Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one!” February 11, 2017 is Make a Friend Day! This is an excellent opportunity to focus on friendships in your classroom or school. But what if you have a student who struggles with the very concept of making a friend? How can you help? Here are a few ideas to ensure you are helping students who may struggle with forming friendships so they can succeed on Make a Friend Day and in the future.
First and foremost, if students are unable to create friendships, it is likely they do not possess the skill. If that is the case, just like with math or reading, we must teach them. It is imperative that students who struggle with social skills are provided explicit instruction in the area of need. This may include identifying a potential friend, asking open ended questions or even inviting a peer to play. Modeling of the specific friendship skill for the student will also help solidify the behavior as will guided and independent practice. The more opportunities the student has to use their new skill, the more likely the student will master it.
Sharing stories is another way that children can learn to make new friends. You may consider calling all of your students to the carpet or having a guided discussion surrounding friendships. A teacher or facilitator could give a starter like, “Think of a time when you helped a friend. How did your friend react? How did you feel?” This allows students to share their experiences and allows students who may struggle with the concept an opportunity to hear how other students navigate friendships. Children tend to learn quite a bit from each other if given the chance.
Finally, create a culture for belonging and friendships in your classroom by building community in the classroom. Ensure EVERY student in your room feels safe and accepted. Model this for students every day. Work to accentuate the positive. When you see positive friendship behaviors, name them so the students can see them as well.
Celebrate Make a Friend Day in your classroom on February 11, 2017. Tell us below about how you help students create friendships when it may be a challenge. What works?
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