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"Cliques, Friendship Groups, Or Boxes?"

Estimated Time of Completion: Two 45-minute class periods or one 45-minute class period plus one 30-minute training workshop

I. Summary
II. Objectives
III. Materials Needed
IV. Procedure
V. Classroom Assessment
VI. Extensions and Adaptations
VII. Online Resources
VIII. Relevant National Standards

I. Summary:

For grades 9-12. As with all social beings, adolescents need a peer group that they feel comfortable with. However, they often then feel trapped by their social group or clique or feel shunned by another group. This lesson helps students explore the social "boxes" that they place themselves in or are put in by others, and focus on how they judge one another. The lesson can also serve as a training session for students who wish to be Big Brothers and Sisters to incoming freshmen, or student facilitators of Human Relations groups-- two programs that promote a greater sense of community within schools.

II. Objectives:

III. Materials Needed:

IV. Procedure:

  1. Begin the lesson with some type of name activity. Though the students may be familiar with others in the group, you may not know everyone.

    Suggested activity: Each student says their name and something that they like; for instance, "I'm Malinda and I like to ride horses." Each subsequent student must first reintroduce every student that has gone before them and then himself or herself.

  2. Introduce the concept of "Boxes" by explaining that we all are social beings and we enjoy being with others who share our interests. However, sometimes it's difficult to understand what keeps us isolated from others that aren't in our social group-- or "Box." Suggest that students close their eyes and envision all the people that they're close to, limiting at this time to friends, not family. Ask them to draw a mental "Box" around themselves and their friends, giving them a few minutes to really get a picture of their "Box."

  3. Ask the students to now reflect on the qualities or characteristics that draw them to someone. Have them each share only one characteristic with the group. Students will come up with things like "a great smile," "someone who's honest," "someone who doesn't talk behind a friend's back," "someone who has a sense of humor," etc.

  4. Ask students to look in their "Box" again and think about the characteristics they've heard from everyone. Have them reflect on which ones had meaning for them, which ones weren't so important, and whether or not their "Box" contain people who meet their desired characteristics.

  5. Ask students to now visualize themselves holding off people from coming in their "Box." Students should share with the group the attributes or characteristics of people who turn them off and who they want to push away. There will most likely be a lot of opposite statements to the characteristics stated before, but also their personal styles or comfort zones will now come out. Examples might be "someone who's loud," "someone who's snotty," etc.

  6. Have the students reflect on how other groups judge their "Box." Warn them that they are going to be asked to share this with the group. Their honesty never ceases to amaze! This part of the activity is usually an eye-opener to many. When you're on the outside of a group, you never really know that even being in the so-called "popular" group can be a painful place. As the leader, try to remember the details so that you can pull things together for them later.

  7. Ask students then to share whether they feel judged because of others in the group. (At this point it doesn't have to be each member sharing, but rather volunteers.) Examples: "someone got caught smoking pot, so now everyone thinks we all smoke pot," "someone in the Box is super-smart, and I really have to work really hard to get good grades, but everyone thinks it's so easy for me," etc.

  8. This would be a good time to show students a video clip from the In the Mix program "School Violence: Answers From The Inside." (Video Cue: This clip begins at the start of the program and ends approximately 9:15 minutes into the program) Ask students if they see similarities between what they have been sharing and what the group on screen shared.

  9. Review with students the reasons for this exercise. First, see if students can tell you why you've been asking them to share these various ideas and how talking about these things impacts on the programs they're going to participate in. Usually, you'll get even more answers than you could come up with yourself. If not, be prepared with your own reasons. Go back to things that they've said about both hurt feelings and secure feelings.

  10. Wrap up the lesson with an activity that shows students that there really is tremendous overlap between groups:

    • Ask students divide themselves up spontaneously into groups that reflect the type of music they listen to.
    • Instruct them to talk and mingle, and that they should take note of someone who likes the same type of music as they do, who they assumed was totally different than themselves.
    • You can play more with this concept by going from group to group and demanding the names of various groups and seeing who likes which individual music groups and make them move from group to group. Someone who likes rap may also like a particular jazz musician or someone they perceive, as the classical music aficionado may also adore punk. There are lots of surprises in this activity.
    • Finish by asking the music groups to participate in a "Paper Boxes" activity. Rearrange the groups as you see necessary, but the key is to have the friendship groups mixed up.
    • Give each group a stack of newspaper and roll of masking tape.
    • Instruct them that they will be given 10 minutes to plan a paper box without a floor, that can house them all. Each "Paper Box" must be free-standing; students can't hold it up or even touch the materials. The goal is for the box to stand for at least one minute with the students inside it.
    • After the 10 minutes of planning, students then have 10 minutes to build their "Paper Box" in silence.
    • Time all the groups for one minute to see which boxes stay up.
    • Hopefully, this activity will give students a sense of accomplishment and the understanding that they can have fun with a new "Box" of people.

  11. End the lesson by giving students a task. Tell them that you're not asking them to take down the walls of their old "Boxes," but just to step out of them once in a while...and perhaps even invite in someone new.

V. Classroom Assessment:

Assuming that you, as the trainer, are using this lesson for a specific program or purpose, you will see the results in action. If you see some intolerance in a student, it gives you a mutual vocabulary to work from. Asking them how they're doing with their "Boxes" is your assessment tool. Other assessment tools would be to observe the level of participation in discussion, the ability to articulate the values behind this lesson, and their feedback to you of their follow-through.

VI. Extensions and Adaptations:

VII. Online Resources:

VIII. Relevant National Standards:

These are established by McREL at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/contents.html:


Behavioral Studies Life Skills

About the Author:
Toni Nagel-Smith
, a Social Worker, started her career at Bellevue Hospital "an embarrasing number of years ago." She currently teaches in Bedford, NY, where she designs and runs developmental, preventative programs that address the needs of a diverse high school community...giving her great joy and keeping her young.

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