Teaching social skills is a matter of details. Like so many things involved in establishing a strong classroom community, it comes down to daily implementation, since it is daily practice that builds these skills. But remember, it doesn't have to take much time!
So many of what we consider social skills are really just habits. For example, good communication in the classroom includes politeness, which is really just the habit of saying "please," "thank you" and "excuse me" in certain situations. Even if we don't consciously think of what we are doing, a situation or pattern has triggered our automatic politeness response.
Other politeness habits, such as not interrupting another person, take more conscious effort than just tossing off a quick "thank you," but they are learned over time through practice as well.
Teaching values of honesty and fairness, as with some many effective classroom management topics, comes down to continuous modeling by the teacher. Students don't always pick up on how to act just by observing, but it is certain that if they see no example at all, they have little chance of behaving as you desire.
Can you imagine just talking about the importance of fairness, then letting only certain kids get away with poor behavior? From the kids' perspective, that would be worse than never bringing the topic up at all.
Teaching social skills at a higher-level, such as working collaboratively, can take much longer and we all know some adults who have never received passing grades on collaboration, no matter what profession you consider). Working together is the foundation of teaching tolerance, a skill that our students need to learn as preparation for adulthood.
You will find in-depth information about managing student collaboration on this student partners page, but the bedrock beneath building school relationships often comes down to classroom management strategies for teaching responsibility.
I'm a big believer in encouraging - no...insisting upon - politeness from your students in all parts of the school, not just your classroom. This includes common areas such as the lunch room. Lunch rooms can sometimes turn into little battle zones, but a few interactive teaching activities can nip that in the bud.
These tips for teaching etiquette at lunch are just the thing for kids who need a few pointed reminders about proper mealtime behavior.
Certain childhood conditions can affect a kid's ability to interact socially. For example, children on the autism spectrum can often possess a non-expressive face, giving them a flat affect that other students interpret as anger or disinterest.
Work with special-needs kid individually, helping them understand their impact and giving them tailor-made suggestions to fit their particular situation.
I told one Asperger's boy in my class that I wanted to "see his dimples," a phrase that caught his imagination and helped him smile when he felt happy.
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Teaching Social Skills of Politeness
It all starts - and ends - with politeness
Establishing a Respectful Classroom Climate
Teacher-student relationships flourish with mutual respect
Values-based interactions...the key to effective classroom management
Actions bring consequences
Lessons in the lunchroom
Stop the effects of bullying before they start