Many teachers wonder what social skills are essential for their students to be successful in the classroom.

What Social Skills are Essential for Students?

You may have heard the term ‘social skills’ but what social skills are really essential for student success? Let’s dig into just what these skills are, what is needed, and a brief overview of how to teach them.

What is Social Skills

Social skills is a term that has been around for a while. But in case you aren’t quite sure, it is the skills we use every day to interact and communicate with others.  

When thinking about what does social skills mean, we are talking about all communication with others. This includes both verbal and nonverbal. As a reminder, verbal means the speech one is saying. Non-verbal includes gestures, facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.

These skills are often talked about when a student needs some social training. Many times these missing skills come out when doing a functional behavioral assessment. Then part of their behavior intervention plan has direct instruction in these skills. If you aren’t sure how to conduct an FBA, check out this easy-to-follow guide that will take you through a 5 step process to writing an awesome functional behavioral assessment. Just tell me where to send it to:

Wondering what is social skills – it is people’s abilities to interact and communicate with others.
Wondering what is social skills – it is people’s abilities to interact and communicate with others.

What are Social Skills for Students That Are Needed

Now that we have a common foundation of what the social skills meaning is, let’s get into what specific skills kids actually need. 

There are 13 basic principles that students need. Here they are:

  • Listening – hearing and understanding what others are saying, this is an important part as it leads to other skills such as making eye contact, taking turns, and following directions
  • Sharing – getting part of something instead of the whole of something; similar to taking turns but stands on its own as children can share a single item
  • Making eye contact – looking at the speaker as an important part of non-verbal communication *note that eye contact may look differently for students depending on their development stage and ability and it is important not to demand or shame a student who isn’t developmentally ready for this skill as it can cause more harm than good
  • Following directions – the ability to follow step-by-step instructions; it is also important that not only is doing the actual process but also being able to follow directions without arguing 
  • Working well with others – cooperates with adults and peers during things such as lessons, while doing partner or group work, or while playing a game/doing an activity
  • Respecting personal space – understanding personal boundaries of others and staying out of the personal space bubbles of others
  • Using manners & polite words – being kind to others no matter the setting or situation
  • Taking turns – having time with something or someone and then letting someone else have time with it/them
  • Being a good sport – showing good sportsmanship while playing with others both during gameplay and after; this includes following the rules everyone sets, allowing rules to change if others want them to, and using kind words while playing – overall not wrecking the fun others are having or could have
  • Waiting & having patience – delaying getting something or being somewhere wanted
  • Focusing on what you are doing – staying on track with the task you are to be doing whether that be a lesson being taught, completing an activity or assignment, as well as when playing a game with others
  • Having an appropriate reaction to a situation – making sure the size of the problem fits the size of the reaction the person is having to the problem
  • Good hygiene – being clean, well-groomed, and smelling good so that others enjoy being around the person

If you are wondering why social skills are important, check out this post for more on that. 

Many teachers wonder what are social skills for students that are needed to be successful – check out this list.
Many teachers wonder what are social skills for students that are needed to be successful – check out this list of 13 basic social skills.

How to Improve Social Skills

A question I often hear is “can social skills be improved?” The simple answer is yes, they absolutely can. Just like anything else, these things can be taught. 

Lacking social skills can be an issue. It can lead to a loss of connection with others. Find more about this negative effect here. 

There are 2 main things that help with how to have good social skills…direct instruction and practice.

When looking at how to improve social skills in students, it comes down to 2 main things – instruction and practice.
When looking at how to improve social skills in students, it comes down to 2 main things – instruction and practice.

Direct Instruction on How to Develop Social Skills

Teaching these concepts is an important component that some of our students need. Many times, children miss important cues from others as to how to interact or react with others. Direct instruction is often a requirement when this happens. 

Lessons that pinpoint what social skills is or a lesson on a specific topic is a great. 

For example, if a student is stuck thinking things can only be a certain way, flexible thinking is something that should be worked on.

Social stories are another great way to teach a specific skill. Social stories tell students what is happening in a specific situation and then what the expected behavior is.

If you want to in write your own social story, check out this post that goes in-depth with how to do that. It walks you through 5 easy steps so you can become a pro social story writer.  

Or if you want to save yourself time and energy, check out this massive collection of social stories. You’ll find social stories on common issues such as inappropriate touch, swearing, good sportsmanship, and flexible thinking. Each social story comes in both color as well as black and white. Black and white is so great to use like a coloring book for students to personalize. Each version also comes in a digital format using Google Slides. There is even audio support with the digital version. Check out this bundle here

Social stories are a great way to teach and reinforce social skills in specific environments or situations.
Social stories are a great way to teach and reinforce social skills in specific environments or situations.

Practice Noticing  

Having students practice noticing these skills is the first step. 

Use picture books or videos to practice noticing. Another great way to practice is to pose real-life situations.

Use a video clip or picture book to have students notice where characters in the book are looking. They can then make a prediction about what the person is thinking about. Students can also use facial expressions or body language to predict how the character might be feeling. Take it to the next level by having students make a prediction as to what might happen next. 

Giving students real-life situations to dissect is a great way for them to see how it impacts their daily lives. It can also help with the generalization of the ideas into their real lives. 

Check out this resource full of what are social skills examples. You’ll find 20+ examples that will help students notice social skills. And with the fun theme of becoming a secret agent, kids will be excited and engaged throughout the time. Click here for more information

Students need time reinforcing concepts with great what are social skills examples like these to practice their learning.
Students need time reinforcing concepts with great what are social skills examples like these to practice their learning.

More on What Are Social Skills

If you are looking for a more basic understanding of social skills, check out this article by Kid Sense

In this article on Cadence Education, there is a great timeline by age. It goes into why are social skills important in early childhood up into elementary school. Plus you’ll find concepts children should have by what age.

Wondering what are social skills groups? Check out this article by Applied Behavior Analysis for more information.

Many teachers wonder what social skills are essential for their students to be successful in the classroom.
Many teachers wonder what social skills are essential for their students to be successful in the classroom.

Happy Teaching!

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Hi, I'm molly!

I help educators meet the diverse academic and social/emotional needs of struggling students so that they can focus on teaching during the day and enjoy life outside of the classroom after the 8 hour work day.

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

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