SLP Corner: Improving Social Skills
by Brianna Allor, SLP-CFY
Reprinted with permission of the author as it appeared on her blog
I’m taking some summer classes this year to help bump me up on the pay scale a little quicker. One of the classes I am taking talks about teaching and modeling social-emotional skills in students.
Typically if a student does not qualify for speech or language services then it is assumed that students should or already do possess the necessary social skills for their age. Some social skills may include self-awareness, empathy, communicating properly with other peers as well as adults/teachers, resolving conflicts, taking turns, etc.
Students who lack these social skills may struggle with forming peer relationships, may be bullied or teased, or may spend valuable classroom time trying to fit in with their peers. Oftentimes the responsibility for teaching social skills falls on the classroom teachers if the student does not qualify for speech or language services (Vitto, 2003).
So what do we do?
Well, one common technique is forming a social skills group. I was a part of many social skills groups when I was interning. We often created groups by grade. We would take some students who qualified for speech or language services and also select some peers from their classroom, and we would all get together once a week to play some structured games. This is the time when we would teach taking turns, empathy, resolving conflicts, and other things that are difficult to teach during a one-on-one instruction. We would also do group activities that focused on feelings, asking proper questions, getting to know one another, etcetera. There’s definitely something to be said for social groups. I have found that it really promotes peer relationships as some of the peers began sitting together during lunch or playing together during recess.
Another technique is using push-in and even in-servicing classrooms on appropriate social behavior. One good way to target those social skills is to read a book during story time about a child who lacks social skills. A great book is The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth. Asking questions about the book can also aid in comprehension. As we are creative SLPs, also creating an activity to accompany the book reinforces the book’s message. There are a ton of books out there that promote good social skills!
A good technique for teachers is to use a mystery social skill every day/week (or every other week). How would this work? Well, the teacher has to be willing to do this or else it won’t work. The teacher would write an important social skill on a piece of paper and would pace it in an envelope on the board at the front of the room. Then the teacher will tell the students that he/she will be watching for this mystery social skill, but they are not told what it is until the end of the day/week. The teacher can occasionally say (when he/she sees it happening), “Timmy is using a good social skill right now” and may ask the class what Timmy is doing right to reinforce social skills in the classroom. Students who exhibit the behavior would receive some sort of praise or treat at the end of the week (a sticker, an extra five minutes on the computer, etc.) (Vitto, 2003).
Finally, a really good activity to reinforce those social skills is to use role-play. Role-playing allows the student to practice the social skills by pretending, and it greatly encourages empathy. Role-play is a great activity for one-on-one instruction, but it’s a great activity for social groups as well! Get out those play clothes and materials, it’s time to act! You could even have a small panel of students (maybe 2 or 3) use positive reinforcement on what the group did right. This works on turn taking as well as giving compliments.
I really like the chart pictured above. I think it is a great visual model for teaching skills to students. Under the Feedback and Social Reinforcement section, I think it is important to provide constructive feedback. I also think it’s important to give positive feedback and discuss what the student did right.
There are many more activities that facilitate the growth of social skills, and the above are only a few mentioned.
How do you target social skills in the schools? What have you found to be effective?
Vitto, J.M. (2003). Relationship-driven classroom management: Strategies that promote student motivation. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, Inc.
Featured Contributor: Breanna Allor and Let’s Talk Speech-Language Pathology
Bio from the Author’s Blog: My name is Brea, and I am a CF speech-language pathologist. I just graduated this May, and I am about to begin my CFY in the schools. I will be working with preschoolers and some middle schoolers. This will definitely be a different experience for me as I have never really worked with preschoolers before. I’m really excited to learn all I can about children at this age. In my free time I love to read (not textbooks but real books), shop, go to the movies, and spend time with my friends and family.
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