Grades 5 & 6

How Friends Fit In

In this section, students explore their relationships with others. The activities focus on peer relationships and how peer pressure, influence, and acceptance affect their lives. There are also activities on refusal skills to help equip students with strategies for saying "no."

Activity 4: Thinking About Your Friends

  • Skills: Understanding peer relationships/Dealing with peer pressure
  • Suggested Time Consideration: 30 minutes

Note: When completing the digital activity, students will be asked to stop after each of the three Parts and wait until you tell them it’s okay to move on. Initiate discussions per suggestions below after completion of each part.

  • Rationale

    Before starting this activity, discuss the concepts of peer pressure and peer influence with your students. (See the Overview Booklet for information you can share with your students.) Emphasize how we often want to “fit in” and “be liked” by others, and how sometimes the easiest way to accomplish this is by behaving like everyone else. At times, that might mean behaving in a way we would rather not behave.

  • Getting Started

    To reinforce the concept, read this example to your students: A new student comes into the class midway through the year. She notices that she is the only girl wearing a dress in the whole class. Although she likes to wear dresses, she shows up the next day, and all subsequent days, wearing pants.

    Ask your students:

    • Was the girl pressured? (No—there wasn’t any overt pressure. This is an example of peer influence.)
    • Why did she choose to wear pants? (She wanted to be accepted. She put pressure on herself to fit in—she was influenced by her peers.)
    • Do you think her decision bothered her? (Answers will vary, but encourage students to see that the girl is probably disappointed because she may have enjoyed wearing dresses.)
    • Do you think the other students care about what she wears? Do you think it is important to them that she dresses the same way they do? (Probably not.)

    Share the digital activity link below with your students. Explain to them that they are going to fill out a checklist they will use to measure how peer pressure and influence might affect them. Ask them to complete Part One independently. Students will complete Part One and then wait until you tell them it’s time to move on to Part Two. Begin the discussion below after they have completed Part One.

    Launch Activity

  • Talking About It

    Part One

    When the students have finished Part One, gather as a class or in small groups, and encourage discussion. Ask students to think about these questions:

    • Did you find any surprises in your answers?
    • Did the students in your group answer any of the questions the same way?
    • Which issues did you find most important?

    See if patterns emerge that indicate students’ sensitivity to peer pressure and peer influence. In particular, do the students see a strong tendency to want to be with other students who hold similar interests, values, etc., as themselves? Open the discussion and ask each group to report on some of the things they learned. In a wrap-up of Part One, acknowledge that the desire to be with those who are most like us is quite common. But also mention that there will always be some ideas and behaviors that students don’t hold in common, even with their best friends, and that this is what makes us individuals. Before students move on to Part Two, explain to them that our friends play certain roles in our lives. They can be people we do things with, people we enjoy talking to, people we confide secrets in, people we like to joke with, etc. Explain to the students that this part of the exercise will help them examine the role friends play in their lives.

    Part Two

    Ask students to complete Part Two. When they have finished, ask them to talk generally about how important friends are to them. Ask your students:

    • Are there times when you prefer to spend your free time by yourself, or with family members, rather than with friends? Why or why not?
    • Do you have certain friends with whom you are close enough to keep secrets? (For those who answer “yes,” ask them to speak more generally about the role those friends play in their lives.)
    • One of the questions asked if you would lie to protect a friend. Can you offer a possible example in which you would lie to protect a friend? (For example: “My friend slept over at my house the other night. She took one of my sister’s CDs and told me not to tell. When my sister asked me about it, I said…”)
    • Can you think of a scenario in which you might consider breaking a promise to a friend? (For example: “I told my friend I would come over on Saturday to help him study for the history exam, but then my dad came home with tickets to the ball game. So I decided…”)
    • Think about this situation: There’s a really cool group of students at school. You and your best friends have always wanted to hang out with them. Some of the cool people ask you if you want to go to the mall with them, but they don’t invite your friend. How do you handle this?
    • Would you compromise your values and choice to be tobacco free if a friend asked you to use a tobacco product?

    To finish this section, acknowledge how important our friends can be to us, and how difficult it can be when we feel that we have to choose between doing something we don’t necessarily want to do in order to solidify a friendship, and not doing it. Talk about how truly strong friendships can handle differences of interests, values, etc.

    Part Three

    Explain to students that while our interests and behaviors influence us in our choice of friends, sometimes our friends influence us in our choice of behavior. Ask students to complete Part Three. Then, assemble them in small groups and ask them to discuss their answers and address these questions:

    • Why would someone go to a movie she did not want to see?
    • Why would someone try a cigarette if he or she didn’t want to?
    • If you answered “no” to a particular question, why do you think someone might say “yes” to the same question? What might cause someone to say “yes”?
  • Wrapping Up

    Have students work in their groups to complete the “You Decide!” section of the activity. After about ten minutes, reconvene and ask your students:

    • Was there a consensus in your group about how the situation should be managed?
    • What sort of conflicting feelings might a person experiencing this situation be feeling?
    • Were there any easy solutions? Do any solutions have a negative consequence attached to them?

    This exercise and the follow-up activity can offer you an opportunity to talk with your students about how unhappy people can feel when they give up their own desires and values to go along with those of a group. Talk about how difficult it can be to take a position that is unpopular with one’s peers, but how good it can feel when the student exercises his or her independence. Most times, young people are actually quite tolerant of differences among friends as long as the differences don’t outweigh the similarities.

  • Follow-Up Activity

    After completing the digital activity, your students will be presented with the following two scenarios and space to type in their responses. Have them work in small groups to decide how to respond.

    1) Pretend your friends are going to get a certain haircut, but you’ve been forbidden by your parents, and your friends tease you about it. What will you do? Why?

    2) Imagine you’re thinking about joining the school chorus, but other students think it’s uncool. What will you do? Why?

    Then, ask your students:

    • Was there a consensus in your group about how the situation should be managed?
    • What sort of conflicting feelings might a person experiencing this situation be feeling?
    • Were there any easy solutions? Do any solutions have a negative consequence attached to them?

    Launch Activity

  • Materials

Grade 5-6 Overview Booklet


Overview Booklet