Social Skills Training

The Intervention

Social skills training interventions are designed to teach students one or more prosocial skills for effective interpersonal interactions. Teachers describe the skill of interest, demonstrate the skill for students, give students the opportunity to practice the skills when calm, and give positive and constructive feedback about skill application. Teachers also prompt or encourage students to apply the skills when appropriate. Teachers praise students for their efforts toward applying the skills.  

  1. Through classroom observations, identify the specific interpersonal or communication challenges the student is exhibiting and consider the specific deficits that may be contributing.
  2. Meet with the student to discuss the targeted social skill (e.g., sharing; apologizing; complimenting others; using good manners; telling appropriate jokes). There may be multiple social skills targets for a given student; however, start with one or two so the student is not overwhelmed. When introducing the specific skill, discuss why it is important and relevant. You may also talk about their current success or struggle with that skill.
  3. Give examples of what the skill looks like and when the skill might be used. You can do this using verbal examples, demonstrating the skills, or through creative outlets such as movie/tv/book characters.
  4. Have the child practice the skill in a hands-on and fun way. You may want to role play the chosen skills with various scenarios that could happen in the classroom. The child could also create a story or picture that represents the skill being used successfully. If possible, have the child practice the skill in a safe space with another student in the classroom. This can be a friend, peer, or another student who is working on the same skill.
  5. Once the student understands the skill and how to use it, they should start practicing it throughout the day. As the teacher, you can look for times when they are displaying the specific social skill and provide specific, labeled praise to reinforce the use of the skill.
  6. As appropriate, continue checking in with the student regarding their use of the skill each day. Provide feedback and discuss the student’s perspective on how they are progressing with the skill in the classroom setting. Additional skills can be taught and practiced over time.

  • Just like learning any new academic skills, learning new social skills is a process and youth benefit from repeated practice and reinforcement. If the student is not using the skill appropriately, it is important to provide that feedback and give corrective examples of the expected behavior.
  • Students with interpersonal problems are not always the best reporters of the role their behavior is playing in their relationships. Because of this it is important to be mindful of their use of the social skill and provide feedback. Feedback should include specific examples of the student’s behavior, as well as clear examples of the expected or ideal behavior.
  • If you need help implementing or evaluating this intervention, it may be helpful to seek out consultation from your school mental health professional or intervention team leader.

Teaching social skills and reinforcing positive social interactions may be a part of your typical classroom lesson plan. If so, great! For a student who continues to struggle, more individualized and frequent supports may be needed. The steps provided above can be adapted for use with one student, a few students, or a large group.

If you are in a position that allows for running more comprehensive social skills groups, you may want to utilize this social skills training page that is geared towards school mental health professionals.

To date there are no empirical studies that evaluate the effectiveness of social skills training interventions as a standalone intervention for addressing student behavior in the general education setting. However, similar interventions have been utilized with positive impacts in other contexts (e.g., clinical or therapeutic settings).

Intervention Scorecard

This intervention is recommended for the following presenting problems.

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Other suitable presenting problems