How do teachers teach these skills?
Teachers understand that children may not come to their classrooms knowing how to take
turns, listen, disagree respectfully, walk quietly in a hallway, or do many other things that
reflect positive school behavior. To help the children learn, teachers will carefully:
n Break skills and tasks into small parts
n Briefly describe the behavior they’re looking for
n Model the behavior themselves and then ask children to model it
n Give the children plenty of practice and feedback
n Reteach as necessary throughout the year
When do teachers teach these skills?
Teachers weave social skills teaching into everything the children do—academics, recess,
lunch, and even entering and leaving the school building and classroom. During a math
lesson, for example, second graders learn how to count money while also learning how to
listen respectfully to a classmate’s idea for how to solve a problem. During recess, children
of all ages learn how to include everyone in their games.
Although teachers help students learn social skills throughout the school year, they focus most
strongly on teaching these skills during the first six weeks of school. It’s during this time that
expectations for behavior are clearly laid out and children are taught how to meet these expec-
tations. When teachers take the time to teach and model these skills well in the beginning of
the year, they spend less time on behavior problems and more time on learning all year long.
What about classroom rules?
During the first weeks of school, teacher and children create rules based on the children’s
goals for learning. First, children name an academic or social skill they’d especially like to
work on during the coming months—for example, reading harder books or making new
friends. Then teacher and students discuss how life in the classroom needs to look and
sound so everyone can meet their goals. Together, they create a few simple, positively stated
rules that they all agree to follow, such as Take care of yourself, Take care of your classmates,
Take care of our classroom.
Children follow the rules more willingly because they helped to make them. Teachers refer
to the rules many times throughout the day and year, helping children understand how fol-
lowing the rules helps everyone to learn. Some schools also have a few basic schoolwide
rules that everyone follows in the hallways, lunchroom, and other common spaces.
What do teachers do when children break the rules?
Teachers understand that all children will, at one time or another, test or break the rules.
When that happens, teachers discipline firmly but kindly and positively. The goals are
(1) to stop the misbehavior as quickly as possible so that the child (and classmates) can get
back to learning and (2) to teach the child to reflect on and control his or her own behavior.