This coincidence provides an opportunity to not only reflect on the year’ achievements, but to share appreciation of friendships made throughout the year while developing understanding of Christmas traditions.
During the last few weeks of the school year, I use friendship trees with my early childhood classes for these purposes.
About three weeks before the end of the school year each of the children make their own tree which is then displayed in the classroom until taken home on the last day of school. By then the trees are filled with messages of friendship and affirmation which the children write anonymously to each other each day.
Although the end of the school year is when I use friendship trees in my classroom, they could be used at any time throughout the year. However they will work better when the children have been working together for a while and know a little about each other.
These are some of the benefits of incorporating the friendship tree into the class program:
- Is inclusive with its emphasis upon friendship
- Provides an opportunity for reflection on friendships made
- Encourages students to comment positively to classmates
- Affirms students by the receipt of multiple positive comments
- Encourages a giving attitude
- Provides an opportunity to discuss Christmas traditions (tree as a bearer of gifts) as a way of developing cultural understandings
- Develops understanding that kind words and actions are the greatest gift
How it works
- Children make and decorate a “friendship tree”, attaching or writing their name prominently on it. Trees are then displayed in the classroom.
- Each day children select a name “from the hat”. (In preparation I prepare a class list of names in a table, one name per row, which I print out and cut into strips for the students to select and write their messages on.)
- Children write a friendship note to the child whose name they have drawn, but they are to not tell anyone who it is or what they have written.
- They may return the name and select another only if it is their own name or the name of someone for whom they have already written a message
- They are to write something they like about the person, something the person is good at or something they appreciate about them.
- I check what the children have written, ostensibly for readability, but also to ensure appropriateness of the message. However I have never had to edit the content. I have always been impressed by the messages the children write.
- Children then fold and “secretly” place the messages into the tree of the recipient.
- On the last day of school children take their trees, filled with positive messages, home to read and share with their family.
Before children write their first message, we brainstorm what a friendship message might be. These are some examples:
Thank you for being my friend.
I like the way you laugh at funny stories.
You are a good writer.
You always do the right thing.
Thank you for playing with me.
However these ideas are only a starting point. I have always been amazed at the very appropriate and personalised messages the children write for each other. They really do notice the lovely things their classmates do throughout the year, and the different things that make them special.
Here are photographs of two friendship trees I have made, one decorated for Christmas, the other for friendship:
A cardboard cone (with a cut-off top) is attached to a cardboard base. A smaller cone (removable lid) tops the tree. Children lift the top to place their messages inside.
If you would like to use a template for making the cone or view step-by-step instructions, I have made these available on the website TeachersPayTeachers. Please click here to follow the link.
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I hope you and your students enjoy the friendship tree experience as much as I and my students have!
Let me know how it goes.
Clipart courtesy of www.openclipart.org