Seating students together is not enough to ensure teamwork. Many kids have very little idea how to interact appropriately with their classmates. They simply lack the social skills needed to perform the most basic cooperative tasks. Lack of social skills is probably the biggest factor contributing to lack of academic success in teams. Fortunately, social skills can be taught just like academic skills. If you use a systematic approach like the one described below, you’ll find that your students CAN learn how to interact appropriately and become productive team members.
For more information on how to explicitly teach social skills to young children or children with special needs, visit Model Me Kids and check out their library of social skill videos.
Steps of Teaching Social Skills
1. Discuss the Need for Social Skills
Before you can help students improve their social skills, they need to understand why these skills are important. You might have students Roundrobin problems they’ve experienced in cooperative learning teams. Then point out that most of these problems are caused by poor “social skills,” sometimes known as “people skills.” Share with them that even adults need to work on their social skills from time to time! Have them brainstorm lists of social skills to work on throughout the year. You might offer a few suggestions from the list on the right to get them started.
2. Select a Social Skill
When teaching social skills, it’s best to focus on just one skill at a time. You can choose the skill, or you can let your class decide which skill they need to work on first. I generally start by teaching the skill of Praising, and along with that I reinforce the idea that I will not permit “put down” comments. Select just one skill as your focus. You might want to work on a different skill each week, perhaps even creating a Skill of the Week bulletin board.
3. Teach the Skill
This step is not as obvious as it might seem. It’s not enough to say, “Be nice!” You have to help students identify exactly what they need to do and say in order to improve the identified social skill. For this part of the lesson, Use the T-chart shown at right. You can make a laminated poster for your bulletin board or create a transparency to use on the overhead projector. Write the social skill in the box at the top. Then ask members of the class to Brainstorm what students should do and say when they are demonstrating the social skill. The things that they DO are listed in the Looks Like column because this is what the skill looks like to others when it is demonstrated. The things they SAYare listed in the Sounds Like column because this is what the skill sounds like to others. Download Worksheet here: socskill
Examples for the skill of Praising:
Looks Like: Thumbs up, Clapping, Smiling
Sounds Like: Terrific! I knew you could do it! You’re so smart! Way to go! I like the way you…
4. Practice the Skill
After you discuss what the skill Looks Like and Sounds Like, you need to provide an immediate opportunity for practicing the skill. The best way to do this is to plan a structured cooperative learning activity to follow the social skills lesson. For example, if you taught Active Listening as the social skill, you might follow up with a simple Roundrobin activity. Roundrobin would be an ideal choice because each person takes a turn responding to a question, and everyone else should be listening actively to their response.