5 Social Skills Games Your Students shouldn't Miss

Positive affirmation for kids is a positive and refreshing way to reverse negative internal messages. I’ve taught in the classroom for 20+ years, and it’s always amazed me how mean kids can be to each other. So we need to step in and help kids change the classroom culture. Student to student affirmation notes is one way to do this. I also try to have as many positive interactions as I can each day in the classroom and encourage them to treat each other nicely.

 Why are affirmations for kids beneficial?

In today’s world, where screen time, social media, smartphones and entertainment devices are affecting children, encouraging them to spend a few minutes and write positive affirmations for kids they know or don’t know can change your classroom culture.

Tensions and stresses in everyday life – school, homework, extracurricular activities, jobs – are exacerbated by social problems, peer pressure, and in some cases, bullying and other issues.

 Positive affirmations empower

Affirmations positively empower us and are proven methods for improvement because of our ability to regenerate our brains. Affirmations stimulate our brain to produce new groups of ‘positive thinking’ neurons.

But there are negative affirmations we should let go.

Here is an excerpt from “The Law of the Garbage Truck” by David J. Pollay. That pictures this for us. 

“How often do you let other people’s nonsense change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you’re the Terminator, you’re probably set back on your heels. However, the mark of your success is how quickly you can refocus on what’s important in your life. Sixteen years ago, I learned this lesson. And I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here’s what happened.

“I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane. All of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, the car skidded, the tyres squealed, and at the very last moment, our car stopped just one inch from the other car’s back-end.

“I couldn’t believe it! But then I couldn’t believe what happened next. The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and started yelling bad words at us. How do I know? Ask any New Yorker, some words in New York come with a special face. And he even threw in a one-finger salute. But then here’s what really blew me away. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly.

“So, I said, ‘Why did you just do that? This guy could have killed us!” And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, The Law of the Garbage Truck™. He said:

Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.

“So I started thinking, how often do I let garbage trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the street? It was then that I said, ‘I don’t want their garbage, and I’m not going to spread it anymore.’ 

Affirmations of gratitude are better

Gratitude helps you stay positive. Stops you from becoming pre-occupied with self. The problem is that appreciation for certain things can change over time. For example, after applying for a teaching position, getting interviewed and buying a new wardrobe that fits, you get the job. First, you’re excited, jump up and down, and call everyone you know—fast forward two years. Hours are long, support is minimal if any at all, and your principal blames you for things that are not related to you. Now your gratitude for this job is different. 

However, I still believe that affirmations for kids should be centred around showing gratitude to others and not about building up ‘self’. Students ‘self’ will develop in a beautiful unconscious way while centred on others needs and not their own. This is what builds a healthy classroom culture.

Making affirmations for kids happen

Doing It

Affirmation for kids can be just a simple sentence said to themselves, but I prefer students not think about themselves all the time. I believe it is more healthy for students to think about others. Writing student to student affirmation notes holds much more meaning. For example: ‘Hi …., You were very helpful in our group Science project. You made sure we all kept working when Tom tried to distract us. Thanks, . . . ‘. However, it can be easier to start with students writing themselves a few sentences of positive affirmation. For example: ‘Hi Myself, you’re doing ok. Even if you don’t get everything in class, at least you’re trying’. 

Student to student Affirmation notes make for enjoyable reading. It also makes you aware of your students’ language skills, but I never mark them. If there are issues, It’s best to just re-teach appropriate affirmations for kids, whole class or one-on-one. Any spelling and grammar inabilities can be re-taught during English lessons. The goal is to get students to show gratitude to others. The writing is a by-product but a great one for real contextual learning.

Managing It

It only takes a few minutes for students to write an affirmation before the end of a lesson, number it with the student’s number they’re sending it to and drop it in your post box.

I always have my students number their materials and books, with a student number I give them at the start of the year. So, I can quickly mark and return work. This also helps when I read posted affirmations, stamp them with my teacher stamp and post them to the addressed student number.

I also check for hate notes. If I find any, I trash them and have a one-and-one with that student, but students tend to show kindness. Maybe its because they know I’ll be checking. Or better still there is a growing classroom culture of relationships and kindness.

 

 Benefits Of Positive Affirmations For Kids

Build confidence

Appreciating your students and accepting their efforts will build high confidence. Regardless of how trivial, congratulations and acknowledgments make a difference to everyone. Even if you feel that your students are not paying attention or it is affecting your efforts, find something good to say to them every day. Tell them that you are proud to be in school all day. Appreciate their Minecraft creation. Marvel at their abilities in an online game. However small, positively affirming their achievements each day makes a difference. Think when your principal remembers once in a while to find time to praise you for something you did. How did that feel? Now do it for your students but make sure to be specific – students can spot when you’re not authentic.

