Students understand that caring and respect — including the virtues of compassion, kindness, benevolence, altruism, charity, generosity, sharing, inclusion, and forgiveness — are at the heart of ethics. They believe that the well-being and dignity of all people is important simply because they are fellow human beings, and they treat every individual with respect, judging them on their character and ability without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation, political ideology, gender, age, or other physical or personal characteristics.
8 Social Skills Students Need (And How to Teach Them Step by Step!) www.weareteachers.com
Here are eight key social skills that all students need to be successful. Consider working on one or two skills with your class each week. Start by gathering students together and talking about the skill. For example, ask: Why is listening attentively important? What does it look like when a person is listening? How do we know? Work together to list the steps for each skill or behavior on chart paper or a whiteboard.
Social Skill: How to Listen Attentively
Classroom Activity: Invite students to tell each other jokes to practice active listening. Gather joke books from your school library or send students online to Aha Jokes to find their favorite funnies to share with their friends. Have students work in small groups taking turns in the roles of speaker and active listeners. Older students can practice sharing opinions on class reading or plans for college or career.
Social Skill: How to Greet Others
Classroom Activity: Challenge students to come up with 25 or more possible greetings they can use with each other, with you, or with a classroom guest. Include greetings in different languages. Each morning, go around the room and have each student offer a greeting to the class.
Social Skill: Following Instructions
Classroom Activity: Play classroom games that help students to increase their ability to follow instructions with traditional games like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light. Or challenge your students to a scavenger hunt around the classroom or school. Explain that theirs is no way to succeed without following directions precisely. As with all the skills, have your students go through the steps every time you issue a request until they become second nature.
Social Skill: Asking for Help
Classroom Activity: Asking for help can be difficult for many students and even adults. In a class meeting, have students practice this skill by taking a fun and playful approach. On separate notecards, write down situations in which a person is asking for help, e.g., “a man asking a stranger for help moving a piano,” “a teacher asking a colleague for help grading a huge pile of papers,” “an astronaut asking for help getting out of his suit.” Invite pairs of students to pick a notecard to act out the scene, including all the steps!
Social Skill: How to Disagree Appropriately
Classroom Activity: Disagreeing without arguing is a skill that many adults, as well as kids and teens, find difficult. Like all social skills, it takes resources and practice. That’s why going over the steps of each skill is so important. Give students the chance to practice debating and disagreeing when the stakes are low. For example, write a controversial statement on the board such as, “Rum raisin is the very best flavor of ice cream,” or “Rap is not music,” and invite your students to disagree politely!
Social Skill: How to Make an Apology
Classroom Activity: Let’s face it: apologizing is hard, but it does get easier with practice. Consider tying your discussion of apologies to a book you are reading as a class. From David Shannon’s picture book No, David! to Louise Fitzhugh’s classic Harriet the Spy, many stories lend themselves to discussions of social skills, mistakes, and apologies.
Social Skill: How to Accept “No” for an Answer
Classroom Activity: Accepting “no” can be difficult when we feel strongly about a situation. This is a skill that needs to be modeled repeatedly as its draws on other important skills. In order to accept “no” gracefully, a child needs to be able to respect authority, see another’s point of view, and have self-control. Write five to six situations on notecards and give them to groups of students. Examples: The class wants to ask the teacher to hold the class outside. Ask your parents if you can watch an R-rated movie. Challenge students to model how they will ask and how they will handle the answer. Talk about how they could return to the subject with a respectful argument at another time.
Quotations are great writing and discussion prompts.
What are Caring and Thoughtfulness?
Being kind and thoughtful means making ourselves aware of the needs and feelings of others and then taking action to help them. It means taking the time to stop thinking about ourselves, to put the spotlight on somebody else’s needs, and to think, “What can I do to make that person’s life a little better or easier?”
Sometimes we can’t do anything to solve somebody’s particular problem, but just the act of showing concern and compassion can help to comfort them and make a difference. For example, your friend might be worried or sad about something that is happening at home. Even though you cannot solve that problem, you can spend some time listening to your friend’s worries and supporting them as much as possible.
Caring and being thoughtful means letting things matter to us, not just to people that we know but also to people that we have never met before. It means that we also value the needs and well-being of animals and the environment. Caring means that we have a concern when we see problems and unhappiness and want to help, from very simple gestures like buddying with a new pupil at school right through to spending your free time as a volunteer to help a good cause.
So why should we be kind and thoughtful to others?
One ENORMOUS benefit of doing so is that it encourages other people to act in the same way. We can’t put it any better than the famous American pilot Amelia Earhart who once said:
“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind of action leads to another. A good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”
So – like a domino effect – we find that a simple act of kindness creates another act of kindness which creates another and another and another ……. and before you know it, the world is a better place because everybody is taking the time to care about everybody else.
As you start to look around and deliberately look for chances to be kind, thoughtful, and helpful, you will be amazed at how many opportunities there really are. Start with the small things like holding a door open for somebody, visiting a lonely relative, offering to help with somebody else’s task or offer for somebody to step in front of you in a queue. Do it with a smile, and you’ll be amazed at how easily you can make other people smile whilst setting a good example for others to follow.
Jesse Owens and Luz Long by Michael Josephson
In 1936 the Olympic Games were hosted by Germany, governed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. Hitler’s well–known hatred of Jews and his disdain for non–white races were part of the atmosphere of the Games and, to America’s most famous and accomplished African American athlete Jesse Owens, competing in a stadium filled with swastikas and “Heil Hitler’ straight–arm salutes to the German dictator was distressing, to say the least.
Owens, who held the world record in the long jump, foot–faulted on his first two qualifying jumps. If he fouled again, he’d be eliminated. According to Owens, Luz Long, the only man who had a chance to beat Owens, introduced himself and suggested that Owens play it safe by making a mark a foot before the takeoff board to assure he could qualify. It worked, and Owens advanced to the finals to compete against Long.
This decision to help a competitor is still viewed as one of the great acts of sportsmanship, but the fact that Long was Germany’s premier long–jumper made the act even more extraordinary.
In Long’s first jump, he set a new Olympic record, but Owens beat that jump, setting a new World Record. In the end, Owens won the gold medal, and Long took the silver.
Though he knew it would not please Hitler, Long was the first to congratulate Owens. That’s sportsmanship. But Long went further. He embraced Owens and walked around the stadium with him arm–in–arm before the astonished German crowd. Later they posed together for pictures. That’s character.
Describing the event, Owens said, “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have, and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24–karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment.” Though they never saw each other again, they kept in touch, and as a soldier fighting for Germany in 1942, Long wrote this letter to Owens:
“My heart is telling me that this is perhaps the last letter of my life. If that is so, I beg one thing from you. When the war is over, please go to Germany, find my son and tell him about his father. Tell him about the times when war did not separate us and tell him that things can be different between men in this world. Your brother, Luz.”
Luz Long died from battle wounds a year later at age 30. In 1951, Jesse Owens kept his promise and found Long’s son in war-torn German. He later said that what he valued the most from the Olympic experience had been his friendship with Luz Long.
Most Important Lesson
During my second month of nursing school, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”
Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired, and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name?
I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your career, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello.”
I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.