Today, a sweet mom from my school asked if I’m spending time right now planning for the fall. Ha! I told her that I’m currently visiting family in another state and trying NOT to think about fall yet! There are so many unknowns that I’m enjoying this calm before we walk into the storm called “Public-Education-During-A-Pandemic” in a few weeks.
I don’t know much about this coming school year, but I do know that children will enter my classroom (physically and virtually) with some unique kinds of social and emotional baggage. Many of them have lacked appropriate face-to-face interaction with their peers for months and I imagine that, no matter how hard us adults have tried to act cool and calm, kids are definitely picking up on the trepidatious vibes that are likely radiating from most of us.
Part of my normal morning routine with my 2nd graders at school is to spend a few minutes talking about social skills and building strong character. During my first year of teaching, I attended a workshop and the presenter (if I had any idea who she was, I would credit her) shared a resource called The Friendship Qualities. It was a list of 100 words that described a good friend. I’ve used them ever since.
On the first day of school, all hundred Friendship Qualities are in a box and each day we pull one out and talk about it. Sometimes we act the word out, sometimes we talk about the opposite of that word, the kids record the friendship quality in their agendas, and we always try to talk about what that word looks like in real life.
I’ve found that when I FRONTLOAD the topic of character and behavior, my students have a better shot to develop rich, healthy relationships with one another throughout the year. Social spats and issues still pop up (hello, we’re all human), but The Friendship Qualities are the behavioral anchor in my classroom.
These are words that my students learn, love, and remember. More than once, I’ve had kids come back when they’re older and say, “The Friendship Qualities! I loved those!”. If you’re heading back to school this fall and you’re looking for ways to guide your students’ character and their emotional development, see how you can fit these words into your daily routine. You won’t regret it.
Below you’ll find links to a Level 1 and Level 2 version of The Friendship Qualities (one year I looped from 2nd to 3rd with the same kids and needed a whole new set of words!). There’s also a link to mats to display the words in your classroom.