What is a friendship group?
A friendship group is a group of 5-6 students with and/or without special education needs, who work together to create a team. The students all come from the same classroom, in order to enhance relationships within the class. These friendship groups often run for 4 half-hour sessions and together the team learns a specific social skill. Once the skill is learned and practiced, they might even teach the skill to their classmates.
For more information about teaching social skills, see our blog on 5 questions about Social Emotional Learning.
Examples of skills learned within friendship groups are compromising, being a good sport, being a good leader (not being bossy), dealing with making mistakes, personal space, learning the difference between tattling and reporting, handling your worries, and much more.
What is a social skills group?
Social skills groups are groups of two or more learners with similar social skills needs. In these groups, students will learn more specialized social skills, such as perspective taking, flexibility, understanding and dealing with anger and anxiety, social communication skills, getting too silly and even meditation. These skills are taught most often by a special education teacher with working knowledge of a variety of social skills curricula. Ways of teaching include role-play, comic strips, social stories, and observing others.
What are lunch buddies?
Lunch buddies is when a student with special needs invites 1-3 students to each lunch with them in a quiet place other than the lunch room. A teacher, counselor or instructional assistant can run this group. Often within lunch buddies, students practice their learned social communication skills. This is a more casual, relaxed environment for students to play a game or listen to a story with friends.
How do I achieve social skills success with my learners?
I like to use all the following: friendship groups, social skills groups, and lunch buddies. All three are important, successful, and in my opinion, necessary. For example, my students often learn best from their peers, yet, their peers often need to learn the same social skill, hence friendship groups. However, there are certain social skills that specifically pertain to my students, and therefore, their peers need not be involved, hence, social skills groups. Finally, my students need the opportunity to practice their skills in a casual, yet quiet, environment, with a small group of kids they are comfortable with, hence lunch buddies.
Let's zoom in on friendship groups.
In these groups, I work with a whole classroom and take my students with social skills needs, along with a set of their peers (typically groups of 5-6 students work best). We work together for 4 half-hour sessions on a specific skill. The next time I take a group, students will be put with a new set of peers. I cycle through the whole class so every student gets to take part, increasing the likelihood of positive learning experiences and friendship-building opportunities.
Prior to starting the group, I connect with the teacher, and let her know what skill we are going to work on. They then tell me what students they feel will be best suited for this skill. Typically, I get some students that need to work on this skill and others who are strong peer models. There are times where the teacher will have a skill in mind for us to go over – this is great as we usually see instant results/feedback. For example, if the whole class is struggling with “silly” behavior, I will focus on that for the next friendship group.
I personally LOVE facilitating friendship group sessions and know the students LOVE getting involved as well. They all can’t wait to be part of it, create a team name and find out what skill they will be working on. I find that it is not only helpful for my individual students but it is also helpful for the whole class.
In order to generalize the learning, the students teach their classmates and teacher, and I send home information to the parents/guardians. That way, the teacher and the parent/guardians can reinforce and use the same language taught in friendship group. My students benefit from being the teacher, being the expert, and learning from their peers – it is a win/win situation!
Stay tuned for more information about the first 4 days of getting the group going. I will share what we typically do in the first few days of a social group and why.