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Secret buddies: children learning about kindness.

After a summer vacation, most children look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones as they return to school. For some children, the transition into new classrooms with unfamiliar faces can be a challenge. Developing new friendships may be difficult for them; however, developing appropriate social skills is a necessary part of a child's school experience. Teachers must be aware of the social needs that children have and create opportunities to help children learn the skills to interact with others. As teachers help children learn these skills, they are also helping children build important life skills.

At the beginning of each school year, I use activities with my 2nd-graders to promote a sense of community and establish an atmosphere of consideration within that community. One year, some of the children in my class insisted on calling other children names. After my usual attempts to stem the flow of name-calling had not worked, I knew I needed a different solution. I remembered an activity that one of our 1st-grade teachers had tried years ago that worked to reduce negative attitudes in her class. I adjusted it to use with name-calling and tried it out.

Implementation of Activity

After discussing the problem of name-calling with the class, I asked the children to think of names they had been called in the past or had heard others being called. After giving them time to think, I asked them to tell the class the names, emphasizing that I did not want them to tell us any "bad" words (obscene language) they may have heard. I folded a large piece of paper in half and wrote the words they told me on the left side. The children suggested the usual words, such as "brat," "ugly," "fat," and "mean." After they finished telling the class all of the words, I asked them to think of kind words they could use when talking to others. I wrote those words on the right side of the paper. After all of the words were written and discussed, I tore the sheet of paper in half and ripped up the left side with the unkind words. To my astonishment, this group of children, who had shown little enthusiasm for most of the experiences that I had attempted to make so engaging during the first few weeks of school, gasped and then erupted in applause and cheers as they realized what I was doing. We discussed how all of the unkind words were gone and we did not want to bring them back again.

Building Life Skills With Secret Buddies

A few days after the activity, I used Secret Buddies (a term coined by one of the children) to reinforce being kind and considerate. Each child drew a name of a classmate from a cup. They were to secretly watch their buddies during the day and note any kind deeds their buddies performed. At the end of" the day, each child told of a kindness he or she had observed and the rest of the class tried to guess the identity of the buddy. Although a few children had not remembered to watch for acts of kindness, most of the children were able to "tell on" their buddy. Once again, the class amazed me. Not only had most of these 2nd-graders taken the activity seriously enough to watch their buddy; they also had kept the name of their buddy a secret during the entire day. Best of all, the class began to work together better. We still had times when things did not run smoothly, but the activities had set the tone for friendship, cooperation, and kindness toward others.

Unkind Words





Kind Words


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The following Idea-Sparker was submitted by Jeanetta G. Riley. Jeanetta is a primary teacher in Madisonville, Kentucky, and a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg.
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Article Details
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Author:Riley, Jeanetta G.
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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