Experience teaches us that if we want to be successful in life, social skills are an absolute necessity. Just think about it for a minute – we know that certain expressions on people’s faces might mean that they are interested whereas other expressions might mean that they are bored during their interactions with us. How do we know this? The answer is – through social skills. This is just one of the many social interactions that we have in life.
Since social interactions and skills are so important, it is only natural that these skills be taught from an early age. Since children absorb lessons from all their interactions, it naturally follows that they will learn social skills from these interactions as well.
There is a pervasive myth, however, that states that social skills should be taught by parents while teachers should stick to dealing with academics. The fact is that school is where children have the maximum social interactions. While they may not get graded for these interactions in the accepted and conventional manner, they are getting graded in a totally different way – by their peers. This peer grading makes all the difference between whether a child feels accepted or disconnected at school.
Therefore, it is clear that it becomes very important for teachers to incorporate the teaching of social skills in their classrooms. Here’s how they can do it.
Show Them Manners
Don’t just teach them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Demonstrate it in your daily behaviour. This is just one example. Overall, if your demeanour is welcoming and positive, you will find your students responding in a like manner, even with each other. Basically, you need to walk the talk and lead by example.
Assign Jobs in the Classroom
When you assign jobs in the classroom to students, it gives them the chance to learn about teamwork, leadership, and responsibility. It doesn’t just stop there though. It also allows them to show what they have learnt of these qualities. Simple tasks such as being line leader, handing out papers and taking attendance can showcase their strengths and, as a result, boost their confidence. To ensure that everyone gets a turn, rotate these jobs once every two weeks or a month.
Make Them Practice
This part is very important. You can teach them about social skills the livelong day, but until they practice them, they won’t really ‘get’ them. Think about it like this – after teaching students how to multiply, you set some exercises for them to do so that they can practice what they have learnt. It’s the same thing here. The best way to practice social skills, other than actual interactions, is to do some role-plays. You can provide your students with proper scenarios which they can act out. A benefit of this is that you can give them feedback on the spot.
Set Them Up with Pen-Friends
This is not about emailing or instant messaging or any of those more or less instant features. This is about good old-fashioned letter writing. Have your students write to students from another school. Not only does it allow students to develop their social skills when it comes to written communication, but also ensures that students who are introverts or are non-verbal can be on a level playing field. It gives them time to gather their thoughts. You will need to prepare for this in advance to ensure that they can go through the process safely.
Conduct Group Activities
Group activities have academic benefits, of course, but their contribution to the development of children’s social skills cannot be underestimated either. They teach students about skills such as goal-setting, responsibility, and teamwork. Ensure that the groups you make allow the quieter children to interact with the ones who are extroverts. You can start a group discussion or set them a group project or even play some games. Overall this kind of activities helps to drive home proper behaviour and how students need to treat each other with respect.
The importance of developing social skills can be seen in the fact that many schools have made specific additions to their curriculum for emotional and social development. Everyone involved in a child’s development plays a vital role, therefore, it is very important that you help your students develop these skills.