Educate for peace through teaching friendship skills

  • Published on July 24, 2020

The UN International Day of Friendship on 30 July promotes friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals in order to inspire peace and build bridges between communities.

Education has an important role in fostering friendships at a grassroots level that can transform communities both small and large. We begin by developing respect, understanding and empathy among students in our classrooms and schools and reaching out to others in our local, national and international communities.

The basis for developing friendships in the classroom is the establishment of a supportive classroom environment in which everyone is welcomed and respected. It means that we, as a class, teachers and children, get to know each other and learn to appreciate our similarities and value our differences.

Establish a supportive classroom environment

I have suggested strategies for establishing a supportive classroom environment in previous posts, including:

Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one

Starting out right — classroom organisation

Preparing the classroom for a successful school year

The posts link to resources to support your work in setting up a welcoming classroom.

A couple of my favourite picture books that support these ideas are

All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Whoever You Are

Whoever You are by Mem Fox and  Leslie Staub

Teach friendship skills

In this post, I focus on resources to support your teaching of friendship skills. These lessons and activities are suitable for use all year round, beginning from day one and continuing until the end of the year. Friendships skills are not something to be taught once and then forgotten. They need to be developed throughout the year. Making friends does not come easily to all, so teaching strategies to support the making and keeping of friendships is important.

If you wish, you can jump straight to the readilearn friendship skills resources to see what is available, or read through the descriptions of selected resources below to get started.

Friendship is a superpower

Help children to see that, although they may have some special friends, they can be friendly towards everyone. No one should be excluded. Everyone should be included.

Explain that being friendly towards others encourages others to be friendly towards them. Being a friend is like a superpower. It helps everyone, including yourself, have a good day and a happy life.

friendship superpower posters is a series of posters to support the development of friendship skills in an early childhood classroom

Friendship superpower posters is a set of eight posters presenting four different statements, each with a boy or girl Friendship Superhero:

  • Friendship is my superpower! Who can I help today?
  • Be a Friendship Superhero. Turn the sad to glad.
  • Unleash your friendship superpower.
  • I am a friendship superhero, spreading smiles wherever I go.

Friendship Superhero badges

Friendship Superhero badges (available with the boy and with the girl) can be printed and used as incentives or rewards for friendly behaviour.

a printable award to give to children who show admirable friendship skills

The Friendship Superhero Award can be printed and distributed to acknowledge special effort in being friendly and kind towards others.

friendship superheroes gives children the opportunity of writing about actions they take that make them good friends

Friendship Superheroes are printable sheets which children can use for writing about the ways in which they show kindness to others by being good friends.

scenarios to encourage children to discuss friendly actions appropriate in different situations

Friendship Scenarios discussion starters presents a series of everyday situations which children may encounter. Discussion of the scenarios will provide children with strategies they can employ should they encounter similar situations.

For example:

Friendship scenario - feeling sad

Remind children that if they find themselves in the ‘sad’ situation, they can be their own superhero. They don’t need to wait for someone else to come and rescue them — they can rescue themselves.

It is important to not ask the children to act out the sad situations as we do not want the children to unnecessarily feel the associated emotions by role-playing them. Instead get the children to act out what they would do in unleashing their friendship superpower.

The high-5 strategy

Remind children that the high-5 is a good starting strategy to use if they are experiencing a problem in the playground.

the high-5 is a great strategy for children to use when encountering problems in the playground

Perhaps they also need strategies to use if there’s no one to play with. For example, they could:

  • Look for someone else who looks lonely – ask “Can I play?” or “Will you play with me?”
  • Approach children who are playing a game, ask “Can I play?”
  • Make up their own game; play with a ball or skipping rope, maybe someone will want to join in with them.
  • Go to the library and find a good book to read, or maybe some children to play with there.

Children may have suggestions of their own which could be presented on a chart as reminders.

