what that may look like.
|A Good Friend ...||While a Bad Friend…|
|Helps when you need it||Doesn’t try and help you|
|Cares about you||Only cares about themselves|
|Keeps your secrets||Talks behind your back|
|Shares things with you||Makes fun of you to your face as well as to others|
|Treats you with respect||Doesn’t treat you well|
Once students are done brainstorming, then you can go into more detail about what each quality (both good and bad) looks like. Here is an example of what that may look like.
Here are a few classroom activities that will help solidify what true friendships should like.
Sharing stories is another great way for middle schoolers to learn that they are not alone. It gives them the chance to see that their peers may have been through the same thing that they have been through. While sometimes middle schoolers are reluctant to talk about personal situations in front of their peers, you can also have students talk in small groups for this activity rather than in a large group. Here are a few suggested conversation starters.
Students can learn the benefits of how to make a friend or be a good friend, as well as how to identify a bad friend by completing an individual writing activity. This is a great way for students who do not feel comfortable sharing in a group setting, to express their feelings in writing. Here are a few writing prompt suggestions.
As teachers, we can make a difference by providing our students with the knowledge on how to navigate their friendships with their peers. By providing them with this information, through discussions and classroom activities, students will learn about good and bad friendships, how to care for them, as well as how to be a loyal friend. These are all tools they will need to succeed in school and in life.
Do you have any tips or teaching strategies that build friendship skills to middle schoolers? Please share your thoughts 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.