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Teaching Social Skills in the Classroom

Teaching Social Skills in the Classroom

Last week, someone 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.

Read more about supporting the social and emotional development of students.


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