Supporting the Development of Social Skills

social skillsSocial skills are those that allow us to interact with others. Students need the opportunity to learn and practice social skills in a safe place, such as a classroom or school. In their book All Learning Is Social And Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom And Beyond, authors Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Dominique Smith identify areas in which classroom teachers can provide developmental support (pp.91-115):

  1. Prosocial behavior – Sharing, helping, and teamwork are necessary components within relationships. Classroom jobs, roles, and responsibilities help students develop these skills.
  2. Relationship building – Student-teacher relationships, peer relationships, and the relationship with the school can be fostered within the classroom environment. Teachers should model behaviors they want to see develop within the students.
  3. Communication – Teachers can model communication behaviors, such as attentive listening, asking questions, paraphrasing, acknowledging emotions and feelings, and summarizing. These behaviors can be reinforced through classroom displays and classroom norms.
  4. Empathy – Being able to understand how others may feel in any given situation is critical to the social development of students. Teachers can model empathy by speaking the language of feelings, encouraging students to share their own feelings and experience, praising empathy, teaching nonverbal cues, and giving students responsibilities that require empathy.
  5. Relationship repair – Teachers can help students navigate relationship repair by modeling those behaviors in their classrooms. Impromptu conversations with students when they are experiencing a relationship breakdown can provide teachable moments.

As you prepare for next week, take into consideration all the opportunities your students will have to build social skills. Be overt in demonstrating the skills you want to see developed in your students. They will benefit greatly from your efforts!

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