Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Techniques and Strategies to Reinforce Social Skills

Over the past few weeks in Year 2, we have been focusing on the school social skill: Encouraging Others.  To begin with, we taught the skill using the Y chart strategy outlined in A Clear Method for Teaching Social Skills.  Following a class discussion, the students made turtles to record their responses to the Y chart headings to demonstrate their understanding of what Encouraging Others looks like, sounds like and feels like. Below is a photo of the finished turtleswhich are currently displayed in our classroom.

We recognise that social skills take time to master and students need to have plenty of opportunities to practice skills. We have been working on a number of strategies to reinforce the Encouraging Others social skill in Year 2, which are outlined below.

Role Play -   Role-play is an excellent teaching strategy with many benefits including:
  • engages students
  • makes learning meaningful and relevant
  • builds confidence and;
  • teaches empathy.  
Our students have been involved in creating short role-plays that demonstrate how to encourage others, which they then presented to the class. They did a fabulous job!

A few tips to offer regarding using role-play with students are:
  • model role-play for the students
  • for the more reluctant role-players, do the first few role-plays in front of small groups of children (i.e., a smaller audience).
  • reassure students that all performances will be appreciated and respected and;
  • practice makes perfect: role plays are made for repetition.
Circle Time - A feature of our classroom environment is Circle Time. Positioning the students in a circle instantly creates a sense of community.  In Year 2 we use Circle Time to share and discuss thoughts, feelings and ideas.  The social skill Active Listening, the first ever social skill we taught to our Year 2 students, has lead our students to be respectful of the speaker and understand what it means to be a good audience member, as well as being proficient at taking turns.  In our most recent Circle Time session we asked our students to give examples of some of the comments they would hear, or have heard, from teachers and students encouraging others.  We passed "George", our class dragon, around the circle. Each student gave George an encouraging comment. 

Using naturally occurring incidents to reinforce certain skills - We recognise the importance of social skills being reinforced in authentic situations.  For this reason, we encourage our students to demonstrate the skill Encouraging Others throughout the day, in and out of the classroom. We regularly invite the students to share “success stories” of when they have 1) demonstrated a taught social skill and 2) witnessed others demonstrating the social skill.  In preparation of our upcoming school sports carnival, we have been practising the team sports as a whole-class. This has provided an excellent opportunity to practice the encouraging others skill and praise students’ efforts when they do.

As can been seen above, there are number of strategies we use to help reinforce social skills with our students.  We endeavour to teach and reinforce social skills in a supportive, fun and engaging way. We try to always think “social skills” in our interactions with our students in and out of the classroom. We are looking forward to trying new techniques and building our repertoire of strategies. 

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