Fostering Social Skills in Elementary Schools

Educators have many obligations to their students. Beyond the course content and subject-level achievement, teachers offer their students guidance on social and emotional levels that serve them for the rest of their lives. Moreover, these abilities should help students not only in the classroom but in the world outside of it, which presents educators with a significant opportunity.

One of the most important and rewarding skills educators can instill in their students is considerate social skills. Programs like the Mississippi College (MC) online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Elementary Education program teach educators how to complement academic instruction with social development strategies. The ability to get along and collaborate effectively with other people is an essential social skill teachers can help develop. Unfortunately, due to the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people’s social skills have been profoundly stunted, particularly regarding their ability to be constructive interpersonal communicators. Without the typical social environment offered by the daily routine of attending school with their peers, students could not develop effective social habits to the same pre-pandemic extent.

For example, in a 2021 Forbes article, “a kindergarten teacher said he was seeing habits such as monopolizing a teacher’s attention, picking on peers for attention, tantrums and an unwillingness to share on a larger scale than ever before.

Especially at these younger ages, children learn behaviors foundational to becoming responsible and functional people. Some critical behaviors outlined by Resilient Educator include accountability, respect for others, taking turns, making friends and emotional self-control. The value of these skills is self-evident — without them, accomplishing things in the classroom can be difficult for children, and their abilities outside the classroom can also suffer.

Approaches to Social-Emotional Education

How can teachers help their students reclaim these skills? Remedial education can be challenging, but with the proper scaffolding and strategies, schools can provide the ideal environment for students to cultivate social skills.

The Teaching Expertise blog offers several ways to reintroduce social-emotional skills to students whose development lapsed due to the pandemic. Whatever activities teachers decide to use, they should ensure that the activity is accessible to all students, regardless of special needs, language learning or any other barrier.

Goal Setting

A growth mindset is an important starting point for all students, and goal setting is one of the most straightforward ways for students to practice that mentality. Goal setting also gives students an idea of what it means to plan long-term and incentivizes work.

Game of Feelings

Game of Feelings is a card game that teachers can acquire, but the idea is simple. The game offers students scenarios and asks them to identify feelings and use words to describe them. The premise is to help students think through, diagnose and manage their emotions. Students also must learn to take turns and listen to others. The game doesn’t require much preparation but adding visuals or other cues for English learners can be a great way to enhance the game’s effect.

Interactive Writing and Drawing

Writing and drawing may seem like juvenile activities, but when asking students to express themselves, giving them multiple options for the outlet can be surprisingly informative for many students. Some students might be more comfortable or more effective at expressing themselves visually. Others might simply have an interest in drawing. This activity’s wide range of responses makes it highly differentiated and accessible for students.

If you are interested in improving students’ social-emotional health and their academic outcomes, enroll in the MC online M.Ed. in Elementary Education program.

Learn more about the Mississippi College online M.Ed. in Elementary Education program.

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