Monday, November 10, 2008

Teaching Social Skills in the Classroom

Last week, MamaMonkey asked me, “How do you work on social skills with your students in the classroom?” I have had Social Skills as a separate lesson from the curriculum when I felt that we needed intense instruction on a specific skill. I will show you how I taught two skills in my class but the lessons can be adapted to whatever skill is necessary.

Shaking Hands:
1. Introduce the skill (Shaking Hands) and explain why it is important in the workplace.
2. We talk about how to shake hands and what you say when you shake hands.
3. I model the behavior by asking another adult to enter my room so I can shake their hand.
4. I show video clips that give examples of people shaking hands. There are plenty examples of politicians shaking hands and athletes shaking hands before a basketball game or business people shaking hands.
5. Then I interact with each student to practice that behavior.
6. I pair students up to practice that behavior.
7. I ask the teams to prepare a small booklet for younger children to teach them this skill. Students need to write down the steps and draw a picture for each step.
8. I shake their hands each day when they enter the classroom as reinforcement of the skill.

Asking for Help:
1. Introduce the skill and explain why it is important in the workplace.
2. I model different ways to ask for help (raising hand in class, sending an email, using the phone etc.)
3. We discuss the appropriate time to ask for help (wait for instructions to be given, before the boss leaves you to begin work, if you don’t understand something when you are in the middle of a job etc.)
4. We discuss why people are afraid to ask for help. If we talk about the fears, it is easier to face them and then feel more comfortable in asking for help.
5. Before class, I have written different situations on index cards where there is an interaction between 2 people and one of them will need to ask for help. I include situations in a classroom, at home, in a retail store, in different workplaces. During class, students break into groups and role play the situation. I move around the room and monitor that they are interacting appropriately.
6. Then I bring the class back together and we discuss how they felt when they were asking for help. We also discuss how they think the other person would feel when asked.
7. I ask different groups to role play in front of the class to model the behavior. I usually ask for volunteers and have no problems getting them.
8. I ask the teams to prepare a small booklet for younger children to teach them this skill. Students need to write down the steps and draw a picture for each step.
9. I ask them to practice these skills outside the classroom and when we meet again, we will discuss when they used it and the results.

By practicing social skills, students will be more successful in all areas of their lives. I was so thrilled when I had my students and their parents at my house for a cookout and my autistic student walked up to my husband and shook his hand the first time they met. That is when I knew that the social skills I had been teaching were really working.

Photo credit: Original image: 'Calcutt, Beckett, and Keen' Mirona Iliescu


Penny Ryder said...

I love these ideas. Shaking hands is so important, and a skill many people just don't have. Too many people seem embarrassed when you reach out to shake their hand. I'm so glad you teach this one.

Asking for help is also SO important. I know this is one area I struggle with a bit. I tend to try to sort it out for myself before asking for help - and sometimes leave it too long!

It's great to see the types of Social Skills for older kids. I work with my kids on the basics - simple manners, sorting out a disagreement, caring for friends, being a good sport...

Lisa Parisi said...

We shake hands each morning as the children walk into the room. This is such an important skill to learn. I find eye contact to be the most difficult for the children to maintain throughout the greeting.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and useful. In the African culture it is a taboo for a person to ask a superior for help - you have to wait until the superior (parent, teacher, older person, employer) broaches the subject and then you may ask. We battle to overcome this - one must be sensitive to local culture, but at the same time, this custom stands in the way to progress. Sometimes a learner/employee may battle for hours/day with a problem but would not ask for help. So we try to let learners know it is acceptable to ask if they are stuck.

Your posting gave me an idea: perhaps email would be a more indirect way to ask for help - not so direct and in your face, and may be more acceptable.

M-Dawg said...

Since my 9th graders don't understand any of these social skills, I guess it's my job to start teaching them.

Thank you for the information. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this! I think many adults tend to assume kids have these skills, but they need to be explicitly taught. Knowing the unspoken rules of social interaction is just as important as academic knowledge.

loonyhiker said...

Penny: I think asking for help is hard for all of us. I also like to think that people like to help others so asking for help gives the helper something too.

loonyhiker said...

Kobus: I love when you share these pieces of info with me! I wonder what the origin of this custom came from and what purpose it served. Maybe there was a good reason for this that I'm unaware of.

loonyhiker said...

Lisa: I know adults who have trouble with eye contact too.

loonyhiker said...

m-dawg and Mama Monkey: It is amazing at the impact we have with our students when we teach and model social skills.