How to Encourage Classroom Friendships at School
Helping your primary school pupils to develop classroom friendships at school is vitally important. Not only will it provide the foundation for a more harmonious classroom environment, it will also help children develop great social and communication skills which they will continue to use throughout their lives, provide them with a sense of stability and inclusivity, and help them to enjoy their time at school.
Teachers play a crucial role when it comes to helping children create, develop and maintain friendships within the classroom. This is particularly true for pupils of primary school age who may not have yet developed the social skills necessary to successfully make friends on their own.
It’s Friendship Day happens annually in the Summer, so what better time for teachers to think about how they can help encourage the formation of friendships and inclusivity in the classroom?
Here are our suggestions!
Create opportunities for interaction
It is up to teachers to help children get to know one another, work together and solve problems together. Creating opportunities for social interaction will help children naturally bond by tackling tasks, coming up with solutions and hopefully having fun in the process too!
Some examples of great classroom activities which will encourage children to develop friendships are:
‘Getting to know you’
At the beginning of a new term or year, help children get to know one another by hosting a ‘getting to know you session.’ Children can take it in turns to introduce themselves to the class, say their favourite things they have been doing over the holidays, and if they have any pets, hobbies or interests. This is useful for teachers to know too as they can then use this information to encourage conversations between well-matched pupils later.
Children love telling stories, so why not set up a weekly storytelling session where children can read their favourite stories, make up stories themselves or simply tell the class fun and interesting things they have been doing outside of the classroom? This encourages children to share, laugh and get to know one another better in a relaxed atmosphere.
Activities in pairs or small groups
When you can, try to make part of each lesson an activity session where children pair off or break into small groups to complete a task or project. This will encourage children to talk to each other on a one to one basis, and also helps to develop communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills.
‘What friendship means to me’
Encouraging children to think about friendship themselves will highlight the benefits and values of developing connections with others, help them appreciate their friendships more, and increase their desire to make new friends too. Also, teachers can encourage more sensitive discussions around feeling left out or teased. Ask children if they have ever felt this way, or have ever acted meanly towards another pupil and why they did it, or how it made them feel.
Classroom behaviour agreement
Coming up with a classroom behaviour agreement can be a helpful way to encourage children to think about what it means to behave well. Work with your pupils to come up with some rules on how to behave in the classroom. These can include things like not talking when the teacher talks, but also about how to be respectful and kind to one another too. If children feel involved in the rule-making process they are more likely to stick to them. You can write all the agreed rules down and stick them up on your wall so that you can refer to them throughout the year.
Another way to help children come out of their shell and feel more confident is by creating compliment cards. Children write their names on a piece of card and then pass it round to each member of the classroom who has to write one nice thing about them. Children can keep their cards for themselves or you could pin them up around the walls instead.
Find out individual pupils interests and strengths
By identifying each student’s interests, teachers will be able to make informed judgements about which children are likely to form friendships. If children find things in common or things they both like to do together this could be a firm basis for a friendship! Encourage children to talk about what they like through activities or games to help them form bonds with like minded children. Understanding pupils strengths is also useful as teachers can use this knowledge to bring students together and encourage them to help one another as well.
Teach and encourage good social skills
Younger children often need to be prompted in order to understand how to interact in a socially acceptable way. Spend time with your class helping them to understand what good behaviour is, how to be welcoming and inclusive, and encourage your class to practice and develop these social skills during lessons and activities.
Encourage friendships to develop outside the classroom too
Extra-curricular activities and community events are a great way to ensure that children further develop and strengthen their friendships outside the classroom. Support children (and parents) in joining groups and teams and keep parents informed about developing classroom friendships to encourage them to support their children continue their friendships outside of school, too.
Research suggests that children who develop strong friendships in the classroom feel less stressed, more confident and actually perform better academically, too. This demonstrates that friendships really are a crucial part of school life, and teachers should do all that they can to help children form friendships and understand the importance of being inclusive, sympathetic and kind to their fellow classmates.