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Teaching Strategies to Instill Friendship Skills

Janelle Cox

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.

Teaching Strategies to Discuss 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.


Good Friends vs Bad Friends

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.

Qualities of Good Friends

  • Trustworthy - You can tell them anything and know that they would never go behind your back.
  • Selfless - These are the friends who are always there to help no matter what it is.
  • Forgiving - While all friendships may go through ups and downs, these friends know when it’s a misunderstanding and are able to forgive and forget.
  • Honest - A good friend will always be honest with you even when it may hurt your feelings.
  • Non-Judgmental - A good friend is non-judgmental. They accept you for who you are rather than judge you or expect you to be exactly like them.

Qualities of Bad Friends

  • They use you - This is a person who likes to hang around you because they like what you have. (example: They only talk to you in the summer because you have a pool)
  • Are Self-centered - This type of “Friend” only thinks about themselves. They think the world revolves only around them and always have an opinion about something.
  • Are Fake - This is the person who may be nice to your face, but turn around and talk about you behind your back.
  • Are Not Accepting – These are the friends who are always trying to change you in some way. They want you to fit in to be more like them. 
  • They Ignore You - This is the “Friend” that only talks to you when it’s convenient for them. They also tend to ignore you when you are in a group of two or more people.  

Friendship Activities

Here are a few classroom activities that will help solidify what true friendships should like.

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Sharing Stories

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.

  • Think of a time when a friend helped you, what did the friend do?
  • Think of time when you got mad at a friend. How did you overcome it?
  • Think about a time that you had to encourage a friend, what did you do?
  • Have you ever been teased before? How did it make you feel?
  • Have you ever helped a friend who was sad? What did you do to make them feel better?

Writing About Friendship

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.

  • I am an inspiration to my friends because …
  • I think it’s important to have friends because …
  • Friendship, to me, means …
  • A bad friend has these qualities …
  • I make my friends feel better by …
  • I help by friends when they are in need by …

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 Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at