Teaching Social Skills in the Primary Classroom

In today’s time it is more and more common that the teacher is the primary person that is expected to teach social skills to children. Many children come to school without preparation of how to behave in a classroom setting with twenty-something other children. I believe that many of the problem behaviors are caused because children are not yet taught how to behave in a social environment such as school.

So what are teachers to do? We are already required to teach the curriculum and may struggle to find time to fit that into the busy school day. The truth is that social skill education can be fit into any lesson – in fact you can teach without the children even knowing that they are learning anything!

My favorite way to teach social skills is to implement cooperative learning. In cooperative learning, groups of children work together to achieve the same goal. Take the subject writing for instance. Writing can become a more social experience through cooperative groups. Instead of proof-reading the writing sample yourself, teach the students how to edit and proof-read. Once students are done with their first draft the next stage would be to have a peer edit it for them to correct any mistakes and to offer any suggestions for how to make the story better. Through this method students are not only learning how to correct a paper but also how to work together. They are practicing social skills such as trust, cooperation, responsibility, and respect. These groups can also be used for any subject in the classroom, it just involves modifying some lessons.

Teaching cooperative learning and how to work together will be time consuming at first if the students have not had experience working together. The students who have not had a cooperative learning experience may be reluctant to try something different. No matter how frustrating it may be at the beginning of the year, it will pay off eventually as the students learn to work together. It will help them prepare for adult life where cooperation is a key element in many jobs.