These four activities will provide students opportunities to enhance friendships.
Describe factors that influence relationships with family and friends.
Since building peer relationships and creating a caring classroom community is an ongoing process requiring daily opportunities to enhance friendships, this activity is comprised of four 15-minute activities that can be done separately or in combination and can be repeated often throughout the school year. Activity #1, Getting to Know You, is especially effective at the beginning of the school year as the children are learning names and faces of class members. The other activities can be introduced anytime, taught in any order, and repeated throughout the year using a variation of original activity. Activity #2, Circle of Friendship, works well to enhance relationships because circles are so inclusive. People face each other, creating a feeling of belonging. There is no front or back and no first or last. Everyone belongs. Avoid competition and games where people are tagged or cast out. Activity #3, Conflict/ Resolution, can be done as often as time and interest dictate. Most children respond well to puppets so using them to lead a discussion can be effective depending on the instructor's comfort level. If possible, try to use puppets representing a variety of ethnicities. Vary the story and discussion questions to fit different social issues that arise in class. Activity #4, Buddy Art, works well as an extension following any friendship story or activity. Have children work in pairs to create a piece of art. This requires communicating, negotiating and compromising. Give children freedom to choose whatever materials and theme they want. Be sure to celebrate all and avoid criticism and competition.
Prior to Activity #1, send home the Getting To Know You page to be filled out at home and returned, or complete at school if necessary. Children should bring their paper back with a picture and questions answered. Give them a reasonable deadline. Preassessment or kindergarten orientation is a good time to send this paper home with child and parent, to be returned the first week of kindergarten. At the beginning of each day collect the completed papers to be read and shared later in class. After each student has shared his paper, place it in a binder using sheet protectors to create a class book. This book can be a favorite! Keep it accessible all year for the children to browse through. Children never seem to tire of reading about themselves and their new friends.
2. Develop social skills and ethical responsibility.
3. Demonstrate responsible emotional and cognitive behaviors
Invitation to Learn
Have the children return their Get To Know You paper (or can be filled out at school). The questions should be answered and a picture of self glued in the box. Place in the front of the room near a special chair to be read at a later time. Tell them we are creating a special friendship book and they are the authors. Show the children the binder that their papers will go into. Express your enthusiasm to read about everyone.
Getting To Know You (Part 1)
Words and actions for "Twinkle Friends", from Dr Jean's Kiss Your Brain CD (2003)
(Tune: "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star")
Twinkle, twinkle little star (Children face partner and gently touch and wiggle fingertips)
What a special friend you are.
From your head to your toes. (Touch head then toes) We are special friends you know. (Hold hands and circle around.)
Twinkle, twinkle little star. (Children touch fingertips)
What a special friend you are. (Give partner a hug)
Now go find another friend, (Change partners)
And we'll twinkle once again.
Other transitions between verses:
Now, take a little hike
Find another friend you like.
Now we'll sing one more time.
Won't you be a friend of mine?
Circle of Friendship (Part 2)
Gather in an open space large enough for students to form a big circle. Push back tables and chairs, if needed.
Getting Along: Conflict/Resolution (Part 3)
Buddy Art (Part 4)
Direct the children to create a piece of art in self selected partnerships. Give each pair one large piece of art paper. Provide a variety of materials to choose from. Allow freedom to create a wide variety of art. Use the puppets to visit and talk with the children as they work on their friendship art. Celebrate all the art when finished. Then display their "buddy art" on a friendship wall.
Additional Friendship Activities
Nice Notes: Everyone loves a hand written note. Write each name on a paper and place in a basket, box, or whatever container available. Children pick a name and create a letter or card for that person. Can use words, pictures, designs, and even scribbles for younger children. They all send a message of friendship. Provide a mailbox system for delivery such as boxes, cubbies, or classroom slots. Post "nice words" for the children to use as a reference while they write their own messages. Nice words might include: like, love, cute, happy, cool, awesome, fun, wonderful, friend, etc. February is a great time to do this as they make valentines, but anytime is fun. Repeat often.
Friendship Riddles: Children love guessing games and here is a fun, easy one. It reinforces the positive and helps create good feelings.
Examples "I'm thinking about a helpful girl who is wearing a pink sweater with a kitty on the front. She has beautiful long brown braids with ribbons. If you know who she is, say her name then stand and turn around 3 times."
"I'm thinking about a boy who is a very good reader. He has curly black hair and a big smile. If you know who he is, say his name and give him a thumbs up."