Counter negativity

Giving your students a positive affirmation every day will go a long way toward addressing the negatives they may face elsewhere. Enabling students to make statements of gratitude increases this. Giving positive affirmations for kids can help our students develop a healthy attitude toward others and themselves.

Students with special needs are more likely to be bullied, mistreated, teased, or negative. Providing positive reinforcement from you and their peers can help you deal with these challenges and balance the ledger.  

 Final words

To find something positive to comment on and celebrate every day is the easiest way to achieve positive outcomes. It is an exercise in being grateful. Positively validating your student’s efforts, achievements, and behaviours every day can help you start recognising the positives. You will find that students focus on what they can do rather than what they cannot do. 

Focusing on gratitude and encouragement helps your students to find the positives in life. When students learn to do this, your classroom culture will change.

Having an adequate amount of social skills is critical in blending in with one’s environment. They familiarise us with the needed cultural, political, and religious norms of our respective societies. They are the cement that holds up the building bricks of any community. These bricks are best built during childhood, and more precisely during primary school. That is due to students’ immense cognitive ability to acquire vast amounts of data, whether that’s linguistic, or social. 

Seating students together is not enough for successful group work. Many students have no idea how to interact appropriately with their peers. The issue is that they lack the social skills needed to complete cooperative learning tasks. Lack of social skills seems to be the main issue preventing academic success in group work.

 

Why Teach Social Skills?

Students will be more prone to becoming introverted. That’s not denoting that introversion is an unhealthy personality trait. It is like all things in life, a double-edged sword. And as evidence from Beth Esposito’s findings dictates, introversion constitutes a risk factor for depression and other anti-social behaviours. The more obvious hindrance to students is a feeling of being left out and failing to get along with their peers which leaves them vulnerable for internal (psychological and emotional) and external (bullying and such) traumas.

So I have highlighted five social skills games your students don’t want to miss. They should help to reduce the number of traumas they’re likely to experience and to ensure the betterment of their social life as children, future teens and adults.

 

Pictionary

You might be familiar with this simple and highly interactive game since most of us played it at some point to fasten up the clock hands. What this social game entails is dividing the students, into two opposing groups. After that, each group elects one representative. The two representatives instruct their group by drawing an object, animal, or person on a whiteboard without speaking a single word. Their groups must guess the nature of what their representatives are drawing, and the first to guess correctly wins. 

Now, why this game specifically? I am focusing on elementary students’ social skills in conjunction with art, guessing, and communicating, as each group member interacts with his/her peers to raise their odds of winning. As teachers, we have total freedom to make changes as we see fit.

This social skills game would come in handy in understanding facial and physical cues that would help them in communicating better, coupled with expanding on their vocabulary.

 

Improvisational Storytelling

“We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” Jimmy Neil Smith couldn’t have said it more beautifully. In telling or reading a story, we are expressing our most authentic and deepest thoughts. 

This social skills game, as its title suggests, pushes elementary students to tell a story from their perspective, with a twist. The teacher indicates a topic and students have to take turns in filling various parts of the plot. For instance, student A can set the setting of the story, student B can introduce the characters, while students C and D continue developing what their peers have built. Improvisational storytelling is recommended for elementary students. It helps them find answers regarding life, along with improving their creative, listening and social skills.

 

How Do I Feel?

Today’s digital age elementary students require upscaled attention to what they feel. Asking a child about their emotions and thoughts increases their emotional understanding, self-awareness, and self-control. There are two ways to let an elementary student out of their emotional closet: Asking them directly or better yet, through a game called “How do I feel?”

To play this social skills game handout cards with different emotions written on them. Each student then randomly picks a card and acts out the corresponding emotion for his/her classmates to guess.

 

Traditional Board Games

Board games such as Jenga, Go, and Uno can boost students social skills. To illustrate, the teacher merely acts as a silent observer during these games. Then we have the sole responsibility of noting down our students’ behaviours towards winning, losing, etc., then discussing with the students how they felt when they “outsmarted” their classmates. You can even set up other board games that require more players on the same side against another, which helps elementary students cooperate to win.

 

Listening Game

Listening is a vital social skill that students need to learn. Good listeners tend to make great friends. Plus, listening in the classroom helps students master concepts with less effort. To play, have students create a circle. Whisper a sentence to the first person, and have them whisper that exact sentence to the next person. Continue until the last student has heard the sentence, then get that student to say the sentence out loud. The sentence changes and everyone gets a good laugh. 

These Social skills games are but a droplet of a vast sea of social-skill-boosting techniques. So, feel free to share in the comments any of your favourite social skills games.

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I am a K-12 Australian Teacher, with 25+ years of teaching experience. My Honours research investigated how teachers succeed in teaching English in a TEFL context. Originally from the UK, I lived and worked for 15 years in the Pacific Islands. During that time I was Principal of a school for 5 years, training teachers, teaching a class, and building a school from the ground up.