DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: SOCIAL SKILLS

For the new year, I wanted to share some simple techniques for getting to know your new students (and maybe some old ones a little better!) by establishing and continuing to build lasting positive relationships which will reap cumulative dividends in the classroom.

While classroom education continues to focus on academics, there is too-little emphasis on healthy emotional development in an era where we need it more than ever before. In fact, the State of the Heart 2016 study found that emotional intelligence continues to decline globally. What’s more, since 2014, there has been a decline in maintaining emotional balance (-3.3 percent), self-motivation (-2.9 percent), and connecting compassionately with others (-2.4 percent). The numbers don’t lie, it’s clear that if we want to live in a more compassionate world, then society needs to place a higher emphasis on emotional development.

Year in, year out, teachers will spot trends in their classroom. They’ll observe how, for instance, the more lively and easily distracted pupils grab seats at the back of the room, as far away as possible from the teacher’s admonishing gaze; how the quietly studious pupils shy away from volunteering an opinion during class discussions and the natural entertainers take any opportunity to get a laugh from their admiring peers. Same game, different players. They’ll also notice how similar groups are formed organically within the class as children, in line with natural human instincts, form bonds with people who are intrinsically similar to themselves and with whom they can relate.

My previous articles on advice for writing personal statements have touched on the importance of students developing their social skills, as well as proving their ability to be responsible by working on community or charity related projects.

Tremendously fantastic editor James Cain wanted me to make sure that this article was "a different beast" from my previous Halloween article. My instincts would not allow me to title this article anything other than what it is. With Halloween 2015 fresh in our minds, my intention is to highlight some suitably authentic ways to incorporate the occasion into the classroom. These are things I have seen, some I have done, and some things I would like to do. I do not see any of these thoughts being limited to one grade level or group of grade levels since as a teacher flexibility is not only key but also a necessity. I also want to highlight why I feel that using Halloween in school and in the classroom is a good idea.

As I get older – I’m 47, and feeling every minute of it – I definitely have a sense that now is the time to ‘do it’, whatever that ‘it’ is. Having suffered a stroke not long ago helps focus the mind in that regard, as does having kids. And so I’m delighted that something came my way at work (I’m an enrichment and collaboration coordinator for an educational consortium in the Midlands) that has genuinely fired me up and made me think that I am using my time well and maybe that the slow advance to that crazily far-off retirement day, 20 years from now, can actually be a new chapter of fresh challenge and deep satisfaction.

Over the years I’ve taught and supported quite a number of pupils with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). I found frequently that a very easy tool to use to aid the development of social skills is social stories. They are a strength-based teaching strategy that helps to develop greater social understanding by providing a visualised plan of a chain of events or situation. The plan or time-frame can be in the form of pictures, sketches, stick figures, comic strips, simple text or photographs. Social stories were created by Carol Gray in 1991 “to help teach social skills to people with autism. They are short pictorial descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity, which include specific information about what to expect in that situation and why.” (The National Autism Society)

What is the main purpose of studying the arts at school you might wonder? What are the benefits of studying the arts to a school-leaver? All the products that we see around us, live with, use, live in etc have been designed. We visit art galleries, outdoor installations of art (eg the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red poppy installation at the Tower of London last year) that have all been created by art college graduates. Many people engage in educational activities in galleries, museums, care centres etc.

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back and to overcome difficult and challenging life circumstances, and develop hopefulness. Young people and children face continuing pressure to succeed in all aspects of life. Imagine that pressure if you have huge emotional hurdles to overcome as well. It has become more widely recognised that, for some, they are at risk of negative outcomes. As educators not only do we have a responsibility to enhance and foster academic achievement, we also have a duty to support a child’s emotional development and well-being. This includes helping to strengthen resilience to all manner of hazards in their environment.

Teaching young people about risk taking and their wellbeing is just as critical as studying. How can we encourage pupils and students to become more aware of the risks they are likely to face as part of growing up and help them to make positive decisions?

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