On Friendship

Posted by: This lesson plan, created by Kelsey Satchel Kaul and Heather Van Wallendael, is part of a series of lesson plans in Philosophy in Education: Questioning and Dialogue in Schools, by Jana Mohr Lone and Michael D. Burroughs (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).
Designed for: Kindergarten, Lower School, Middle School
Topics Covered: Friendship
Estimated Time Necessary: 50 minutes
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Learning Objectives

  • Students will identify and defend the qualities/aspects of a good friend(ship). -
  • Students will explore which qualities/aspects of a good friend(ship) are the most important and which qualities/aspects are the least important. -
  • Students will learn to identify necessary and sufficient conditions. -

Tool Text

Materials needed

  • Index cards
  • Whiteboard and several different colored dry erase markers



Pass out one index card to each student. Instruct the students to draw, without using representations of people (including stick figures, faces, and the like), a creative representation of a good friendship. Have the students then discuss their drawings in small groups, with each student explaining why his/her drawing is a representation of a good friendship.


Main Activity


Coming out of small group discussions, tell the students that you’d like to consider the following question as a large group: “What makes a friendship a good friendship?”


Have the students contribute answers to this question based on their drawings.


After discussing their drawings, ask if the students would like to add anything else to the list.


After the a general list is established, move to more specific questions on the nature of a good friendship:


  • Be sure to give the students about 10 seconds to think of their answers in silence before asking for hands.
  • Be prepared to acknowledge that several traits on the board are related. It might be helpful to use different colored markers to connect different traits as related to one another. For example, students might identify “trust” as the underlying reason for “feels safe to be around.”
  • If students disagree, be sure to ask them to respond specifically to one another, giving reasons in support of their positions.


Question #1: Which of these qualities/aspects might be the most important to a good friendship? Why? This should focus the discussion on what is necessary for a good friendship and what is sufficient for a good friendship.


Question #2: Which quality/aspect would be the most detrimental if it were absent? Why?


  • If students seem to agree about a certain trait being necessary, turn the discussion to whether or not the trait is a sufficient Tell the class that Bill and Bob (or any names you like) are two people that exhibit whichever trait your class has identified as necessary with one another. Ask the class if they can assume that Bill and Bob are good friends. This would be a good time to ask for counterexamples—stories about Bob and Bill in which they do exhibit the trait but are not good friends (perhaps they are actually just coworkers or distant relatives).
  • Note, you might not identify any sufficient conditions over the course of the discussion, but this is fine!


Question #3: If you could have a friend that had all of the listed traits except for one, which trait would you leave out?


This question gets at the least important trait. It may be argued that the traits that seem least important may not be necessary (and certainly not sufficient) traits for a good friendship; thus, it continues the focus of questions 1 and 2.

This could reveal that the created list has only vitally important and/or interconnected traits, so it may be hard (or impossible) to positively answer this question. The distinctions raised will be beneficial nonetheless.


Alternative/supplemental questions about the list. The three questions above should provide for a full discussion, but if you have more time (or want to extend the discussion into another class period) feel free to consider any of the following questions:


A.   Can non-human animals or objects be friends to us? Can they be friends to each other?

· Refer to the phrase “a dog is a man’s best friend.” What does the phrase really mean? In what ways do dogs make for better or worse friends than people? Be sure the students relate their answers back to the created list.

B.    Consider expressions that seem metaphorical, like “my shadow is my only friend when I feel lonely,” and “ice cream is my best friend; she always understands my needs.” What is really being expressed here? What traits (on the board) are being referenced?

C.    Are there different kinds of friends?

· This could focus on the differences between friends who are family, family friends, social media friends, school friends, neighbor friends, etc. Answers will likely vary. It would be best to follow up by discussing which traits/qualities from the list are more important for the various kinds of friends identified (perhaps “having fun” is more important for school friends, while “commitment to working through problems” is more important for sibling friends).



Concluding Activity

  • Ask the students to review the list of traits written on the board and identify one trait they believe is a strength and one trait that is a weakness for them. Have them write down their answers, but tell them that this can be as personal/private as the students want.
  • Star the characteristics the students identified as necessary and circle any they thought were sufficient. Ask if any of your students identified a sufficient condition as a strength? As a weakness? Ask if any student identified a necessary condition as a strength? As a weakness? It is not necessary to have your students share their thoughts aloud, but writing them down would be beneficial (you could even assign a more thorough journal entry answering/reflecting on these and similar questions).

    This lesson plan, created by Kelsey Satchel Kaul and Heather Van Wallendael, is part of a series of lesson plans in Philosophy in Education: Questioning and Dialogue in Schools, by Jana Mohr Lone and Michael D. Burroughs (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

On Friendship

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