A Kind Friend
Third and fourth grade families, thank you for having your child bring $5 this week Thursday, November 16 or Friday, November 17 to support the student-run UNICEF sale! Please refer to the email that I sent you last week for more details or email me at email@example.com. We are also accepting donations of gently-used toys, books, and Pokemon cards that your family no longer uses.
The first and second graders have been looking at ways to be a kind friend. Relationships are of utmost importance to human beings; this became so apparent during the pandemic. After reading articles about friendship and listening day-to-day to the issues they find challenging in their friendships, I have been focusing on four aspects of friendship during CE.
Listening when a friend shares. We discuss the importance of truly listening to someone in grades first through fourth. Truly listening to someone (and then as they learn in third and fourth grade, how to reflect someone’s feelings after they listen) is a powerful skill to have in any relationship, whether in friendship or in business. Especially in this day and age where you can swipe on your device after a couple seconds if what you’re listening to isn’t interesting, training oneself to listen even if you don’t feel like it is so important in maintaining relationships. In CE, the children listened to a partner share about his weekend, and then drew what his partner said. The children mentioned that they appreciate when their friend listens to them.
Taking turns. This is especially age-appropriate for children to practice. Children are very aware when they do not get a turn, and although egocentrism may cause them to want to continue getting their own turn, they begin to realize the benefits of taking turns, because then peers will want to be their friend and play with them. First and second graders practiced taking turns in CE: they were given the task of making the longest pattern with playdoh with a partner (ball, stick, ball, stick) where they had to figure out how to take turns. The patterns using playdoh became more complex (ball, stick, pancake, ball, stick, pancake) and the children also changed partners. The children enjoyed this activity; they enjoyed building and working with partners.
One aspect of taking turns is waiting. In a world of about 8 billion people, it is vital that children understand that sometimes waiting is part of being a community member. The children discuss why it is important that people wait and take turns at red lights, for example, and even kindergartners are able to share situations where they have observed their parents wait, such as at the bank or store. I briefly talk with children about what they can do while they wait (quietly talk to a friend, take deep breaths, day dream, sit and rest, wonder about something they see, etc), but that is also a conversation you can have when you encounter it at home.
Stopping when a friend says stop. This is a common reason why children come to me for help during recess, whether playing Tag, or a friend is trying to do or say something funny (but they don’t think it’s funny), and so on. The children brought up really good points during discussion – what if a friend is laughing as he is saying stop? Do you stop, or is the student enjoying the activity? The children decided it would be best to stop and check. What if the friend you’re chasing says stop right before you tag him, which seems like cheating? Children came up with other solutions, such as giving him another chance, but if you give him too many chances, then change the game or go play with someone else. In CE, children have been having fun playing the game Red Light, Green Light out on the ball field to practice stopping when a friend says stop. Stopping when someone says stop is important, whatever your age!
Some children mentioned that they didn’t feel like playing Red Light, Green Light anymore when they weren’t the leader. We went back to the importance of taking turns; didn’t they appreciate it when their group mates played when they were the leader? Sometimes in life we have to do things we don’t want to do if it is the right thing to do, a factor of success in relationships and work. I did monitor these children; they smiled and had fun once they started playing Red Light, Green Light.
Noticing when a friend needs help and offering to help. I cut and pasted various photos of children smiling and children in distress and asked students who seemed to need help and what they would say to them. We are playing games during CE where they need to look to see how they could help the situation and take action. Each child received either a yellow or purple paper and they needed to order themselves in a line – yellow, purple, yellow, purple. Next, on the back of these papers was a number one or two; they ordered themselves in a one, two pattern in a line. I timed them to see if they could improve. We’ll continue modifying these games, such as changing the number of people in the group.
Helping others has shown to be beneficial for mental health as children grow in confidence, competence, and empathy. Helping others is obviously vital for maintaining healthy relationships as well. To help your children grow in this area, ask your children to help around the house in addition to their assigned chores, such as carrying in some of the groceries or holding the door for you. At school, when I compliment children for helping, even if I have asked them to help, they light up, which encourages them to help in the future. They actually glow! We talked together in discussion that sometimes during the task it may not always feel very fun, but afterwards it can feel good to help. With practice, children will notice more when someone needs help and take action.
On a related note, the third and fourth graders were discussing needs and wants. When discussing whether family/love is a need, the students thoughtfully concluded that maybe you do not need family/friends/love to survive on a desert island – unless you are a baby or young child, as some students sagely pointed out – but you definitely need family/friends/love to “thrive.” I was beyond thrilled to see these intriguing discussions regarding relationships unfold in some of the 3/4 classes!