During my 16-year teaching career, I have learned that when you work hard to create a community of learners, behavior problems go down and the level of student engagement goes up. Teamwork is a large part of the academic and professional world. So learning to communicate and befriend others is an important skill for children to learn.
Many teachers spend a large amount of time at the beginning of the school year incorporating community-building activities and strategies into their classes. Because community building is such an important aspect of student learning, teachers must continue to revisit and build upon activities and strategies that strengthen student relationships in the classroom.
Valentine’s Day is a great time to celebrate friendships and to revisit the importance of working together in the classroom. Take a look at some of the activities I incorporate into my classroom on this day of love and friendship.
Although you may hear your students talking about their friends, many of them don't know what a good friend is. Read Do You Want to Be My Friend? by Eric Carle. Discuss with your students all the animals the mouse meets before he finds his special friend. Then have your students brainstorm what they think makes a good friend. After your discussion, present them with several different scenarios and have them identify which is an act of a friend and which is not.
This activity should be completed after you have discussed the characteristics of a friend. Give each of your students a small heart with the name of a classmate on it. Have each student write one adjective that describes that classmate on the heart. Glue each student's small heart to the large heart in the classroom. Hang it in the classroom so students can remember the qualities of a good friend.
By this time in the school year, your students are well aware of the names of their classmates. But can they recognize their voices? This fun game tests that ability. To play this game, select one student to be "it." This child should sit with his eyes closed in front of the other students. Select a student to walk up behind him and say, "I’m your friend," in a regular voice. After the second student returns to his seat, the student who is "it" must guess who it was.
Cooperative learning activities promote friendship and teamwork in the classroom. Divide your class into small groups of four to five students. Give each group the pieces of a broken heart (made from butcher paper). Each group must work together to mend their broken heart before time runs out. The first group to repair their heart wins the game!
Give each of your students one half of a broken heart cut in different ways. Instruct the students to move around until they find the classmate with the matching heart. Once all the students have found their partners, explain that for the day, they will work and play with their partner. Encourage students to learn at least two new things about their partner and share it during closing circle.
It’s Mine! by Leo Lionni
Friends at School by Rochelle Bunnett
How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
Clifford Makes a Friend by Norman Bridwell
Friends by Helme Heine
What activities do you use to build community and friendship in your classroom?