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Teaching Social Skills

Hey blog readers! I'm Lisa from The Lower Elementary Cottage and I'm thrilled to be a guest blogger on Extra Special Teaching! Angelia's blog is always my favorite because we work we such similar students that I always know her ideas will work in my classroom. I'm here to share some activities and strategies for teaching social skills in the classroom.

Struggles with social skills are especially common in special education classes, but you often find average kids who struggle too such as an only child who doesn't have to share toys or games at home. Every kid can benefit from these simple activities!

Board Games and PuzzlesThis is by far the best way to help kids learn social skills in a controlled activity. My student have often resorted to tantrums from playing a board game because they struggle with winning and losing. I sit right next to the kids and prompt them with appropriate things to say and ways to react to winning (a smile and "good try" in a polite voice) and losing ("oh well, good game!"). 
This is also a good time to practice turn taking. Students need to learn how to keep track of who is next. I often encourage them to go "clockwise" or "counter clockwise." My kids also tend to "space out" and I prompt them to pay attention to the game and help the other student count spaces on the board. This gives them a reason to focus on the game.

LegosThese are the best toys I have ever added to my classroom! The kids are forced to talk to each other and ask each other for pieces when they need them. This helps them learn to ask appropriately instead of just grabbing for things. I also like to encourage team work by giving them a building project to do together. For example, I may tell a pair of kids to create a house together and they have to compromise to decide on how it should look. I know they can be expensive, but you can buy a small mixed bucket (like the one below) for under $30 at Target and they last forever. I've also gotten some from Freecycle. It's like craigslist but FREE! You can request or off to pick up items from people who don't want them, but don't want to throw good things away. I got a FULL SET of Mega Blocks for FREE! Just post that you are a teacher and looking for something and you may get just what you ask for.

Ball/Bubbles/ChalkGive a lonely student a fun outdoor toy and give them the task of asking a friend to play with them. It's a great way to let the student have an opportunity to play with a peer. A student who may otherwise not have people who want to play with him/her may suddenly be the best kid to play with because they have a cool toy to share. Practice ahead of time with the student so they know what to say when they approach a friend. Then stand near by to coach them on things they could do *together* with the toy such as one kid blows the bubbles while the other kid pops them, then switch roles.

Scripts!Some students are rigid and need explicit directions and scripts to follow in order to hold an appropriate conversation. I love to make social skills cartoon to meet specific student needs. I've found a couple of great programs to do this only FOR FREE! Can you tell I love freebies?! One is ToonDoo which has great colors and you can make all sorts of different facial expressions and backgrounds. Click here for a couple I've made. Another option is Make Beliefs Comix. This one is super easy and older kids could even write their own. Here is a link to how you can use them in special education.

Now I wouldn't be a great guest blogger if I didn't give you a great *FREEBIE* printable! You get a brand new social skills prompting chart! A mom of one of my students is very concerned about her child's conversation skills, so I told her I could make a reward chart with conversation prompts on it. My plan is to give the kid tally marks for every step he uses on the chart. Then he'll get a reward for every 5 times he makes it all the way to the bottom (5 tallies on the last section). I use these by cutting them in half (save paper & desk space) and laminating them. Next I tape it to their desk and use an overhead marker to give tally marks. They don't wipe off as easily as a whiteboard marker, but wipe super easy with a wet paper towel so the chart can be reused! If you don't want to use it as a reward chart, I also made a version without the tally mark column. Click here to download your freebie.

I'm so glad I had this opportunity to be a guest blogger on Extra Special Teaching! Stop by my blog The Lower Elementary Cottage for more ideas, freebies, and tips for working with special education students!

What's your favorite way to work on social skills?


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