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School, as it is, can already be a big enough struggle for some students when it comes to learning. And although as a teacher you can help your students learn the material to excel in their studies, teaching your kids how to make friends may be just as important to their growth and progression as lessons that involve books and homework assignments. Here’s a list of strategies to help create friendships and nurture bonds among students.

Introductions are Key

Whether it’s the first day of school or a new addition to your class, having your students say their names to each other with good eye contact and manners is a good way to get the ball rolling. If your students are old enough to read, you can even have them create and decorate fun nametags as a way to express themselves creatively to help tell “their” personal story.

Encourage Questions

What’s a better way to engage interaction with someone than to ask compelling and relatable questions? Encouraging students to ask other students questions like, what toys he or she likes to play with, their hobbies and if they can join in the game is a good start to building relationships among students. Open-ended questions are the best for students to ask one another, since there isn’t a simple one-word “yes” or “no” answer. It encourages students to think about their response and create conversation.

Playground Playmates

As a teacher, you’re just as much a navigator in helping kids make friends as you are an educator helping kids develop fundamentals and book-based knowledge. Sometimes kids just need to be steered in the right direction and they can take it from there. Suggesting activities and/or games can help students relate to one another, especially if you put them in smaller groups or pairs to help make the bigger classroom less intimidating.

Show & Tell

Show & Tell is an ageless school tradition because it encourages students to learn about each other while giving every student their own fifteen seconds in the limelight. A good impression during Show & Tell (especially anytime pets are involved—you know it’s true) is a sure way to get kids to interact and foster budding friendships.

Leverage Student Work in Your Decorating

Students love seeing their own work on display. The same theory of excitement and pride when they show their parents their work, applies to the classroom, only they get to see other students work as well. This sense of ownership can introduce collaboration and friendly competition among the class, especially in terms of crafts and artwork.

Theme Days

Learning and partying can be synonymous, contrary to popular belief. Having theme days like “Classroom Beach Days,” “Tie-Dye Shirt Making Days” and “Fun Pet Days (hey, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it)” can help encourage students to step out of the realm of routine and away from their personal shells.

As a teacher, your job on paper may be teaching kids about reading, writing and arithmetic but to teach kids how to make friends is the behind-the-scenes work that can really help kids grow and prosper socially, personally, and academically.

Krista Wolfe is a marketing project manager for where she writes to help small businesses, teachers and healthcare professionals make more informed decisions on office essentials. She also writes on our new community blog, Café Quill, about a wide range of business matters such as leadership, productivity and work-life balancing. Krista lives in Chicago and you can find her on Google+ or LinkedIN.