Group Activities to Build Appropriate Social Interactions at School

Teacher interacting with smiling kids in class using a tablet

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Students with disabilities, especially developmental disabilities, suffer from significant deficits in good social skills. They often cannot initiate interactions, they often don't understand what makes a social transaction appropriate for setting or players, they often don't get enough appropriate practice.

Always a Need for Social Skill Development

Using these fun activities helps model and promote healthy interactions and teamwork within the classroom. Use the activities found here a regularly to help develop good habits, and you'll soon see improvement with students in your classroom who need help developing social skills. These activities, embedded in a self-contained program as part of a daily routine, provide students with lots of opportunities for frequent practice getting used to appropriate interactions.

Shaky Day

Pick a consistent day of the week (Fridays are great) and the dismissal practice is to have each student shake two students hands and say something personal and nice. For instance, Kim shakes Ben's hand and says, "Thanks for helping me tidy my desk," or, "I really liked the way you played dodgeball at gym."

Some teachers use this method as each child leaves the classroom. The teacher shakes the student's hand and says something positive.

Social Skill of the Week

Pick a social skill and use it for the focus of the week. For instance, if your skills of the week is showing responsibility, the word responsibility goes on the board. The teacher introduces the words and talks about what it means to be responsible. Students brainstorm ideas of what it means to be responsible. Throughout the week, students are given opportunities to comment on responsible behavior as they see it. At the end of the day or for bell work, have students talk about what they've been doing or what they did that showed acting responsibility.

Social Skill Weekly Goals

Have students set social skill goals for the week. Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate and tell how they're sticking to their goals. Use this as the exit dismissal key each day. For instance, each child states how they met their goal that day: "I cooperated today by working well with Sean on my book report."

Negotiation Week

Many students requiring additional help with social skills usually need support to negotiate properly. Teach the skill of negotiation by modeling and then reinforcing through some role play situation. Provide opportunities for conflict resolution. Works well if situations arise in class or on the yard.

Good Character Submission Box

Keep a box with a slot in it. Ask students to put a slip in the box when they observe good character. For instance, "John tidied up the coat room without being asked." Students that are reluctant writers will need to have their complement scribed for them. Then the teacher reads the slips from the good character box at the end of the week. Teachers should also participate.

"Social" Circle Time

At circle time, have each child say something pleasant about the person next to them as they go around the circle. This can be theme based (cooperative, respectful, generous, positive, responsible, friendly, empathetic etc.) and change every day to stay fresh.

Mystery Buddies

Put all the student names in a hat. A child draws a student name and they become the student's mystery buddy. The mystery buddy then offers compliments, praise and does nice things for the student. The students can then guess their mystery buddy at the end of the week. You can also incorporate the "Wanted: Friend" worksheet.

Welcoming Committee

The welcoming committee can consist of 1-3 students who are responsible for welcoming any visitors to the class. If a new student starts, the welcoming committee makes sure they feel welcome and they also help them with the routines and become their buddies.

Good Solutions

This activity takes some help from other teaching staff members. Have teachers leave you notes of the conflicts that have arisen on the yard or in the classroom. Collect these as often as you can. Then within your own classroom, present the situation that have happened, ask the students to role play it or to come up with positive problem solving solutions and practical advice to avoid repeats of the incidents.