Teaching social skills in the classroom is vital for success in school. Students need to be able to make friends, have empathy and be respectful (plus so much more!)

That’s part of the problem though. There seems to be soooo much you need to teach to cover social skills. It’s tricky to find the right words, ways, and time to model each of these important social emotional learning skills. 

teaching social skills in the classroom

Teaching 9 basic social skills

By definition, social skills are the different ways a person interacts and communicates with others. This can be through nonverbal and verbal communication

There are 9 basic social skills you can focus on to make the most impact with your students this year:

  1. Listening
  2. Following Directions
  3. Patience
  4. Apologizing
  5. Sharing
  6. Respecting Others
  7. Empathy
  8. Cooperation
  9. Expressing Emotions


Active listening requires minimal to no distractions. Students need to know how to pay attention and listen to what others are saying. 

students listening to a peer

Following Directions

Following directions helps students learn to become active participants in the classroom and later on at work or in the community.

Depending on the student’s age, it may be helpful to start targeting this social skill through a simple play activity like Simon Says. For older students, think of ways to target multi-step commands during daily routines. 


Waiting is a normal part of life. Help students expand their ability to be patient by practicing turn-taking. This can be done in large classroom decisions or small ones like “which table will go first?”


Apologizing is a problem-solving social skill. It’s not fun or easy to admit wrongs, but it is vital to keep healthy relationships. Apologies should always be genuine. Giving direct eye contact during apologies also adds a nice touch!  


Sharing is not only about toys or classroom materials. Exchanging emotions and thoughts is vital for positive emotional growth. Because young students’ minds are naturally focused on their own needs and wants more than others, teaching this social skill will likely take lots of time and many, many reminders. 

teaching social skills in the classroom

Respecting Others

Understanding personal space is less obvious than other social skills. Respecting boundaries of others is an essential skill to development. Teach students specific phrases to show respect for the personal space of others. 

E.g. Stay in your “hula hoop”; Hands to yourself


Empathy is seeing things from another person’s perspective. This is a complex social skill and often very difficult for young children to learn. Be patient with your students as mastery of this skill may take longer than other important social skills. 


Cooperation is the start of teamwork. Working as a part of a team or in a group is a social skill that will be needed throughout a child’s school years and beyond into their family and professional lives.

students cooperating

Expressing Emotions

Express emotions in a controlled way by talking about them instead of lashing out at others or internalizing them for great lengths of time. Not learning to manage and express emotions can cause unwanted and unnecessary stress for a person–big or small!

Model, Model, Model 

Don’t underestimate the power of modeling positive social skills in your classroom and around the school! Students are watching and learning from you more than you realize. They see how you interact with fellow teachers and other students. 

Be intentional and give your fullest effort to listen without distractions when students are speaking directly to you. 

Model patience, adaptability, and positivity when the day suddenly goes awry. Guide students into healthy social emotional development from day 1! 


Help students learn how to get along with one another by using my Social Skills Small Group Counseling Curriculum. This curriculum is perfect for an elementary aged school counselor! It includes 9 different sessions. Each session can be used in a small group setting or tweaked to be used for a whole class lesson

This resource literally has everything you need from start to finish with all of the extra needed things including editable forms, digital learning options, forms, student reminders, pre- and post-surveys and hall passes. You can rest assured that this resource will meet your and your students’ needs as it is aligned with ASCA standards and SEL competencies are addressed. You’ll also have exact wording for guided questions and scripts for teaching each session objective. 

You can also purchase individual lessons in my TPT store if a curriculum set isn’t what you need right now or just not your preference. 

Books & Videos

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I get a small commission that costs you nothing and helps me continue to provide this content.

I Can Use an I Statement by Jenelle French

It’s the first day of school, and Gabby uses an “I Statement” to let others know how she feels. Throughout the book, Gabby learns how to more confidently express her emotions. 

My Sister’s Super Skills by Lauren Mosback

When Lily sees that her brother David is having a hard day, she jumps in to show him some super tricks to help him feel better. She pairs different skills with various animals and scenarios that her brother can practice with ease. He finds out that a better mood is only a few steps away!

Watch this short video with your students about a little girl named Riya and her friends to get an introduction to good and not-so-good social skills. 

You might be interested in this post:

Teaching Emotions in the Classroom

You might also be interested in these other resources:

Social Emotional Learning Curriculum BUNDLE

Character Education: Responsibility


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