The average adult typically doesn’t give much thought to the process of teaching social skills. Most adults naturally understand how to communicate effectively with others, manage their own emotions and reactions, and read verbal and nonverbal social cues. What many do not realize, however, is that the foundation for these skills is laid in the classroom.
For educators, teaching social skills is a critical part of preparing students for a successful future. The “soft skills” taught in the classroom as part of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) are every bit as important as objective subject matter. In fact, the mastery of these social skills over time creates benefits that follow students throughout their academic career and into the working world.
Benefits of Strong Social Skills
Though it’s not possible to measure social skills development in an objective manner, the benefits become apparent in other ways.
First and foremost, social skills affect academics. Strong SEL programs can result in higher graduation rates and increased college readiness. Over the long term, these gains can translate into better employment opportunities, higher wages, and greater physical and mental health.
Beyond academic gains, however, there are plenty of other benefits associated with teaching social skills, including:
- Improved ability to communicate with peers and adults
- Development of self-awareness
- Improved cooperative teamwork
- Ability to set and achieve individual goals
- Development of persistence
- Development of emotional management skills
- Greater active listening skills
- Improved school climate
- Greater school safety
- Reduced bullying
- Fewer health problems
- Reduced likelihood of substance abuse
PBIS initiatives are particularly helpful when it comes to developing social skills, since the focus is on positive behaviors in a variety of settings. When educators are intentional in teaching social skills, the classroom, the school, and the community at large all benefit.
Teaching Social Skills in the Virtual Classroom
Distance learning, eLearning, virtual learning, Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) … whatever your school or district calls it, teaching through technology for remote learning can present challenges. While the technology part of it can be incredibly useful, it may feel difficult to teach social skills in this environment.
In a traditional classroom environment, the development of social skills relies on physical interaction. From in-class time to recess to the cafeteria, students interact with their peers and teachers, receiving immediate feedback from their actions and words. In a virtual environment, some of this immediacy is lost. It may be necessary to adapt your PBIS matrix to include behaviors that foster better social skills during distance learning. Politeness, kindness, and respect should be part of your expectations whether you’re in the classroom or online.
The virtual classroom, however, calls for different techniques than the physical classroom. While it’s more difficult to keep close tabs on your students’ mental and emotional state, it’s not impossible. Doing a regular check-in will go a long way toward helping you to assess the overall emotional state of your students.
Just as you would develop lesson plans around teaching social skills in the physical classroom, you can extend those lessons to a virtual environment. Students will still benefit from developing empathy, practicing kindness, and strengthening emotional regulation. This is the perfect opportunity to teach students how to be good digital citizens.
Using PBIS to Teach Social Skills
A PBIS initiative naturally helps with teaching social skills, since the focus is on positive behaviors. Incorporating social and emotional learning into your lesson plans gives you another way to recognize students for positive behaviors. This can be true for the virtual classroom, as well. Awarding points to students who practice positive online behaviors will help build a strong foundation of social-emotional skills. Schools that use a digital token economy can maintain their PBIS initiative both in person and online, reinforcing social skills regardless of learning environment.
Social skills can help your students to become better learners and lay the foundation for success in the adult world. An intentional focus on social and emotional learning benefits academics and school climate, improving student outcomes and teacher retention. PBIS Rewards can help your school to build an atmosphere in which your students can grow socially, emotionally, and academically!