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Teaching Strategies: How to Teach Social Skills

Janelle Cox

Teaching social skills has become one of the most significant teaching strategies in elementary education today. Indeed, the lack of these skills is the biggest contributing factor to the downfall of almost any type of teamwork today.

Fortunately, social skills and effective communication can be taught. The foundation of teaching social success consists of many distinct skills: Accepting others, listening actively, resolving conflicts, and taking turns, among others.

By learning these traits, children can learn how to interact with their peers, maintain a conversation, and develop personal dialogues with their classmates.

Educators should follow these teaching strategies to educate students how to interact and become productive members in your classroom.

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1. Discuss Social Skills

Before you can teach social skills you will have to explain and discuss the need for them in the classroom as well as the world at large.

Students will be able to understand this more easily if you relate it to what they already know. Have students take turns discussing any problems they have had in their existing groups. Point out that this is because of a lack of communication or a social skill.

The need for working social skills should be related to something that happened outside of the classroom. Discuss how good communication and social skills are important in forming relationships.

2. Select a Social Skill

Focus on one skill at a time. Create a list (like the one below) and choose one skill, or have the students choose one skill from the list. Choose a skill to work on each week, and create a bulletin board around that specific skill. This way, you can refer to the bulletin board as you work on the skill throughout your week.

Social Skills

  • Asking for help
  • Accepting differences
  • Apologizing
  • Being patient
  • Being responsible for behavior
  • Communicating clearly
  • Complimenting others
  • Disagreeing politely
  • Encouraging others
  • Following directions
  • Listening Actively
  • Participating equally
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Sharing materials
  • Staying on task
  • Taking turns

3. Teach the Skill

Once you have chosen the skill, it’s time to help students identify what they need to do to improve at that skill. You can begin by brainstorming what that skill looks like and sounds like. Together as a class, create a T Chart graphic organizer and list what the skills looks like in the left column, and what it sounds like in the right column.

Examples of the ”Following directions” skill:

Looks like: Eyes are on the speaker, sitting quietly, listening carefully, and thinking about what is being said.

Sounds Like: Being quiet, asking questions if needed, following directions.

4. Practice the Skill

After you discuss what the skill looks like and sounds like, then you need to practice it. If you taught following directions as the social skill, then you would give students a list of directions to follow. For example:

  • Take out your history books
  • Turn to page 25
  • Read the first paragraph to yourself
  • Close the book when you have finished.

If you just taught students about active listening, the best way to practice this skill is to gather students into small cooperative learning groups, and have them do a “think-pair-share” activity. This is when each member of the group thinks about a question, pairs up with a member from the group to discuss their responses, then shares it with the rest of the group. This is an ideal choice because every member of the group gets a chance to practice active listening.

Extension Activity: Extend student practice by giving them an activity sheet to reinforce the skill learned. For example, when working on the following directions skill, give each student a worksheet that has a list of instructions in no particular order. Instruct students to cut out each instruction and put them in the correct order. 

5. Review Skill Learned

After the specified social skill has been taught, reflect back upon the graphic organizer that was used in step three. Discuss with students if they thought the skill looked and sounded like what they brainstormed. Ask each group how well they think their team used the skill, and how they can improve next time.

By teaching social skills, we are reducing problematic behaviors and increasing the chances for successful appropriate interaction among students. This will in turn maximize our teaching time, and encourage students to use these skills at home.

How do you teach social skills to your students? Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Share with us in comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators