Updated: Jul 26
I recently listened to the "You Can Do Hard Things" podcast by Glennon Doyle, her wife Abby Wambach and Glennon's sister, Amanda Doyle. Their guest was the beautiful actor, Reese Witherspoon. Together, these admirable women talked about friendship. The hour long chat answered poignant questions about making, keeping and ending friendships. As adults, many of us struggle to make and maintain our friendships - with years of experience behind us. We are so busy with our families, our jobs, our responsibilities... but when we find a true friend, man that feels good!
I'm always surprised how quickly kids can make friends. They work in a group and sometimes, they just click! But what about those students who don't click? And what happens when the click becomes a clique? I was never a clicker and never made it into a clique. Whenever a teacher said, "Okay, go get a partner!" I would immediately panic, especially at the start of a school year when things were different and new.
As the teacher now, it is my goal to avoid giving my students those panicked experiences and help them find friendships in the classroom and school that might grow into lifelong friendships or at least have the foundation for encouraging, kind and respectful collaboration. I have three activities that I believe would be helpful for you to do just this :)
1. Speed friend-shipping: This is an awesome freebie that can be used any time of the year! Do you have a brand new set of students and not many of them know each other? This activity works. Do you have a brand new student starting and you want the student to comfortably meet new classmates without being put on the spot? This activity will do just that!
It's simple: divide your students up into two groups and seat them across from each other. Students ask each other questions from the list provided, learning new information about their classmates. Students on one side will move every minute so that each person is facing a new friend to ask questions to. It is a beautiful activity because no one is put on the spot in front of the group and likely, you will hear "No way! Me too!" during this activity. Here, students build the basis for good collaboration: communicating clearly, actively listening and respecting the diversity of their peers.
2. Back to School Following Directions Activity. This is a very fun activity that I recreated because I LOVED the holiday version offered by the excellent teacher author, Tanya Yero. It is so helpful to teach students how to listen! In small groups (think 3 or 4 kids), students take turns reading statements about the fictitious students (trolls!) they have in their class. Group members must listen very carefully to the descriptive statement. The statement will instruct them how to illustrate and color in the named troll on their handout. The trick here is the description can only be read once - so they must have their listening ears on! Click the image below to download your copy of this activity.
3. Collaborative Tasks with PRESSURE! This might sound stressful but it will also build relationships... and really create bonds between your students!
If you are a math, English Language Arts or Science teacher - these games are a guaranteed win.
Student groups must answer basic trivia questions on three worksheets. It might sound easy but wait! If you put the worksheets far apart, students must run, hop, crab walk... whatever you choose... to retrieve the next worksheet. If they don't know an answer, they earn a hint but must complete a group/individual challenge before getting it!
It's HILARIOUS. But what is more important - students will bond over the fun and the silly!
Hopefully these games ease the struggles many students feel during back to school. I titled this blog post "Teammates. Family. Champions." These words are proudly displayed across my classroom. At the beginning of the year, I tell them we are going to be teammates. We will grow to be a family and by the end of the year, they will be champions. I hope your students grow together as well. Sometimes, the bonds we make at school are stronger than those at home. It is our job as educators to make kids feel like they are part of a team, part of a family, and a champion.
I can't wait to hear back from you with the amazing fun you have with your students during back to school! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out!