Whilst the children will naturally develop close friendships with other pupils in the school, you can plan classroom opportunities to allow the children to build positive and supportive relationships with other members of the class who they would not ordinarily make friends with at school.
Every classroom is full of a host of different personalities which the children can use when developing their skills in working with and supporting others. The class can explore how to make different relationships in a safe classroom environment so that any tensions or issues can be addressed and altered. The children can be free to make mistakes in their relationships with others as part of the classroom learning experiences and personal developments.
It is important to make sure that you choose groupings in your class not to match established friendships but to provide the children with plenty of opportunities in working with their peers with opposing personality traits. At the start of the school year, you can get the children to evaluate their own personality traits which can then be used as a basis for classroom groupings. Instead of choosing groups based on abilities you can match up children who enjoy working quietly with those children who like to talk about their work or you could pair up children who feel that they get angry easy with children who have a more calm and peaceful persona. If you vary the class groupings throughout the year then this will provide the children with plenty of opportunities of working with children with opposing personality traits.
Younger and Older
You can also select lessons and activities during the school year where the children get to work with pupils from younger or older aged classes. This will help the children strengthen their relationship skills in working with children of all ages. For example, you could get the the children to produce a story book to read to pupils in a younger class or you could team up with a class in an older year group for the children to work together to produce a short presentation for a school assembly. Make sure that you build in time to the school week to enable the children to share some of the techniques that they used when working successfully with younger and older pupils in other classes in the school. Get the children to identify some of their relationship weaknesses which they can try and improve in future lessons and activities.
Allow the children to take an active part in rewarding their classmates using a system adopted by the school or suggested by the class themselves. You can get each child to nominate one of the other pupils in the class to be the class weekly champion. Each child will need to give a short speech outlining the reasons for their nominations based on how the nominee relates to other pupils in the class. Keep a record of the nominators and nominees so that everyone gets an opportunity to reward someone else for their personal relationships.
Encourage the children to develop their listening skills to help them build positive and supportive relationships within the classroom. Plan for classroom activities where the children must listen closely to a partner before responding. During some paired work, you can give the children a one minute sand timer so that the children can time their responses to a question before their partner is allowed to reply only when the sand has run out. Help the children become active listeners by getting them to record what has been said to them in note form before replying to their partner.
Help the class to develop trust in their peers so that if they fail at task in the classroom they can seek support without feeling anxious or worried about how others might react. Play games with the children where the purpose of the activity is to get something wrong for the rest of the class to identify the mistake and suggest how it can be improved without hurting the feelings of others. A good example would be for some children to read a piece of text with mistakes in the wording or meaning for the rest of the class to identify and correct. You can also build times in lesson plenaries where the children can share the results of any investigations or activities for the class to offer honest feedback as to how it can be improved.