As a teacher, you will use many informal strategies to nurture friendships among students. For a few students, you may collaborate with a special educator or counselor in using a formal instructional package that builds student social skills. However, a third option also exists. Particularly with elementary students, you may decide to teach friendship skills directly using these steps:

  1. Identify someone to whom you can introduce yourself . Students should examine their surroundings and find someone with whom they would like to play or talk. Students should be given examples of how people look when they want to play or talk. To illustrate, the teacher can use pictures of students engaging in a variety of activities—for example, a student finishing a homework assignment, a student coloring alone, a student with a sad face, and a student with a happy face.
  2. Smile and approach the person. The teacher should model walking up to someone with a smile on her face. Students should practice this while approaching a peer.
  3. Introduce yourself. Students should say their names, ask the other person his name, and look at the person and smile. The teacher should continue modeling.
  4. Ask open-ended questions to get and give information. Students can ask the other student what he is playing with, what's happening, and so forth. Students need to know that open-ended questions have answers of more than two or three words. Students should remember to look at the person and smile. The teacher now can ask two students to model for the class, or the teacher can continue modeling. A list of questions can be provided for the students if they are able to read, or the teacher can provide questioning prompts. This step will depend on the level of the students.
  5. Suggest something to play or do together. Students should find some activity or game to play on the playground, during free time, or during passing period. The teacher can prompt pairs to engage in an activity and provide ideas for students so their interaction will continue.

Once students have learned these skills, you can provide them with simple reminder cards with words and/or pictures so they can practice on their own. Teaching these steps will be even more effective if you use children's literature to illustrate how friends are made. Some books about making friends include the following:

Books for Students Preschool through Middle School

  • Aliki, We Are Best Friends
  • Anglund, J.W.,  A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You
  • Barkin, J.C, & James, E., Are We Still Best Friends?
  • Berenstain, S., & Berenstain, J, The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Friends
  • Cohen, M., Will I Have a Friend?
  • Crary, E., I Want to Play
  • De Regniers, B.S., May I Bring a Friend?
  • Holabird, K., Angelina and Alice
  • Iwasaki, C., Will You Be My Friend?
  • Lystad, M., That New Boy
  • Moncure, J B., A New Boy in Kindergarten
  • Prather, R., New Neighbors
  • Robinson, N. K., Wendy and the Bullies
  • Stevenson, J, Fast Friends: Two Stories
  • Viorst, J, Rosie and Michael

Books for Students Middle School through High School

  • Arrick, F., What You Don't Know Can Kill You
  • Bauer, J., Thwonk!
  • Creech, S., Absolutely Normal Chaos
  • Draper,S., Tears of a Tiger
  • Kindl, P., Owl in Love
  • Lester, J., Othello
  • Lowry, L., The Giver
  • Mahy, M., The Catalogue of the Universe
  • McDaniel, L., Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
  • Myers, W. D., Darnell Rock Reporting III Naylor, P. R., Shiloh
  • Wiethorn, R.J, Rock Finds a Friend
  • Wolff, V.E., Make Lemonade
  • Woodson, J., I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This
  • Zolotow, C., The New Friend

Sources: Adapted from Madison Public Library, "Friends Like These ... Books for Young Teens about Friendship," retrieved March 15,2005, from booklists/friends.html; and "Friendship and Stories: Using Children's Literature to Teach Friendship Skills to Children with Learning Disabilities" [electronic version], by K. L. DeGeorge, 1998, Intervention in School and Clinic, 33, pp. 157-162. Copyright © 1998 by the Hammill Institute on Disabilities. Reprinted with permission.