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readilearn: Learning to be friends – unleash your friendship superpower

  • Published on July 27, 2018

learning to be friends is an important part of social-emotional development in early childhood classrooms

Sometimes we expect that all we have to do for children to make friends is to put them in close proximity to other children. We may see it happen at the park, in a playground, in a shopping centre, at school. Children are attracted to other children, but it is not always easy for them to make friends. We should no more expect them to get along than we would expect adults thrown together at a party, conference or other social situation to become friends immediately.

While some children are gregarious and will talk to anyone, others may be more introverted and less inclined to make the first move. But whether extrovert or introvert, children need to learn how to interact with others in ways that encourage friendships to be made. The development of social-emotional skills, including empathy or understanding how others feel, is an important part of becoming a friend.

Make friendship skills lessons an ongoing part of your program

Lessons in how to be a friend need to be an ongoing part of any class program. While many teachers allocate some time for getting to know each other at the beginning of the school year, it is important to maintain the focus throughout the year. As children mature and interact with others, they will encounter a greater variety of situations with which they need to deal.

It is not always necessary to timetable or set up specific lessons. Sometimes the spontaneous discussions before and after break times can help highlight needs and alert you to who is having trouble in the playground. These focused incident-specific discussions can help resolve issues and prevent them from escalating.

As new children enter the class, they also need to be introduced and made to feel welcome and included. It is important for the introductions to go both ways. New children have many others to get to know; the existing class members have only one, and it may be difficult for a new child to settle into established groups. It is necessary to establish procedures that will help a child settle while more permanent friendships are being formed. For example, friendship buddies could be allocated to show the child around and help them become familiar with school routines and behaviour expectations.

Establish a supportive classroom environment

One of the best ways of ensuring that children feel friendly towards each other is by establishing a supportive classroom environment in which children have a sense of belonging, feel respected and valued.

Previous posts about establishing a supportive classroom environment include Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one. A search of resources using the words ‘supportive classroom’ will bring up a list of other related posts and resources.

results when searching for key word supportive classroom

Similar searches using the words ‘friends’ and ‘friendship skills’ will bring up lists of other resources, or source them from the category Character Development — Friendship Skills.

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.

these surveys are great for helping children and teachers get to know each other

Sing your way to friendship

There is nothing like singing to get everyone smiling and put them in a positive frame of mind. I always began the day with a positive song and often sang others throughout the day. Sometimes we ended the day with a song too. Other times, we finished with a chant.

busy bee chants about being happy about being in grade one, can be adapted to other year levels

Songs from the Special As I Can Be CD by Anne Infante are a great way to start each day. The CD is a collection of songs of affirmation which children enjoy and love to join in singing. On many occasions, children in my class would break out into song while working on other tasks during the day. Happy children singing is music to the ears and heart.

Another of my favourite songs about friendship to sing with the children is You’ve Got A Friend In Me by Randy Newman from the Toy Story movie. I’m sure you have favourites of your own as well. Please let me know in the comments what they are.

Partner games and clapping songs are also a fun way of getting children interacting with each other. You can get them to engage with others, not just their ‘best friend’, by employing different ways of allocating partners or playing the games as a progressive activity in which children move to the next partner around the circle.

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.

introducing new resources on readilearn

This week I have uploaded new resources on the theme of using your Friendship Superpower to be a Friendship Superhero.

They include:

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.

The posters are available in three colour formats for printing choice.

printable badges that can be used as incentives or rewards for displaying good friendship skills

Friendship Superhero badges 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.

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 Scenario 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 for discussing friendship skills and what a friendship superhero would do

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 not to 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 is a great strategy for children to use when encountering problems in the playground

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

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

As a further aid to discussion about friendship, I have uploaded the Busy Bees ABC of friendship which 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.

Please let me know if there are any other resources you would like included in the series.

readilearn: teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
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Comments

    Lovely post Norah! I agree the development of social and friendly skills is so important. Singing and clapping are wonderful tools. Maybe a little time could be set aside for children to write a short note following on from the words ‘I feel happy today because …’, ‘I feel sad today because …’.

    What a great suggestion, Susan. It is important to have words to describe our feelings, and to acknowledge them too. There doesn’t always seem to be time to do that in a busy classroom. Combining it with time for writing gives an additional purpose. It also encourages children to think about ways of expressing their feelings with words.

    Every child needs to feel welcome and valued and have a sense of belonging at school.

    Friendship and acceptance among children is very important, Norah. Both of my sons schools do this very well and we very rarely have issues with the children and unkindness and bullying at either of their schools.

    How pleasing that must be for you, Robbie. How wonderful that your sons attend such good schools. I wish all were as good.

    I love all the goodness you share for raising healthy and happy children Norah. You said it – friendship is indeed a superpower. Perhaps some adults could learn from this too. 🙂

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Debby. Perhaps if they learn it in childhood, they will carry it into adulthood. That’s my hope and intention. 🙂

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

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