Teaching Social Skills to Children

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Music is a great way to teach children social skills!
In a time when face-to-face social interactions are often being replaced by social networking online, it is increasingly important to teach these skills to our children and students. Social skills can be especially difficult for children with developmental disabilities because these children often are unable to pick up common social cues, such as saying “hello” and “goodbye." Music provides a safe, predictable place to practice skills that may be anxiety-producing; songs make these teachable moments fun!

One important social skill is saying “hello." Our society gives high social marks to people who appear to be friendly. Many children don’t understand the importance of this skill at first, but upon becoming better at it, they often get the positive social reinforcement that allows this behavior to become more habitual and natural.

Beginning the day with a “hello” song is a great way to start the day!
Here are a few ways I use a “hello” song to teach this skill:

Listen to a “hello” song while drawing what the song is about. Go around the room and allow children to share their drawings if they would like. Talking about songs has the added benefits of teaching children to take turns and of expanding their vocabulary.

After singing or listening to a “hello” song, make a plan to say “hello” to three people throughout the day. Adding a visual picture or drawing can be a great way to support songs as educational tools. Make a board with a variety of pictures of people that we can say hello to.

Sing a “hello” song. Go around the circle as each child says hello to the person on his/her right. I look for a positive aspect of their behavior and share this with the students. Then if additional skills need to be reminded, these can be “sandwiched” into the comment. For example “What a beautiful smile you had as you said hello, but let’s hear you say it a little louder so they can hear you. Your words are important and we want everyone to hear them.” Or “Well said, Tony. Remember to look towards their eyes. That way they will know that you are with them.”

Play or sing a “hello” song, and refer back to it during teachable moments. For example, in the song People Like it When I Say Hi (from My Turn Your Turn) verse one says:

I can say hi to my Mom when I wake up in the morning.
I can say hi to the bus driver on the way to school.
I can say hi to my friends when I see them in the lunchroom;
and when I meet someone new, saying ‘hi’ is good to do.

Refer to the song if someone new should enter the classroom by saying “Remember that the song teaches us that people like it when we say ‘hi,’ or even try humming a bit of the song, as a reminder.

Listen to a short sample of "People Like It When I Say Hi" in the audio player, below. (from My Turn Your Turn)