This Mini-lesson is designed to help develop friendships in the classroom. A second goal is to later connect the idea of friendship built upon students' personal lives to friendship issues they encounter as themes in their independent reading and in our mentor text read alouds. This second goal will be persued later in the unit.
Gather students on the rug and say, "Today students you will participate in a small group activity (see the reflection) and share out to the whole class on the topic of friendships. Maybe you have heard the song "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold." It's like that in our classroom. You have some old friends and now this year you have the opportunity to develop new friendships while maintaining your old ones! Doesn't that sound like fun? Today you will be in one of three groups making an anchor chart to share with the whole class. Group one will make a chart about ways to maintain friendships. Group two will make a chart about ways to start a conversation with someone you don't know very well, and group three will make a chart about the characteristics of a good friend. If you have any questions about your topic the adults in the room will be available to answer them. Raise your hand if you need help while your group is working."
"Once you get in your groups you will each have the chance to write your ideas about the topic. I want you to take turns writing and support one another by staying focused on the task. You will have about 15 minutes to make your chart. That means you will each have about 2 minutes you write your idea on the chart."
Show lists of students in each group and dismiss students to work at a table group on their posters.
Dismiss students to each of the three table groups that have the anchor chart paper with the heading written at the top. Provide a small bin of marks for the student to use containing different colors. I like to have students each pick a different color and to write their name next to their idea to insure every student participates in the activity. Coach students to take turns and to listen to group members ideas offering encouragement and showing respect by paying attention to the task.
After students complete their posters students from each group will share the ideas they came up with to the whole class. The posters will hang in the classroom for a week and I referred to them when reviewing how to make or keep friends.
There are lots of ways to develop a supportive, positive classroom and school community. One way is through playing games in the classroom. On this day after the share out, students played a game in their table groups or in pairs. They had a sheet of dot paper and the goal was to connect two dots to make a line. The rules are after you make one line connecting two dots then it is the other person's turn. You keep passing the paper around to the players. Each person draws one line. If your line encloses a box you put you initials in the box and you get to go again. This is a fun game that my students like. The goal is to get as many boxes as you can. Their is a strategic aspect of being careful where you draw you line so that the next person does not have an opportunity to enclose a box. Some of my students decided to play the game so that they were setting each other up to get a box. They wanted to play cooperatively instead of competitively. Here is another way three of my students used the dot paper. They worked together cooperatively and made this 3-D view of a cube- which is pretty cool.
In the fall, another thing I do to develop community is let the students play in the leaves outside our classroom when the huge sycamore trees have dropped their leaves. They enjoy this and it lets them burn off energy and helps them settle down once they are back in the classroom and focus on an academic task. I encourage students to share their interests with the class. They bring in pictures of their family to share and we post them on a bulletin board. Also I allow students to come in before school and practice playing their musical instruments so they can perform for the class.
We have a school wide focus on developing compassion between the students. We ask them to write compassion links. A compassion link is a piece of construction paper cut in the size to make a link in a paper chain. All the students in the school have the opportunity to write nice things about each other on a link and then each class brings their paper chain to the Monday morning assembly and the chains are connected and put up in the hallways.