Whenever I speak about how gifted students develop drastically out of sync, people always identify “social skills” as an area of students’ development that doesn’t keep up with their intelligence.
Has Anyone Taught Them How?
But I wonder, has anyone taught these students how to interact with others appropriately. There are all kinds of specific sub-skills that encompass “social skills.”
- How do you start up a conversation?
- How do you wait your turn to speak?
- How do you act interested in something that’s not really that interesting?
- How do you monitor the other person’s interest in what you’re saying?
- And, oh gosh, how do you gently end a conversation when you’re done!?
If we complain that students don’t have “social skills,” then we should probably do something about it, right? Especially if we want a gifted student to interact with age-level peers who are not intellectual peers.
We Can Catch Kids Up
This is true for any trait or skill that is under-developed. We can directly teach non-academic skills as mini-lessons.
- If a 5th grader struggles with handwriting, well, has anyone sat down and worked with them?
- If they shout out during discussions, we can give a mini-lesson on whole group discussion skills.
- If they turn in sloppy work, we can teach them what makes their work sloppy and how to fix it.
- If a student doesn’t “explain their thinking,” we should probably teach them how to explain their thinking!
Any time we complain that a kid always or never does something, we should consider that question: has anyone ever taught them how?
Some mini-lessons I actually tried:
- I made a checklist on an index card for a very sloppy student. They’d check their work against the list and know exactly what to look for and change.
- I demonstrated how to ask to join a group in the class – including how, as the group, to kindly accept an unexpected group member.
- How to sit on our classroom sofa correctly! (Seriously, I was on the verge of just removing the thing until I realized a direct lesson might help!)
- How to leave enough room on a paper for a full title (you know, so the last couple words don’t get all smushed as the kid runs out of writing room)!
- How to write down the homework correctly! This involved checking the person to the left and the right and making sure all of the homework was in sync. I could not believe how many problems this caught! So obvious, right?
These mini-lessons are perfect for when you pull your brightest kids over to the kidney table but don’t quite know what to teach them.
Differentiation doesn’t always mean academics!