Counselor News

8 Social Skills Students Need
(And How to Teach Them Step by Step!)
We’ve been talking with the experts at Boys Town Training® about how
administrators and teachers can transform school culture. One of the key
places to begin is with the explicit teaching of social skills to all students.
 When academic and positive social skills are the
norm, students and staff feel safer and happier, office referrals go
down, and, best of all, there is more time for teaching and learning.
Here are eight key social skills that all students need to be
successful. Consider working on one or two skills with your class
each week. Start by gathering students together and talking about
the skill. For example, ask: Why is listening attentively important?
What does it look like when a person is listening? How do we
know? Work together to list the steps for each skill or behavior on
chart paper or a whiteboard.   
Social Skill: How to Listen Attentively
Skill Steps:  
1. Look at the person who is talking and remain quiet.
2. Wait until the person is finished talking before you speak.
3. Show that you heard the speaker by nodding your head, and
using positive phrases, such as “Okay” or “That’s interesting.”
Classroom Activity:  Invite students to tell each other jokes to
practice active listening. Gather joke books from your school
library or send students online to Aha Jokes to find their favorite
funnies to share with their friends. Have students work in small
groups taking turns in the roles of speaker and active listeners.
Older students can practice sharing opinions on class reading or
plans for college or career.
Social Skill: How to Greet Others
Skill Steps:
1. Look at the person.
2. Use a pleasant voice.
3. Say, “Hi” or “Hello.”
Classroom Activity:  Challenge your students to come up with 25
or more possible greetings they can use with each other, with you
or with a classroom guest. Include greetings in different
languages. Each morning, go around the room and have each
student offer a greeting to the class.
Social Skill: Following Instructions
Skill Steps:
1. Look at the person.
2. Say okay.
3. Do what you’ve been asked to do right away
4. Check back in with the person.
 Classroom Activity:  Play classroom games that help students to
increase their ability to follow instructions with traditional games
like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light. Or challenge your
students to a scavenger hunt around the classroom or school. 
Explain that theirs is no way to succeed without following
directions precisely. As with all the skills, have your students go
through the steps every time you issue a request until they
become second nature.
Social Skill:  Asking for Help
Skill Steps:
1. Look at the person.
2. Ask the person if he or she has time to help you.
3. Clearly explain the kind of help you need.
4. Thank the person for helping.
Classroom Activity: Asking for help can be difficult for many
students and even adults. In a class meeting, have student
practice this skill by taking a fun and playful approach. On
separate notecards, write down situations in which a person is
asking for help, e.g., “a man asking a stranger for help moving a
piano,” “a teacher asking a colleague for help grading a huge pile
of papers,”  “an astronaut asking for help getting out of his suit.”
 Invite pairs of students to pick a notecard to act out the scene
including all the steps!
Social Skill: How to Get the Teacher’s Attention
Skill Steps: 
1. Look at the teacher.
2. Raise your hand and stay calm.
3. Wait until the teacher says your name or nods at you.
4. Ask your question.
Classroom Activity:  Start by asking your students: “What is the
WRONG way to get your teacher’s attention?” Encourage them to
demonstrate all the wrong ways—waving their hands in the air
wildly, jumping up and down, calling out, etc. They will enjoy this!
Then, have volunteers model the correct way to get your
Social Skill:  How to Disagree Appropriately
Skill Steps:  
1. Look at the person.
2. Use a pleasant voice.
3. Say, “I understand how you feel.”
4. Tell why you feel differently.
5. Give a reason.
6. Listen to the other person
Classroom Activity: Disagreeing without arguing is a skill that
many adults as well as kids and teens find difficult. Like all social
skills, it takes resources and practice. That’s why going over the
steps of each skill is so important. Give students the chance to
practice debating and disagreeing when the stakes are low. For
example, write a controversial statement on the board such as,
“Rum raisin is the very best flavor of ice cream,” or “Rap is not
music,” and invite your students to disagree politely!
Social Skill:  How to Make an Apology
Skill Steps:  
1. Look at the person.
2. Use your best serious, sincere voice.
3. Begin with “I’m sorry for…”, or “I want to apologize for…”
4. Do your best not to make excuses.
5. Explain how you plan to do better in the future.
6. Say, “Thanks for listening.”
Classroom Activity:  Let’s face it: apologizing is hard, but it does get
easier with practice. Consider tying your discussion of apologies to
a book you are reading as a class. From David Shannon’s picture
book No, David! to Louise Fitzhugh’s classic Harriet the Spy, many
stories lend themselves to discussions of social skills, mistakes, and
Social Skill:  How to Accept “No” for an Answer
Skill Steps:
1. Look at the person.
2. Say okay.
3. Stay calm.
4. If you disagree, return to the subject later in a respectful manner.
Classroom Activity: Accepting “no” can be difficult when we feel
strongly about a situation. This is a skill that needs to be modeled
repeatedly as its draws on other important skills. In order to
accept “no” gracefully, a child needs to be able to respect authority,
see another’s point of view, and have self-control. Write 5-6
situations on notecards and give them to groups of students. 
Examples: The class wants to ask the teacher to hold class
outside.  Asking your parents if you can watch an R rated movie. 
Challenge students to model how they will ask, and how they will
handle the answer.  Talk about how they could return to the subject
with a respectful argument at another time.