In this past week the student teachers in my class have been sharing examples of the challenging behaviors they experience in their classes. There’s one thread that runs through all of their stories –the lack of social skills. This lack of skills leads children to use inappropriate behaviors to get their needs met. I also came across an online classroom management training program from the California State Department of Education that provides a great overview of social skills.
One of the important categories of social skills they present is Academic Survival Skills. These include:
- Getting started on independent work
- Looking at the teacher while she is talking or leading a lesson
- Taking a short break and getting back to work
- Asking for help
- Raising one’s hand and waiting to respond
- Greeting the teacher
- Following what the teacher asks
- Organizing one’s books and materials
- Nodding to show understanding
- Asking the teacher to give feedback
These skills are often overlooked because many children learn them naturally without extra help. But other children need direct instruction. I’ve found that teachers are often angry and frustrated with children who lack these skills – and often make the assumption that the children just choose not to use them. The older the children get, the more difficult it becomes for them because these academic survival skills are building blocks for later learning. Children with disabilities are particularly likely to need support for developing academic survival skills – and especially in inclusion settings.
Are you struggling with children who seem to lack these skills? Try out a simple skills training program. Pick one or two skills from the list above. Designate some time during the school day to model and support the child in practicing the new skill. And most importantly – be sure to give positive feedback when the child is successful at using the new skill. Practice this over the course of a few weeks, at least, because it takes time for children to develop new skills to the point where they can use them on their own. You can also use self monitoring charts to help children track their own progress.
What have been your own experiences in teaching children these academic survival skills? Which have you found are most important? What methods worked best? Please share with us in the comments!