Well-being and friendship are closely related, and this applies to children as well as adults. Studies found that children with stable friendships are happier, cope better with stress, and have higher self-esteem. Also, school friendships have an impact when it comes to academic success also. Children who experience friendships adapt more easily to school and are better at school. School friendships are also a valuable way to learn social skills like sharing, conflict resolution, and being positive with your peers.
Having friends is an important part of school life, and teachers can play a huge role in creating a positive class culture and helping children and teenagers make friends. So how can you use International Friendship Day on July 30th to foster friendships between your students? Here are a few ideas:
1. Make friendship a central theme in your class
If a book you read with students or in your classroom materials is an example of good friendship, bring it to the attention of your students. For example, The jungle Book is a great example of a story about friendship. Encourage students to think critically about the friendships they are reading about. You can ask questions like:
- What does a good friend do?
- What are the qualities of a good friend?
- What words do you associate with friendship?
By regularly talking about friendship in the classroom, your students will learn the behaviors and traits involved in being a good friend.
Read more about how the power of storytelling can help teach young learners value.
2. Create opportunities for interaction
You can create many opportunities for students to develop friendships with one another during class time. Design activities that require pair or group work and include at least one or two in each lesson. Focusing on a common goal or problem is a great way to encourage your students to bond with one another. And as an added bonus, this collaborative way of working promotes important ones 21st Century Capabilities like communication and problem solving.
Another way to foster friendships between different groups of students is to move them. Adjust your seating plan regularly to ensure that all of your students are interacting and working with different classmates to promote a positive, friendly atmosphere in the classroom.
3. Discuss and model good behavior
Friendship is a social skill children need to learn – and you can help them by teaching it. Make it clear what you want them to do. “Be kind” is an abstract, vague concept that children may find difficult to implement. Instead, give them specific examples of behavior, such as:
- Take turns playing
- Speak respectfully
- Share pens or other resources
If you see a student engaging in these behaviors, draw attention to them and praise them.
But to really convey the importance of school friendships and friendly behavior, it is not enough just to tell them. As a teacher, you need to model the kind of behavior that you want to see in your students. Be consistently positive and upbeat with students, thank your learners when they offer help, and try not to sound impatient (even if you are!). All of these steps will help build a positive classroom culture that will make students feel safe, supported, and happy.
4. Help you cope with difficult situations
Conflict is an inevitable part of school life, but you can help students overcome disputes and other difficult situations in the classroom. If two students have an argument, here are some steps you can take to help them:
- Separate students to give them time to calm down
- Talk to them. Ask about their perspective on the conflict and find out how their day was in general. Sometimes you can better understand a student’s reaction by looking at the bigger picture. Ask them how they are feeling and how they could resolve the situation.
- Bring the students back together to discuss things and work together to find a solution. Reconciliation is the goal.
By following these simple steps, you will teach children a conflict resolution framework and give them the tools to process strong emotions.
5. Do some friendship-oriented activities
A great way to foster a positive classroom culture is to do some friendly activities with your students. International Friendship Day is a great opportunity for these activities:
- You could do a Venn diagram activity in which students work in pairs to discuss and write down similarities and differences. It is good to pair students who do not spend a lot of time together for this activity.
- Another positive activity is a honey roast. Give students enough paper squares to have one for each of their classmates. Have them write the names of their classmates on the paper and write a compliment or something they like about that person on the other side, for example, “I like your handwriting” or “You always use nice words”. Gather the pieces of paper and read some nice examples to the class. Alternatively, give it to the students to read aloud.
You can find more friendship-oriented activities on our blog Five activities for International Friendship Day.
How do you want to celebrate International Friendship Day with your students? Let us know in the comments!