Friday, November 4, 2011

Hey! What's a social skill?

For the past few years, a trend in our school (and across the country) has been to have 'social skills' groups for those kids who can't quite understand that it's not OK to start rambling on about dinosaurs when the discussion topic might be 'states of matter', or you should raise your hand in class to be 'called on', or you can't melt down in class daily if the schedule changes slightly.  Primarily, kids in these groups are in regular education, but on the spectrum.

Recently, I had a discussion with a cute third grader who was in one of those groups.  She couldn't understand why she had to go to the 'social studies' group!  She thought she didn't need social studies!  (She most likely does need both--social studies and social skills)  That conversation led me to think---do the children even know what a 'social skill' is?  Should we enlighten them a bit?  Do they need to know the goals even if they are only in elementary school?   I think--yes. 
First steps---I created a poster.  It's a sorting poster where the students had to decide if a particular skill is academic (e.g. subtraction) or a social skill (e.g. giving a compliment).  These were written on sticky notes, and the kids simply told me what category and placed the skill in the right spot. My discovery was that some kids had no problems sorting these, while others (one in particular) had no clue.  How can you learn social skills when you don't know what the concept is?  Unless you, as a teacher, hope it's by osmosis (doesn't work for autism much!) Then next step was to generate some social skills items and academic items to add to the poster.  Again, some could, while others could not. 


This is obviously a work in progress for some of my students.  Enlightening, and challenging, but I'm really glad that I back-tracked to see what the kids understood!

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