Call and Response Chants & Rounds : Traditional rounds, such as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" create opportunities for children to listen, sing together, and feel their importance with the whole group. It's beautiful to hear the harmony of different parts sung at the same time. Call and response chants have proven to be traditional favorites in all cultures around the world.
Buddy Works: Have children create works of art in pairs. Let them choose their own materials and themes. Clay is a good medium to use in groups. Divide in 1⁄2 or 1⁄4 then work together to create a whole. They learn cooperation and friendliness as they enjoy the exciting process.
Friend Ship: As a group, create a boat. Can use any art form or make out of scrounged objects. Work together. Into the boat put images of all the children. Add art, stories, songs, poems the children create for their friends in the Friend Ship. Illustrate and display.
Family Place Mats: Give the children plain sheets of paper to design place mats for their family members. Include the person's name and any pictures or designs that person would enjoy. Teach about symbols and add a symbol that represents that special person. Laminate and send home as a gift.
Friends Play Together: Don't forget that children need many opportunities to work and play together in non-threatening, non-competitive situations.
Adapted from Creative Experiences for Young Children by Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld
Additional Circle Activities
Sit in a circle to listen to story or sing a song. Lead children in actions that support the words. Improvisation is fun.
Create different emotions. Make a happy circle. Show with your faces and bodies what a happy circle would look like. Now make a sad circle. Continue with different emotions.
How many ways can we move our circle (hop, skip, slide, walk backward, turn inside out, slide, etc.)?
Choose a leader to be in middle. Everyone follows actions/movements of the leader. Let everyone who wants to have a turn. Do not force the hesitant child.
Create a quiet circle, a giggling circle, a noisy circle, a clapping circle, a singing circle. Add whatever kind you and your children think of.
Make funny faces at the people around or across from you.
Roll a ball to each child and ask a question. After answering the child rolls the ball back. This would be a good review activity, e.g. literacy or numerical skills or it would be fun to ask personal, getting to know you questions, e.g "What is your favorite color?"
Form a Dance Circle. Put on music and let children dance freely inside the circle. African, Native American, or Caribbean music work well, or choose your favorite sounds and rhythms. The children will vary their movement to fit the various music styles.
Make a 10 speed circle. Begin walking slowly then gradually speed up until you are in the fast mode. Then gradually slow back down.
Pretend your circle is a balloon. Start holding hands and stand close together. Slowly spread apart as if blowing up a balloon. Take deep breaths and exaggerate your breathing. When as large as possible you could either pretend the balloon "pops" and the children let go of hands then fall to ground or carefully bring the children back in close together as if the air has gone out of the balloon.
Pass around an imaginary shape. The shape can change with each person. Try to guess what shape each child is holding.
Circles work well for a show-and-tell pass around; or for science when you have an interesting object, such as sea shell, for each child to hold and touch.
Circle ideas are limitless!! Think of your own and have fun!
Adapted from Creative Experiences for Young Children by Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld
Curriculum Extensions/Adaptations/ Integration
Get to Know You page can be a home connection.
Assessments for these activities are by observation and listening. Observe who easily makes friends and who has trouble choosing a partner. Watch for the child who is uncomfortable in group activities or has trouble sharing. Intervene and assist when necessary to assist children who are timid and hesitant. Show them how to ask someone to be their partner. Allow the shy child to observe if chooses. Invite him/her to join in when ready. Don't force. Listen to individual comments during discussions. The children will guide and direct you concerning their interpersonal relationships.
Brown, W., Odom, S.L., Conroy, M.A. (2001) An intervention hierarchy for promoting young children's peer interactions in natural environments. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education 21 930 162-175.
Researchers developed a hierarchy for promoting young children's peer relationships in the classroom. The foundation is a solid base of developmentally appropriate practices that promote children's engagement with materials and peers (meaningful learning centers, cooperative play) within an inclusive classroom. Teachers build on that with affective interventions (prompts, encouragements) to influence attitudes. Children who have difficulty with peer interactions benefit from additional friendship activities, incidental teaching of social behaviors, social integration activities, and--if necessary--explicit teaching of social skills.
Bredekamp,S. & Copple,C., (eds). (1997) Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Early Childhood Programs (rev.ed.). Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. 116, 168.
In order to create a community of caring within the classroom, young children need daily opportunities to interact with their classmates. They are capable of cooperative play with peers and forming friendships; however, the development of social skills is not automatic. Teachers need to supervise, coach and prompt their students in order to maintain appropriate behaviors. Children do not learn to control aggression by being harshly punished or shamed but rather by learning alternatives to aggression for resolving conflicts. They need to communicate their needs and feelings verbally.