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The Teacher Tip

Developing Social Skills in the Classroom

March 13, 2018

Adapted from Kids First from Day One by Christine Hertz & Kristine Mraz.

There are many different tools that you can use with children to help develop social skills. These tools scaffold the child’s thinking and help to build habits and routines. However, like any good scaffolds, you should be thinking of how they can be removed. Our goal, even with a child with many challenging behaviors, is to help him become independent. 



Self-regulation options help students turn down their internal engines and help them develop an understanding of what a sense of calm feels like—an important piece of self-reflection.

As a class, create a list of options for self-regulation. Try to keep your list as broad as possible. Although some children benefit from deep breathing and sitting quietly, others need to move, rock, or lift heavy objects. Develop a system for accessing these breaks—maybe it’s even a simple hand signal—and practice as a class. 

Self-talk is comprised of mantras or directions we give ourselves to navigate tricky emotional situations. 

Work with children to develop mantras or phrases they find soothing or helpful. Maybe a child who feels like he never gets a chance could say, “Everyone needs a turn; I will get mine soon.”

Personal visual schedules and supports can help in the same way that they do with a whole class. Personal visual supports can be created to target the specific skill you are working on with a child, from how to get organized for reading workshop to what to do when you’re really mad. 

As teachers, we have a tendency to be very verbal. When you’re trying to support a student’s behavioral challenges, the last thing you want to do is talk, talk, talk at the child. Instead, rely on visual supports to do the communicating. 

If you make visual supports in the classroom feel small and easily accessible, these supports can be tucked away during times when they’re not needed. 

To learn more about Kids First from Day One and download a sample chapter, visit 

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