How to be a kind, helpful friend

A project that is underway in the Lower Primary classroom at the ‘Melbourne’ English Language School is focused on social skills – being a kind person, and a good friend. We are using drama as well as music to develop their oral language, and using real-life scenarios from the children’s own experiences in the school playground.

We’ve started with imitating happy and sad faces. The first week I demonstrated these, and in the second week I asked them to list some different emotions and reactions (sad, happy, surprised, scared, etc) and we drew faces matching these emotions on the whiteboard.

We then role-played some different scenarios that could happen in the playground during recess. Most of these ended up with me falling on the floor clutching my leg and crying noisily, with anxious children fluttering around me, trying to help me get up.

“What can you say?” their teacher and I asked them. “What do you say to your friend who is hurt?”

It took the class awhile to come up with responses. “What happened?” they asked. “Why are you crying?”

Then we brainstormed possible answers:

“People are being mean to me.”

“I have a sore tummy.”

“The big boys kicked me/bumped me/threw a ball at my head.” (The “big boys” were the most oft-cited offenders in these role-plays; these children share the playground with students all the way up to Year 12, so they are very aware of the “big boys” and how dangerous their games can be for little people).

The class began to throw themselves into this game with a great deal of melodrama, and took it in turns to be the victim and the friendly helper.

Things progressed this week, as we turned their “helping” sentences and words into lyrics for a song.

What do you do when somebody starts to cry, outside in the playground?

What do you do to be a good friend, outside in the playground?

I wrote the melody and the opening questions in order to give the children a very clear framework and scenario into which to put their suggestions. We came up with one verse today, after brainstorming all the things a good friend might say:

Are you okay? Are you fine?

Tell me why you are crying.

How can I help you? Let’s go to the teacher.

We can go together.

They are a very funny bunch in this class – there was lots of laughing as we tried to get the song happening. At first, as I attempted to elicit some “friend’s” responses, the children couldn’t understand what I meant.

Gillian – “What can they say, this kind friendly person who wants to help?”

Student – “Sorry.”

Gillian – “But you haven’t done anything to hurt them. You are the friend! You are helping!”

Student, insisting: “I’m sorry.”

At which point his teacher looked wryly at me and said, “He thinks that ‘sorry’ is always the right thing to say when someone is crying!”

Another moment in which we all collapsed laughing was an ambulatory moment when I role-played falling over and hurting my leg (I’m getting quite good at this role now). The children decided to pick me up by the arms and legs – sharing my weight between them – and carry me off. I don’t know where they were planning to take me – we hadn’t got to that part of the scenario yet. Ryan stood by, mildly suggesting, “I think you might be hurting her more”. Meanwhile, I wondered how long my clothes would bear the weight of my body.

A great moment in oral language terms was when one of the children offered the line, “Let’s go to the teacher”. Everyone cheered, and his teacher high-fived him. Clearly, telling the teacher on duty when there is a problem is a concept they’ve been putting a bit of work into.

There is much that is empowering for the children in this work. After all, they can only speak to each other in English as few of them share a language. This project is not only acknowledging some of the things that can happen at school that upset or frighten them, but is giving them tools to respond, in particular the words and responses that one friend can offer another.

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2 comments so far

  1. victoria Ryle on

    I see a book!

  2. musicwork on

    Oh there are books galore at this school. They could make a book every single term!


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