Put a Positive Spin on Peer Pressure

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Where there are people, there will be peer pressure. And your classroom is no exception. However, while we're used to thinking of peer pressure as something negative, it often has the potential to be a powerfully positive force.

By leading students through some self-awareness activities, you can help create a group of peers who value individualism, practice it in their own lives, and encourage it in others.

Peer pressure awareness activities

1. Define it *

Write the following definition on the board and then ask students to expand it by sharing their personal experiences. Jot brief notes on the board that capture the students' examples.

Peer pressure: social pressure from members of your group to accept certain beliefs or act in certain ways in order to be accepted.

2. Brainstorm it
Write the following questions as column headers on the board. Ask students to brainstorm answers to each question. In the spirit of the subject (peer pressure), make it clear that all answers are acceptable – students are not allowed to laugh or make negative responses to others' answers.

  • What evidence of peer pressure exists in this classroom? Possible answers might include the way kids dress, the kinds of backpacks or notebooks they carry, where kids sit, or hairstyles.
  • How do kids communicate messages of peer pressure? Possible answers might include giggling, talking about other kids, using put-downs, ganging up on someone, starting rumors, leaving kids out, or laughing at someone.
  • How can peer pressure get kids into trouble? Possible answers might include by forcing kids to do something they shouldn't just to be accepted, by excluding kids who may have good things to contribute, or by setting up situations of "them vs. us" instead of teamwork or community.
  • When is peer pressure a good thing? Possible answers might include when it keeps kids out of trouble, when it encourages kids to participate in healthy activities, or when it works toward unification instead of divisiveness.

3. Summarize it
Based on the activities above, ask students to summarize peer pressure by completing the following sentences. Write the sentences and students' answers on the board.

  • Peer pressure is POSITIVE when...
    (Possible answers: it encourages kids to have healthy values, positive attitudes and actions, a spirit of supportive teamwork, etc.)
  • Peer pressure is NEGATIVE when...
    (Possible answers: it encourages kids to get into trouble, have bad attitudes, alienate other kids, etc.)

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