Develop a friendship vocabulary

an alphabet of friendship words to use when teaching friendship skills in early childhood classroom

The Busy Bees ABC of friendship presents an alphabet of friendship words to assist understanding. Each letter is presented individually on a page. Additionally, the entire alphabet of friendship words is presented on one page which can be printed and displayed in the classroom or laminated and presented to children as reminders.

an alphabet of friendship words to use when teaching friendship skills in an early childhood classroom

Discussing bullying

teaching ideas for encouraging children to be friends not bullies

Be friends not bullies teaches children to identify the differences between friendly and unfriendly behaviour and to recognise bullying. It provide strategies for dealing with bullying that they may encounter personally or as an onlooker.

The resource includes:

  • a story to use as a starting point for discussions about friendly and bullying behaviour
  • ideas for presenting the story
  • questions and issues to discuss
  • follow up activities
  • games for developing friendship skills
  • a poster to print and display.

Topics for discussion include:

  • surprises
  • bullying
  • being mean
  • being friendly
  • the responsibility of onlookers or bystanders
  • the need to talk to somebody safe

Does a friend have to be just like me?

Mouse and Crow – a stimulus for writing enables whole class discussion about friendships and stimulates imaginations for writing.

The resource contains a series of images and questions to get the children thinking about friendship, who can be a friend, and what friends do. The images focus on the unlikely friendship of a mouse and a crow. Children are asked to consider circumstances that may have led to these two being friends.

It includes:

  • slides to stimulate discussion of:
    • mice and crows
    • what it means to be a friend
    • under what circumstances a mouse and a crow could be friends
  • a retelling of the Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse
  • teaching suggestions, including of a video to watch
  • an original fable Crow and Mouse

Topics for discussion include:

  • friendship
  • what friends do
  • how you know someone is a friend
  • friends can be diverse

Getting to know each other

While the beginning of the year is a good time to start getting to know each other, activities that help children know each other better can be used at any time of the year. Remember to have strategies and activities ready to help new children feel welcome when they arrive in your class throughout the year.

Getting to know you surveys

Getting to know you surveys are a good way to help break the ice and form friendships with everyone in the class. Of course, we can’t expect children to be best friends with everyone, but we can expect them to be friendly with everyone. The surveys can be used to find out how many people there are in their families, if they have a pet and what their favourite colour or food might be. The surveys are conducted as a whole class.

me and my friends getting to know each other

Me and my friends provides a stimulus for children to interview each other to find out in what ways they are similar and different. They come to realise that their similarities and differences don’t make them better or worse. They make them who they are.

Me and My Buddy - interview sheet

Me and My buddy is a similar stimulus for interviewing their buddy from another class.

These are just some of the readilearn lessons and activities that support your teaching of friendship skills. Check out all the friendship skills resources here.

readilearn teaching resources for the first three years of school

And while you’re here check out the complete readilearn collection of

over 400 teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
Let readilearn lighten your workload.

Browse resources now

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    teaching friendship seems as important as teaching math and reading. looks like you have put together a wonderful set of resource to help teachers and students learn about friendship.

    I agree, Jim – almost – I think it’s more important. 🙂

    I was thinking the same thing, but since I’m not a professional early educator, I didn’t want to make such a statement! 🙂

    Thank you, Robbie. Yes, learning friendship skills and sharing is an important part of education.

    I love this initiative Norah. So important to learn about friendship. That’s the thing I worry about the children being out of school so long wth Covid. They need interaction, just as adults, only they aren’t used to these new times. 🙂 x

    Thank you, Debby. I agree, I think these times are difficult for all of us. Adults are struggling, even we we are able to rationalise the purpose of the restrictions. It must be very difficult for young ones, “But why can’t I play with my friends?”

    Hi Norah, The two picture books look beautiful and carry the supportive messages. I believe the recent advice in our part of the world is to limit the number of friends at school. Friends they actually hang out with, due to limiting the number of people in their bubble. Of course, the message should still be kindness and “no one should be excluded.” I believe the teachers and parents will be mindful and have strategies in place. I have teacher friends and I will share these great resources. 🙂 Erica

    Thanks so much for your lovely words of support, Erica. It is sad that young children (and older ‘children’ of all ages) have fewer opportunities now for in-person socialisation. As you say though, kindness is important no matter how far apart or close to each other we are.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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