At the beginning of the year, I get the whole class together and discuss developing friendships. I share that throughout the year, some students get left out. We talk about cliques and the ramifications of belonging to cliques. We also briefly talk about the differences among students and how these differences may keep them from making friends. You will need to allow 10 to 15 minutes for this discussion.
I start out by telling the students that they must use body language (nodding or using hand gestures) throughout the whole activity. They are to remain silent (no talking). If a student talks or does not follow the rules, he may be disqualified. I ask the students to close their eyes as I put a sticker on each one’s forehead. I usually have six different colors. Most of the students get one of four different colors. But two of the students get stars from the remaining two colors. Each student should have one star on her forehead. No student should be able to see his star.
I group the students heterogeneously. The kids are not able to see the color of their own star, but they can see everyone else’s. They then move around the room and find the group to which they belong based on the color of the sticker on their foreheads. I usually give the students five minutes to move around and find their groups. Once they find their groups, they sit down and begin talking about what they have in common.
After the four groups are formed, there are two students who do not belong to a group. Sometimes, I will observe other students motion for these solitary students to join, but often I see students indicate that “you don’t belong here because your star is not the same.”
In a wrap-up session, I challenge the students to discuss how they found their groups without communicating verbally. We talk about how friendships are formed based on what happened in the room. We specifically talk about the two students who did not belong anywhere and how they felt. Then, the class gets a statement from the two students who did not fit anywhere. I relate what the students observed and felt to real-life friendships, cliques and differences in others. I also challenge the group to brainstorm ways to accept the differences in others and enrich friendships with those differences.
After our discussion, we role-play the skill of joining other social groups and accepting and keeping our friendships. I remind them that they are “Stars” and that everybody has a way to shine.
Betsy Jerome, MS, NBCC, LC
Dallas Elementary School
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