Today we’re continuing our series on Language in the Classroom. Missed the first one? Don’t worry! You can click the “Series” button at the top and to check out last month’s post on Classroom Culture. As a classroom teacher, Miss Decarbo from Sugar and Spice will be focusing on the big picture and the classroom as a whole. As a speech language pathologist, I will be gearing ideas toward your smaller groups and how to work them in with some of your intervention students.
We based this series off of the book, Comprehension from the Ground Up, by Sharon Taberski because, like so many of you, we understand the importance of language as the underpinning for all other skills. When our students have difficulty with language, they will most likely have difficulty in other areas as well. Social skills is an area near and dear to my heart. These are the students who don’t know how to make friends, engage in conversations, play games or get people to like them. When our kids struggle with social skills, often they can come to school already feeling defeated, which makes learning even more difficult.
As a speech language pathologist, I hold weekly social groups for those students whose deficits in social language is so severe, that it affects their overall learning. Many of these activities come from my Social Group Curriculum because, for the majority, these students benefit from a small, safe group with peer models who help teach social skills. Kids listen so much better to their peers than to us sometimes, am I right?!
- Teach your students how to be a good listener.
In my opinion, teaching our students to be good listeners trumps even being a good communicator. On the first day of my social groups, I tell my students I’m going to share a secret with them. This is top-secret and only those in this very special social group will discover it. I don’t know about yours but my students always get super excited when they learn they’ll be in on a secret. My secret usually goes something like this: “Do you want to know the secret to making friends easily? It’s being a good listener! Most people love talking about themselves, so if you are a good listener, you’ll make friends really easy. And here is what a good listener looks like:”
I love the Whole Body Listening approach by Social Thinking to teach my students what our bodies do when we are being good listeners. Sometimes, our students just need a good visual and a little practice to begin a new skill!
2. Teach your students to interpret nonverbal language.
Some experts believe that nonverbal language makes up 93% of our communication. This is HUGE! Students who don’t understand nonverbal language often don’t read faces, gestures or the tone of your voice. This confusion can often look like behavior problems so it’s important to notice the signs and react accordingly.
Here’s a few fun activities to teach nonverbal language:
- Watch this video (which contains no words) with your students and try to decipher what is going on.
- Ask for volunteers to give these expressions and have the rest of the class guess the emotion.
excited (raised eyebrows, open mouth)
sad (frown, eyes down)
angry (eyebrows pointed down, lips pursed)
nervous (hands shaking)
surprise (raised eyebrows, open mouth)
curiosity (tilt head, close eyebrows)
- See if students can role-play these situations for the class without using words:
What time is it?
You go first.
Can I have something to drink?
3. Teach your students how to be a good sport.
Often our students with social difficulties have a hard time playing games. They don’t understand losing, don’t like how it feels (we all know that feeling) and had no preparation for what it looks like to be a good sport. Hence, a meltdown occurs, which then makes other children not want to play with them and the cycle perpetuates. Is the answer stop playing games? No. Games are good. Games teach us that we might not always win and how to deal with loss in a safe, supportive environment.
Preparation is key here. Whenever I get out a game, I go through the whole spiel. Towards the end of the year, my students start complaining and ask to just jump right in to the game but I’ve learned enough times that the preparation is essential, even if they think they have it down.
- We talk about how to play the game.
- We talk about how sometimes you’ll get to go first and sometimes you won’t.
- We talk about what a good sport looks like.
- We talk about what a bad sport looks like.
- We talk about how sometimes you might win and sometimes you won’t.
- We talk about what to do if you win a game.
- We talk about what to do if you lose a game.
Basically, we talk a lot. But it helps a lot. So even though it might cut into my precious time sometimes, avoiding a meltdown actually saves me time in the long run. And my students are better for it.
Thanks so much for reading! Make sure to stop by Miss DeCarbo’s to catch some more ideas on encouraging a great social skills in the classroom. See you next month!