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5 Important Social Skills For School To Teach Your Students

social skills for school

Do students even need social skills for school? The short answer: yes.

Our education system continues to go on and on about test scores and academic benchmarks, the truth is many students are falling behind because they lack the social skills for school success. And as resources for students in this area are just never enough, it often falls to us teachers to fill in the gaps.

But here’s the good news… there are plenty of ways we can teach socials skills for students that can be easy, fun, and effective.

Read on for the most important social skills for school and some quick ideas of how to get started teaching them to your students.

social skills

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5 Important Social Skills For School

Some people might think teaching social skills in the classroom is an extra that we just don’t have time for. But the truth is, we can’t afford to not teach social skills.

So why are social skills important in school? They are crucial in helping students to…

  • Focus and engage during lessons
  • Interact positively with classmates
  • Handle challenges and disappointments

How many times have we had a student miss part of a lesson because they are de-escalating from an episode, recovering from recess drama, or unable to focus?

How many times have we been pulled away from what we’re trying to teach to help them?

If we spent just a little bit of time every week teaching and reinforcing some basic social skills, there is no doubt that everyone would benefit.

So what social skills do students need? These are the top 5 that made my list of social skills for students:

  1. Expressing Feelings: We all get big feelings sometimes. The more students practice identifying them and communicating them in positive ways, the more they can effectively handle emotions when they come up.
  2. Self-Regulation: This is a huge one for the classroom. Students need examples of strategies they can use to help them calm down and re-focus when their bodies or minds are getting in the way of their learning.
  3. Setting Boundaries: While this one goes far beyond the bounds of the classroom and into overall child safety, there are important foundations we can lay for students to start standing up and advocating for themselves.
  4. Respectful Disagreement: If students could learn to discuss and disagree kindly and respectfully, think of all the fires we wouldn’t have to put out!
  5. Conflict Resolution: Even the best of friends have fights now and then. Students can become more independent in handling these friendship bumps, apologizing and forgiving, and moving on.

Now that we have a list of 5 important social skills for students to be learning practicing at school, let’s dive into each one in more detail. Teaching these explicitly is so important for students to be able to start using these skills independently. (That’s why I created the Social Skills curriculum!)

Social Skills #1: Expressing Feelings

social emotional learning

Expressing feelings is a great place to start if you’re new to teaching social skills in the classroom. There are lots of fun ways to teach students to identify their emotions and express them in appropriate ways:

  • Try creating a chart that shows different emotions. You can have student volunteers act out the different emotions, or even turn it into a game where the other students have to guess which emotion is being acted out. Post the chart somewhere in the classroom and ask students at different times to identify how they are feeling.
  • A great book to read with your class for this classroom social skill is Big Feelings.
  • You can also create a feelings form and have it available for students to fill out at different times. The feelings form should let them easily identify their current emotion. This is great social skills practice for students who need support with communicating big feelings.

Social Skills #2: Self-Regulation

the importance of social emotional learning

Self-regulation would make the top of any child social skills checklist. This skill is so necessary for success in the classroom, it definitely deserves our attention when we set out to teach social skills.

So how can we help students with self-regulation?

  • Teach explicit strategies: You can decide which strategies are workable for your classroom, but some great options are things like using a fidget, drawing a picture, doing ten jumping jacks, talking with a friend, taking deep breaths, visiting a calm corner, etc.
  • Practice these strategies: Without repetition and reminders, students will never learn to actually use the strategies you’ve taught. Model them, suggest them, and post them in a visible place in the classroom for students to refer to.
  • Create a calm down space: Many teachers choose to create a “calm corner” in their classroom, full of the materials that students might need to self-regulate or de-escalate. Your calm corner might have a comfy chair, some books to look at, charts with breathing exercises, fidgets, or drawing materials. You can direct a student to the calm corner, or students can ask if they can go spend time there.
  • Set clear boundaries: You might worry that your students will take advantage of these tools, and that’s valid. There should be clear rules around when these strategies can be used or when the calm corner can be used. If a student doesn’t respect those rules, then you’ll need to provide a consequence – this might look like limiting the available options, or you deciding when they can be used.

Social Skills #3: Setting Boundaries

social emotional learning

Setting boundaries goes beyond learning social skills and has everything to do with child safety. Teaching our students how to set boundaries helps empower them to stand up for themselves and handle tricky situations with confidence. But it can also help us a whole lot too – empowered students need less help from their teacher to solve every little problem!

I like to break down setting boundaries into four main strategies:

  1. Speak Up: students talk to the person when they think something isn’t right
  2. Walk Away: students can walk away and go do something else
  3. Get Help: students can get the help of an adult if something isn’t safe
  4. Self Affirm: students can say kind words to themselves if their feelings were hurt

Practicing these strategies with scenarios in class together is a great way to help students understand when to use each strategy. And of course, I love a good craft for reinforcing these social skills for school.

Social Skills #4: Respectful Disagreement

social skills for school

Can we just take a moment to think about how many adults don’t know how to respectfully disagree?? I mean, if there was ever a skill that needs to be taught young…

Helping students learn to respectfully disagree can be simple! Try these ideas:

  • Give sentence frames to work from that use the positive language you want students to practice.
  • Model this for students throughout the day.
  • Provide opportunities for students to share differing points of view so they can practice.

Social Skills #5: Conflict Resolution

teaching social skills

As teachers, we spend a lot of our time putting out fires and trying to help students through conflicts. But our students can and should learn be learning these skill too! Conflict resolution is an important social skill for students to start practicing early on.

One pet peeve I have as a teacher is insincere apologies. But students need support with how to make their apologies more meaningful. One great way to do this is to break it down into clear steps for them:

  1. Say sorry for what you did
  2. Say why it was wrong
  3. Say what you’ll do differently next time
  4. Ask what you can do to make them feel better right now

These four steps help students really understand why they were at fault, and it helps the other student feel like they are being heard and taken care of.

Social Skills For Students

I hope these social skills for school have given you some inspiration to try out some social skills activities with your students.

I know it can feel like you don’t have time to fit one more thing in, teaching these skills will pay off big time in the long run. Your students will be more independent, your classroom will run more smoothly, and ultimately students will be more able to focus on learning.

If you want more activity ideas, check out my blog post 9 Amazing Ideas to Teach the Importance of Social Emotional Learning in Your Classroom.

social skills
What social skills for school are you going to try out? Let me know in the comments!

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