Demonstrate skills

Work with students to identify the steps involved in demonstrating a skill. For example, ask students who are learning about taking turns, “How would we know if two students are taking turns at an activity? What kinds of behaviour would we see and hear?” Record a specific, step-by-step description of the skill on chart paper and post it in the classroom for students to refer to.

Discuss the skill before demonstrating it. Be sure each step is identified and that the steps are presented in the correct sequence, and are clear and unambiguous. Help students to observe the cognitive process involved in carrying out the skill. For example, “I really want to go first but I’ll let John take his turn this time, and I’ll go first in the next game.” Demonstrate at least two different scenarios using the same skill, always ensuring that the scenarios have positive outcomes.

Practise with role-play

In role-play, students practise a skill by acting out situations, without costumes or scripts. Set the context for role-play and allow students to choose their roles. Give them a minimal amount of planning time to discuss the situation, choose different alternatives or reactions and plan a basic scenario. At the conclusion, ask students to discuss how they felt and what they learned. The most important part of role-play is the reflection and discussion that follows.

As students participate in role-play, they are able to:

  • practise communication and social skills in a safe, nonthreatening environment
  • consider different perspectives and develop empathy by seeing how their decisions might affect others
  • solve social problems and explore new ideas.

Sample strategies for using role-play in social skills instruction

  • Always have students role-play the positive side of a skill or situation.
  • While it may be helpful to discuss negative situations, it is best not to role-play them. The negative role could be inadvertently reinforced if peers find that acting out negative behaviour is funny or entertaining.
  • Provide a specific situation.
  • Limit the time students have to develop and practise (5 to 10 minutes is usually sufficient).
  • Limit the use of costumes and props.
  • Provide tips for participating in role-play (see box).
  • Provide tips for observing role-play (see box).
  • During the role-play, observe how students handle the situations represented and consider the following types of questions.
    • Are concepts expressed accurately, in language and action?
    • Are any students confused or uncertain about the purpose of the role‑play, the situation or their roles?
  • Provide feedback as soon as possible after completion.
  • To extend learning from role-play, consider the following types of questions.
    • What issues were clarified?
    • What misconceptions might have been presented?
    • What questions did the role-play raise?
    • What new information is needed?
  • How does this role-play link with future tasks that extend or broaden the topic?

Tips for participating in role-play

  • Face the audience, and speak loudly and clearly.
  • Use body language to communicate your message instead of relying on props or costumes.
  • Focus on your role-play partners and the message you want to communicate.
  • Assess your participation by asking yourself these questions.
    • How am I demonstrating that I understand this role?
    • Are we showing all important aspects of the situation?
    • Are we showing all of the ideas from our planning session?
    • Am I using new skills or concepts correctly?

Tips for observing role-play

  • Demonstrate good listening by being quiet and attentive.
  • Laugh at appropriate moments.
  • Do not laugh at the role-play participants.
  • Show support by clapping and using positive words of encouragement when the role-play is finished.
  • Reflect on the social skill that is being role-played.
  • Consider how you might use this skill in your own life.

Teach self-monitoring

To help students transfer the social skills they are learning to their daily lives, have them regularly practise using those skills and then monitor how well they do. For example, select a social skill that a student is doing well with, ask him or her to practise the skill in a specific situation at home or in school and then have the student complete a self-reflection rating scale.

Alternatively, let the student know when he or she will be placed in a situation that requires a specific social skill. Set up the situation and afterwards sit down with the student to discuss and evaluate how well the student did.

As students become more proficient at using a variety of social skills, prompt them to self-monitor throughout the day. Students can self-monitor their use of a target skill at natural breaks in the day, such as recess and lunch. Students who don’t give themselves positive ratings should also state the reasons why.

Students can also self-monitor their use of the social skills they are learning in other contexts; for example, on the bus, at soccer practice or at home. Consider setting up a display area where students can post a sheet that records a situation that called on them to use a social skill in, the steps they followed and how successful they were. Provide space for students to record why things went well, or what they might do to be even more effective the next time.

Teach problem-solving approaches

Problems that arise in the classroom can provide opportunities for students to take responsibility for their own behaviour. When students try to solve their problems themselves, they develop confidence and acquire valuable skills that they can use throughout their lives.

Solution Wheel

The Solution Wheel is a strategy that encourages students to take responsibility for their behaviour and find solutions.

Have the class generate a list of solutions that can be used in any number of different conflicts; for example, apologizing, talking it through, taking time to calm down, using an “I” message or choosing something else to do. Once the list is generated, star all suggestions that are respectful and helpful, and work together to select suggestions that everyone can agree on. Students can draw a symbol or picture to represent each solution. Record each of the solutions on the circle and add the symbols. Post the wheel in a visible spot in the classroom.

Talk about it.
Take turns.
Flip a coin.
Say you’re sorry.
Ask for help.
Forget the whole thing.
Agree to disagree.
Share the blame.
See the funny side.
Do “paper, rock, scissors.”

When a problem arises, ask students to try at least two solutions from the wheel before asking an adult to help solve the problem. Tell school staff, including other teachers, support staff and lunchroom supervisors, about the Solution Wheel so they can remind students to use it when a problem arises.

Real-life situations

Prompt personal problem solving through questioning, modelling, providing helpful language and reinforcing students’ efforts. Use real-life social situations in the classroom to teach social skills through a series of guided questions. For example:

  • What do we need to do first?
  • What do we need to get before we can start?
  • What would happen if you _________?
  • Who could we ask?
  • Where should we go to ___________?
  • What would be better, ________ or _________?
  • Where did we find _________ last week?
  • Where do you need to look for _________?
  • Who would be best to help with ________?
  • Why would ________ be better than ________?

Problem-solving cards

Use problem-solving cards to help students find new solutions to specific social situations that are causing difficulties in the classroom. Start with easy-to-solve situations. Ask students to answer questions such as:

  • What is the difficulty?
  • Why could this be a problem?
  • What are some possible choices or solutions?
  • What are the pros and cons of the choices?
  • What might be best and why?
  • How could you ________?

For more strategies for supporting students' social particiaption see the Alberta Education resource Supporting Social Participation: http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/insp/html/index.html