The Keys to Friendship

Recently, I worked as a long-term substitute guidance teacher/counselor at a small, rural school in upstate Vermont. One of the main focal points of the term was kindness, which naturally blended into lessons on friendship. Here is a lesson I taught…

The Keys to Friendship

friend brown book

Book available here (photo from B&N) or an indie bookstore of your choosing!

This twenty-five minute lesson was used for a variety of grades, with modifications for age levels. Lessons for kindergarten through fourth grade used only some pages (12-15) from How to be a Friend by Laurie K. and Marc Brown, while fifth grade students did not read the book, but had a Socratic Seminar discussion on what friendship looks like. In all classes we talked about why they choose/keep friends and what are the best qualities of their friends. These conversations were very special, as students would talk about what kind qualities they saw in specific people.

After the reading and discussion, in second through fifth grades, the students received blank paper keys, which they used to record the attribute they most value in a friend (examples: kind, thoughtful, or helpful). In kindergarten and first grade, I had keys with the words already on them (since the lesson time was so short). Students were also challenged to exemplify the word in the coming week. (Later on in the week, whenever I’d see students in the halls, they’d share how they’d made a new friend or done something nice for a current friend.)

I put some of their creation on key rings, made a sign, and created a Keys to Friendship bulletin board in the library. The students stand near the bulletin board when lining up to enter or exit the library, as well as when they are waiting for the library restroom. Since my office was across the hallway, I witnessed many of them sorting through the key rings, reading about their classmates’ ideal friends. Each student in K-5 designed a key, so they would often search for their own or a friend’s key. Long after the lesson was over, the Key to Friendship bulletin board kept the ideas fresh in their minds.

key friendship board


If you’d like a preview of the book, check it out here. (While the video quality and speed would not work for projection display or read-alongs, it might hopefully encourage you to add it to your classroom library!) Here’s a screen capture:

Screen shot 2017-07-10 at 10.41.52 AM

Here is the Pinterest link for the bulletin board inspiration.