Student to Student

Middle and high school students are in a period of significant developmental change and are seeking connections and a sense of belonging while learning to navigate new situations and settings. Many will be brand new to a school community while others have had limited exposure due to the pandemic, and all of them will have been impacted by the isolation of COVID-19. Helping students foster healthy relationships with peers will allow them to develop stronger intrapersonal skills and lay the groundwork for a successful year ahead and overall high school experience. Investment in these core relationships will also increase the strength of the overall school community.

Guiding Questions

  • How can we help foster healthy student-to-student relationships in a meaningful way within the context of the school day?
  • What are some best practices to make sure students have the time and space they need to develop healthy relationships with their peers?
Examples, Tools and Strategies
Strategies Aligned Resources

Implement Weekly Circles

Implement a Weekly Circles model to build and strengthen relationships between students. 

This approach is rooted in restorative practice techniques and provides a safe space for students to identify their emotions, share experiences, and address issues and conflicts. 

 For this and other initiatives that invite students to share personal reflections, ensure that staff have the training, time, and resources to implement activities. This includes trauma-informed facilitation techniques and referral recommendations (e.g., mental health services) for students who need additional support.   

Watch this 5-minute Weekly Circles video + Add to Action Plan from Edutopia to help you create an effective practice for your school(s).

Download Introduction to Restorative Practices + Add to Action Plan from Peace Learning Center for additional insights into the benefits of circles and the need for Principal and administration vision, staff buy in and professional development to support the effort.

Integrate relationship building 

Identify opportunities throughout the school day to weave in relationship-building and social emotional learning (SEL). This is especially important for older students, who may resist activities that feel inauthentic.  This includes integrating SEL into academic learning, developing a coherent plan for relationship-building with key school partners, and ensuring that programming to build relationships provides genuine opportunities for connection and growth. 

  • Review this Education Week article on Why High School SEL Programs Feel ‘Lame’ – And How to Fix Them, + Add to Action Plan which provides five recommendations for fostering student relationships, including integrating SEL across the curriculum, aiming for coherence across schools and districts, and exploring peer mentoring programs 
  • Download the IGNITE Peer Mentoring Guide + Add to Action Plan and see pages 2-5 to learn about a model for supporting first-year students and developing leadership and empathy skills for older youth.