Teaching Social Skills Through Cooperative Learning

Section 1.7, ADHD and Social Skill Interventions, addressed the social challenges and difficulties with interpersonal relationships that are common among children/teens with ADHD. It was explained that some children have social skill deficits—in which they have not learned how to perform a specific social skill. However, typically children with ADHD do not have a skill deficit, but a performance deficit. Due to their problems with inhibition and self-control, they know what they are supposed to do, but fail to perform the skill when needed.

Social Skills Drawing

Cooperative skills are essential for getting along in life. Whether a child is deficient in social skill awareness or in social skill application, it is vital to be able to learn and practice these skills in order to use them appropriately in daily life. There is no better place or structure for teaching and practicing appropriate social skills than through the context of working in groups together with classmates in real learning situations.

There are different ways to teach what working cooperatively "looks like" and "sounds like." The behaviors must be stated very explicitly. One way is to develop a T-chart together with the students. A specific social skill is selected (for example, reaching agreement). Then behaviors describing what reaching agreement might look like are listed, for example, heads together, smiling, shaking hands, thumbs up. Similarly, behaviors are listed under what reaching agreement might sound like: "Good idea." "How do you feel about that?" "What do you think?" (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998).

Brainstorming the behaviors for the specific social skill and then creating a rubric of observable behaviors demonstrating that skill is another technique teachers may use. Groups can refer to the rubric and score themselves on the criteria after the cooperative activity.

In the context of each cooperative group lesson, incorporate one or more social skill or collaborative skill to teach and practice (along with the instructional and academic tasks). Teach the skill by explaining the need and importance in students' daily lives. Together with students, brainstorm what the skill would look like and sound like to any observer. Model, demonstrate, and role play examples (and non-examples). As students are working, circulate around the room, recording observations of groups' implementation of the targeted social skills. As students are working, positively reinforce pro-social skills; and at the end of the lesson, provide feedback—sharing your observations. In addition, have students self-evaluate their group's performance on the targeted skill(s). (See Section 1.7, ADHD and Social Skill Interventions.)

As discussed in other sections of this book, visual cues in the environment are very important in helping to remind and prompt students about behavioral expectations. Create posters with illustrations and a few brief words depicting the proper social skills/behaviors. A visual cue card of those expected behaviors can be provided at the start of each cooperative group activity to each group (along with other group resources provided). Another strategy is to take photos of students demonstrating the proper cooperative behaviors and using those as cues—either at the groups' working sites or hanging in the room as a visual display.

In addition to Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec, the Kagans (2000) are other leading experts on cooperative learning. Their acronym for what they see as the four basic principles of cooperative learning is PIES: P (positive interdependence), I (individual accountability), E (equal participation), S (simultaneous interaction). They have developed a variety of structures and formats for teachers to use that ensure that all students within the group are active and equal participants. Rather than participate sequentially (one student at a time), the task is structured for simultaneous interactions—significantly increasing the degree of each student's response opportunities and participation. As was discussed in Section 2.5, Attention!! Engaging, Maintaining, and Regulating Students' Attention, high-response opportunities and active participation are vital for the success of students with ADHD.

The Kagans and others have developed a number of structures teachers can choose to implement in cooperative groups to ensure the above principles of cooperative learning are being addressed in each lesson. For example, one strategy the Kagans recommend that equalizes participation during a team open-ended discussion is "Talking Chips." It basically involves providing each member of the group a certain number of plastic chips. Any student on the team can begin the discussion by placing his or her chip in the center of the team's desk and keeping his or her hand on the chip while speaking. When finished, the chip is left in the center of the desk. Other team members do the same when they wish to speak. Teammates continue in this fashion while sharing their ideas (Kagan, Kagan, & Kagan, 2000). This is an excellent strategy to use with students who have ADHD, as it helps them regulate their impulsive talking and provides structured practice in how to take turns appropriately.

There are wonderful resources available on the "how-to's" of implementing cooperative learning in the classroom. It is advisable to integrate cooperative learning as much as possible into daily instruction. There are so many benefits for all students, but especially for children who are more difficult to motivate, keep engaged, and desperately need to practice social skills at "the point of performance"—in real situations, it is a very valuable instructional format. Cooperative learning is particularly beneficial for students with ADHD because it allows for high-response opportunities, increased peer interaction in a structured format, and practice of social skills in an authentic setting and context (Rief, 2004).

The following "Social Skill Lesson Plan," "Report Form: Social Skills," and "Ideas for Monitoring and Intervening" are adapted from Cooperation in the Classroom (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998) and are used with their permission.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The ADHD Success Formula

The ADHD Success Formula

This is an audio and guide that will help you battle through ADHD and Accomplish Twice As Much In Half The Time. Learn more by download your very own copy today.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment