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Fostering Social Skills in Elementary Schools

Educators have many obligations to their students. Beyond course content and subject-level achievement, teachers offer students guidance on social and emotional mindsets and behaviors that serve them for the rest of their lives. Moreover, these abilities help students inside and outside the classroom, giving educators a significant opportunity.

Programs like Worcester State University’s online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Elementary Education program teach educators how to complement academic instruction with social development strategies. The ability to get along and collaborate effectively with other people is an essential social skill teachers can help develop.

Unfortunately, due to the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people’s social skills have been profoundly stunted, particularly regarding their ability to be constructive interpersonal communicators. Without the typical social environment offered by the daily routine of attending school with their peers, students had difficulty developing effective social habits.

For example, in a Forbes article, music educator Zach VanderGraaff said teachers were seeing habits such as monopolizing a teacher’s attention, picking on peers for attention, tantrums, and an unwillingness to share on a larger scale than ever before.

Especially at younger ages, children learn behaviors foundational to becoming responsible and functional people. Some critical behaviors outlined by the National Conference of State Legislators include expression, respect for others, taking turns, making friends, and emotional self-control. Without such skills, accomplishing things in the classroom can be difficult for children, and their abilities outside the classroom can also plateau or regress.

Approaches to Social-emotional Education

How can teachers help their students reclaim these skills? Remedial education can be challenging, but with the proper scaffolding and strategies, schools can provide the ideal environment for students to cultivate social skills.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) offers several ways to reintroduce social-emotional skills to students whose development has lagged due to the pandemic. Whatever activities teachers decide to use, they should ensure accessibility, regardless of special needs, language learning, or any other barrier. The following are some exercises and strategies teachers can use to support social-emotional learning:

Goal Setting

A growth mindset is an important starting point for all students, and goal setting is one of the most straightforward ways to practice that mentality. Goal setting also gives students an idea of what it means to plan long-term and incentivizes work.

Introduce Games and Activities

Teaching resource provider We Are Teachers suggests over 50 activities and scenarios to encourage social-emotional learning and help students identify and process feelings. The premise is to help students think through, diagnose, and manage their emotions, becoming better listeners and classmates in the process.

For example, when asking students to express themselves, giving them multiple options, like freestyle writing or drawing prompts, can be surprisingly informative for many students. Some students might be more comfortable with visual expression, while others may prefer using language to explore their feelings. This wide range of responses makes these activities highly differentiated and accessible for students.

Improve Students’ Social Skills With an Advanced Elementary Education Degree

Worcester State’s online M.Ed. in Elementary Education program curriculum includes coursework that helps educators improve students’ social-emotional health and academic outcomes. For example, Inclusive Settings: Learning Strategies and Management Techniques (1-6) focuses on inclusivity in education and managing classroom behavior, while The Child, Family, Community, and Diversity in Education explores how family and social factors impact learning.

Learn more about Worcester State University’s online M.Ed. in Elementary Education program.

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