As a first year teacher, I was blown away by how much time I needed to dedicate to teaching social skills in the classroom. For (most) adults the concepts of kindness, fairness, and respect are no brainers. But, as I spent more and more time with my students I began to realize that these habits do not always come naturally kids.
I was nervous to dive into the world of teaching social skills in the classroom because I was worried about what I would put on a lesson plan, but after a few months I decided to put my worries aside and made a change. Sure, social skill concepts don’t show up on standardized tests but in order to make my classroom a positive and inclusive place, some explicit social skill instruction was necessary! With the help of my school social worker, I developed some short lesson plans and classroom routines to creature a culture of kindness in my third-grade classroom.
To fit in my new lessons, I used my morning meeting time and reading block to help my students form connections with each other and read books that show characters dealing with common elementary school issues. Here are a few of my favorite activities that I did with my students this year. I did these with third graders, but they could easily be adapted for any elementary age classroom!
To help my students make connections with their classmates I challenged my students to find something in common with someone they don’t talk to on a daily basis. This activity was simple but very meaningful because my students realized that they have a lot more in common with their classmates than they thought they did. Many new friendships formed as a result of taking the time to form connections with classmates.
Juice Box Bully- To help teach my students about bullying I read aloud the book “The Juice Box Bully” by Bob Sornson. This book does an excellent job of showing children how to stand up to bullies. At the end of the book, there is a promise that students can follow to prevent bullying. After reading the story my students asked if they could take the pledge (all on their own!) and we copied the pledge and the students signed their name to hold them accountable for their actions.
Shout Out Wall
As a class, my students brainstormed positive behaviors that you can display in the classroom. They came up with words like respectful, hardworking, and kind. I displayed these words on a blank wall in the classroom. Throughout the day my students write “shout outs” to students who are displaying one of these positive behaviors. At the end of the school day, I read the shout outs to the class and the kids get to keep their note. This has become their favorite part of the school day and they BEG me to read shout outs at the end of the day. I have learned that my kids like being recognized by me for good behavior but they LOVE being recognized by their classmates even more.