Socially Skilled Series – Part 1: Can We Add More to Life Than Math?
I know how focused we are as educators on the common core and core curriculum, (as well as standardized tests, but please don’t get me on that soap box…maybe later), but let’s really evaluate the importance of the so-called “soft skills” that really make our developing students into productive and successful members of society. When looking at the research, it turns out that one of the greatest predictors in a student’s future success is at their ability to navigate the social world. Neither math nor chemistry, nor the A+ in honors literature we all have been focused upon.
The real success comes from Social Skills. So at the end of the day, it may not really matter if Billy is a whiz at calculus and becomes a brilliant engineer if he is unable to follow social rules in the workplace environment? The academic skills are vital, please do not get me wrong, but how can students utilize such valuable academic knowledge if they are unable to manage the social demands of the workplace? Billy is a genius with numbers, but sadly is frequently terminated at his job because of his obnoxious social blunders and poor emotional regulation. Something to consider, huh!
You bet it is! According to Daniel Goleman, a leader in the field of psychology who has dedicated his studies to social emotional health, states:
So why are we not holding this area of learning on a pedestal? Well, we should be! I am lucky in my profession that I can. Being a social skills facilitator has been the most rewarding part of my career. So I ask, how can we all embed Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in all areas of the curriculum? Here are some simple tips to consider when constructing your lesson plans no matter what you happen to teach!
Learn some of the basics! Check out the methodology known as Social Thinking®.
Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, is the founder of this approach and her ideas are revolutionary in the field of Social Skills and Pragmatic Language Therapy! Please do seek out a way to see her in person as she speaks across the US often, and she is one of the best speakers I have ever seen. If you are not able, catch her on YouTube or on the Social Thinking webpage at www.socialthinking.com. I suggest the following video as a starter: What is Social Thinking? Her methodology is embedded in almost all I do as a therapist.In a nutshell, she states, “before we act socially, we need to be able to think socially.” Simple, but so very powerful when you consider it. Some kids have not been born with the wiring to learn social skills on their own. We need to help them become more cognizant of it with direct training and instruction.
Bubbles of Thought:
Given Social Thinking® is a cognitive based methodology, one way to start is to teach your students to consider how other’s think. Understanding what might be in someone’s “thought bubble” is an essential skill in the social world. Check out Michelle Garcia Winner’s link in a much more detailed explanation of this method: Thought Bubbles.To teach this type of social awareness, I have used snap shots from movies the kids know and some movies they do not know.For many children who have a tendency to script on movies, they have a more difficult time deviating from the actual script, and if that is the case, I usually use more unfamiliar movies so they are less inclined to recite the lines they already have memorized as that would not really hit the target of considering how someone may think and feel.I often use a variety of photos featuring the same character (see example below, from Brave by Pixar) to demonstrate how facial expressions give us so much information about what a character is thinking and feeling, as well as the environmental cues and clues. Learning those visual cues will guide the student to pay better attention to their surroundings and as a result they will be able to fill the thought bubble with more accuracy. It also shows how one person, such as Merida from Brave, goes through a variety of emotions in a short period of time, and that is OK. It is expected that we as humans are not happy and joyous all the live long day…and many kids think we are supposed to be. Some kids do not seem to understand that it is indeed alright to experience more negative emotions; which leads up to the best lesson of all-how we learn to react to our emotions!
One Sample Lesson:
What to examine in each photo as you fill in the talking and thinking bubbles:
Examining thought and speaking bubbles is a socially supportive learning tool that can be implemented throughout all levels of teaching. Language Arts and Social Studies for instance. When you break down a scene in literature to the emotions and social interactions and reactions, students begin to learn more than the plot; they begin to learn how to comprehend inferences, ambiguous material, perspective taking as well as grasp higher levels of thought while you embed the “why” and “how” questions.
Consider a scene from Romeo and Juliet. This is complex language composed by our friend Mr. Bill Shakespere and can be quite confusing for even the most advanced student. A wonderful activity for this piece of literature would include breaking it down to the visual part and narrate the story with speaking and thought bubbles. How do the emotions involved assist in translating the difficult language? In Social Studies, it is valuable to examine how historical leaders felt and thought prior to an action. How did Napoleon Bonaparte feel in the midst of his political take over of France? Or how might he have felt when exiled to the isle of Elba? In essence, I pretty much have a thought bubble on a stick available to me at all times as I teach. The bottom line is that there are just so many teachable moments, and I am ready to jump at any time! Thinking about how others think is a vital skill! The moment is yours!
Please stay tuned for more social skill tips and suggestions in Part II of the series! Do keep in touch if you have questions or suggestions!