Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Guidance Lesson: Recognizing and Maintaining Healthy Friendships in Middle School

Topic: Recognizing and Maintaining Healthy Friendships

Grade Level: 7th & 8th grade

Rationale and clear purpose for the unit or lesson:

The characteristics of one’s friends influence so many aspects of who one becomes. A student’s friends often predict what that student gets involved with, how he or she thinks of himself or herself, and who else a student spends time and energy with. Middle school is a pivotal time for students in both their development of friendships and their susceptibility to the pitfalls of peer pressure and other negative consequences related to the pursuit of identity. For these reasons, the guidance lesson will cause students to consider aspects of a healthy friendship and then learn to identify those characteristics or their lack in real life scenarios they may face.

Applicable standard(s), objective(s), competency(ies):  

Students will develop a knowledge of the factors and characteristics involved in friendship that is strengthening and beneficial. They will be able to identify those characteristics in situations they may come across in both middle school and high school. This will develop leadership and beliefs in the students which align with the ASCA National Model.


  • popsicle stick
  • colored glue
  • glue
  • cupcakes
  • white board
  • dry erase pens 


Overview: Students will identify characteristics of a healthy friendship and learn to recognize both healthy and unhealthy friendship in action.

Activate previous knowledge: Begin by asking the students for words which come to mind when think what it means to be a good friend and writing those words on the board. Ask the following questions: Why is it important to have healthy friendships? What are the benefits to good friends? What are the consequences of bad friends? What’s the difference between a friend and an acquaintance?

Developmental Learning Activities designed to meet the objective(s):

We are bringing cupcakes in to class and will pass them out at this time, saying “You probably haven’t had cupcakes in class like this since elementary school. Let’s go back to kindergarten for a moment: how did you make friends then?” We will then talk about how the students go about forming friendships at their current middle school level.

After we have talked about what it means to be a good friend, each student will receive three popsicle stick paddles with green, yellow, or red circles on them. Read friendship scenarios concerning a variety of topics. Students will have some time to think and then be asked to hold up the traffic light they think represents friendship status in that situation. There will be four of each “light” scenario. A green light means the friendship is healthy, a yellow light means one should be wary, and a red light means the friendship is unhealthy. Process each and talk about how each responses may be accurate. These activities represent the objective of the lesson because they are taking the real life characteristics we just talked about and applying them to actual situations they may come across.

The activity will keep the students engaged because the different components affect them in different ways. The stop lights give them something physical to hold in their hands, but they will also be considering questions that will require thought and consideration of their own friendships. 


End the lesson by restating what we occurred. Recap the discussion about friendship in early elementary school and then friendship at their current level. Ask “What will you look for in friendships at the high school level? What about beyond even high school?” By considering the future, assess whether the students have learned the objectives and will make positive choices regarding friends looking forward. And, of course, we will have cupcakes.

Closing & Follow-Up:

As a closing activity, invite students to scroll through their picture albums on their phones (at a later time). Ask them to look at the pictures with each of their friends and to think in the red, yellow, or green light mentality. How does each of those friends make the student feel? How is each of those friends affecting the student’s time, motivation, values, and identity?

Appendix A: Example Scenerios


You have a huge Spanish exam coming up this week and are stressing out about doing well on it. You have been confused with the material and are worried about passing the class. During lunch, your friends realize that something is on your mind and ask you what’s bothering you. When you tell them you are worried about doing well on the Spanish test later this week and they all listen attentively. After you are done sharing, they offer to form a study group to help quiz each other on the Spanish vocabulary and grammar that will be on the exam. 
During the summer before 8th grade you went to a theatre camp and ended up loving it! This fall, you want to try out for the school play. You are worried that your friends will stop hanging out with you because you are choosing new activities. When you tell them that you want to try out for the play, they are excited and supportive of your new interests. 


Your best friend has started eating lunch with someone different. Whenever you ask to join, they say yes but are cold and do not include you in their conversations. When you and your best friend hand out after school, she is friendly and acts normal. 
You confide in your friend Sarah that you have a crush on the new boy in class but want to keep it a secret. Sarah ends up telling your mutual friend Brittany about your new crush who eventually tells him that you like him. During lunch, he comes up to you and asks you if the rumor is true. You are immediately embarrassed so you say no and run up to Sarah. She says she didn’t mean to tell your other friends and apologizes for spreading your secret.  


In your friend group, you constantly are the subject of jokes and put downs. It makes you feel unhappy and small when they all are talking about you in a demeaning way. When you confront them, they brush it off and tell you not to take it so seriously. However, they do not change their actions and always talk negatively about you when you are all hanging out. 
When you hang out with your friend James he is always talking about himself and what he wants to do. He rarely asks about your day or how your family is getting along. You two always play his favorite video game and watch the TV shows he needs to catch up on. When you suggest something you want to do, he always shoots it down and offers a better suggestion. When you tell him how you feel, he disregards your statement and quickly moves on. 

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