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Integrating Social Skills Development with Academic Curricula

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss strategies for designing instructional programs to enhance students' social skills across environments and strategies for integrating social skills with academic curricula.

Socializing at School

When kids talk about socializing at school, they usually mean hanging out with their friends and having fun. When teachers discuss socializing at school, they are more likely to mean the socialization of children. Socialization is a primary function of schooling and involves the development of specific social skills so that children can become more productive and contributing members of society. In many ways, the purpose of schooling is to provide these experiences and opportunities to practice social skills in real life settings with their peers and authority figures. Children need specific practice in learning to make new friends and introducing themselves, working cooperatively as a team with others, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, as well as how to maintain healthy interactions with others.

Let's take a look at how these 4 critical social skills can be integrated into the classroom curricula so that children have opportunities to understand appropriate ways to interact with others.

Introductions

Everyone needs to know how to talk to someone they have never met before without anxiety or rudeness. Many children have limited opportunities to interact with people they have never met before. These children may need to learn how to make new friends and talk to people they don't know. Include manners and etiquette for making new friends and introducing oneself and each other to new people. There are ample opportunities to model courteous introductions throughout the school year.

In addition to incorporating a culture of courtesy into the daily classroom routine, create role playing activities to reinforce skills like shaking hands, making eye contact, and learning people's names. Sometimes it helps to have an icebreaker activity so that students can get to know each other. For instance, students could take turns naming one thing they're good at, one thing they love, and one thing they want to learn. Assign a biography paragraph, where students can write about a specific topic of interest that they will share with others so they can learn a little more about themselves. Provide students opportunities to connect with peers they may not usually talk to by varying members in work groupings and periodically rearranging seats.

Cooperation

One of the primary reasons for socializing children is because they are likely to be expected to cooperate with others in their family, future schooling, and work setting. Learning to cooperate and collaborate toward a goal is a critical skill for maintaining a civilized society. School may be the first opportunity for children without siblings to practice cooperation in a structured setting working toward a mutually beneficial goal. Not only will this help students succeed at home, at school, and in the workplace, but such practical skills are the very cornerstone of civilization.

It is important to remember a few strategies when assigning projects to groups for the purpose of working cooperatively. Group work is one thing but group grading reinforces a climate of competition that runs counter to the goal of cooperative work. When providing group work assignments, students should be provided with the opportunity to self evaluate and evaluate the other members of the group. Students could also be provided with opportunities to work in diverse varieties of social groupings and have varying roles within each group. For example, if the same four students always work together, make assigned groups to ensure diversity.

Communication

Learning effective verbal and nonverbal communication is critical to the socialization of children because it allows them to express themselves, to understand the expressions of others, to follow instructions, and articulate their needs. Some of the strategies for teaching effective communication are to include some basic ground rules for speaking and listening courteously. Many classes already have rules like this in place, but sometimes it helps to invite students to generate their own list of rules for courteous conversation. They are likely to come up with similar guidelines to an established class policy, and when will they reach those conclusions on their own, they are empowered to take ownership and are more likely to follow the rules.

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