In addition to academic topics such as science, math, and language, social skills are one of the most important skill sets learned mostly by osmosis during the school day. Students learn how to interact with peers both within their grade and outside of it, as well as with authority figures in the form of teachers, parents, and other adults. There are complex power dynamics that occur even at the elementary level that stay with students throughout school and into their adult lives at the workplace.
The three challenges and exercises below are inspired by Dale Carnegie’s classic self-improvement book, How To Win Friends and Influence People. This is a book that has been admired as one of the best books ever written on social interaction and dynamics.
This challenge has the power to change the lives of students significantly for the better. Complaining is a bad habit that can be stopped. There is a truth that states: we see what we look for. The act of complaining is a habit in which we point out things that are negative and bring them to the forefront of our attention, as well as to the attention of people around us. If students are able to eliminate this terrible habit, they will avoid being the victim and start pointing out the more positive things in their ives, leading to a more grateful attitude.
The challenge, which is inspired by A Complaint Free World, is very simple. The goal is to not complain once in two weeks.
The goal is to keep the wristband on the same wrist for two weeks in a row. What counts as a complaint? Here are two simple guidelines. A complaint is:
This challenge is created to instill in students an attitude of genuine interest in others. This works as a great icebreaker in the beginning of class. Far too many people in the world talk to others from a standpoint of “what’s in it for me?”, and then wonder why nobody wants to help them out. When students learn to show that they truly care about what other people like, they will learn a fundamental skill that will take them far in life, regardless of what route they choose to take.
This exercise is a powerful way for students to learn that with a little bit of work, relationships can be built simply by taking the time to find out what other people are interested in.
Far too many times in conversations, we address others using terms of endearment such as “buddy” or “man” or “honey”, but never use their names. While those terms are sweet and can feel warm, there is a special warmth that we each get when we hear our own name. In the classroom, it is not uncommon for giggles to resound through the classroom when a book being read aloud uses the name of a student in the class. Names are personal and using them is a strong social skill to have in their arsenal.
This is a fun exercise that may get silly, but it is a great way to teach a memorable lesson. Encourage students to use names whenever possible when talking to others. This is a way to show that they respect others and they recognize others as individuals.
While social skills are extremely important in today’s world, they often are not a part of the curriculum itself. As such, it often falls on teachers to invent their own creative ways to help foster and grow these skills successfully, rather than leaving students to fend for themselves.. Communication is one of the most important skills and factors to successful careers and relationships. The three challenges and games above are great ways to instill great social skills into students in a fun and lighthearted way.