How Children Succeed “Book Club” Part 5 – Social Awareness

If you missed the earlier installments in our “book club” series, you can find them here.
Social Intelligence Defined
Whether you’re a fourth grade teacher or a tenth grade teacher, my guess is that at some point you’ve cringed over an awkward or painful social interaction between your students. In my classroom these moments often occur when students blurt out an observation about another student in front of him/her. The observation isn’t intended to be hurtful or embarrassing; it’s just that – an observation – and may be a valid one. However, the student being spoken about is noticeably impacted.
These uncomfortable social situations are a product of our students’ development, or lack thereof, of social intelligence. Social intelligence, is rooted in one’s awareness of other peoples’ motives and feelings and using that understanding to navigate social situations appropriately. According to Character Lab, those who demonstrate social intelligence have respect for others’ feelings, are able to find solutions during conflicts, and can adapt to different social situations.
Application to College Success
From learning to live with a total stranger to collaborating with classmates on a major project, college students must be able to manage social interactions appropriately in order to positively maintain everything from their health to their grades. Those who are able to effectively demonstrate social intelligence will be better team players, better roommates, and better advocates for themselves.
Opportunities and Strategies for Developing Social Intelligence
How can educators cultivate social intelligence on daily basis within the constraints of their classrooms and required curricular objectives?

  • Take advantage of ‘teachable moments.’ This might seems obvious, but in the daily hustle and bustle it’s easy to forget that even non-content-based moments can be opportunities to build knowledge and skills. Those uncomfortable social interactions you witness between your students are an opportunity for students to learn how to change their behaviors in order to respond more appropriately to both their peers and adults. Try talking to the student privately, but not in a context that feels like a punishment. Use a calm and neutral tone and let the student know that you want to help him/her learn from an experience. Guide the student to think about how the other student feels by asking questions like, “How would you feel if that were you? How would you want people to talk to you?”


  • Give students an opportunity to solve a problem together. Separate students into small groups and give each group a problem-solving activity. Examples include a puzzle, building a house of cards, or seeking a solution to a real-world problem. After each group completes the activity, ask the group to reflect individually on how members within their group approached the activity and sought solutions. And ask students to reflect on their own actions – how they responded to the task and what solutions they presented.  


  • Mix-it-Up Lunch. As part of a week-long “Be the Change” campaign at our campus, our student support counselor coordinated a Mix-it-Up lunch for our middle-school students. Upon arriving in the lunchroom, students were given some context for the activity, including recognition that they might feel uncomfortable or nervous about the activity but that those kind of feelings were okay. Then, students were assigned randomly to tables. Each table was provided with a list of conversation starters in order for students to get to know one another better. Staff members circulated throughout the lunchroom to further prompt conversation. The students had a lot of fun and grew their social skills and awareness at the same time.

What strategies do you have for developing social intelligence in your students? Share your ideas in the comments section below. 

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