Picture yourself walking into a meeting or presentation that has already started. You’re at least ten minutes late and you have no idea what’s going on or what you should be doing. What do you do to get “up to speed” and assimilate with what the group is doing? For me, it is looking around to the audience, maybe whispering to the person sitting next to me or just peeking over someone’s shoulder to see what materials I need.
This ability to just know what to do in social situations is often termed a soft-skill. For this particular situation I would label it a problem solving soft-skill. The challenge when teaching these skills out of context and in small group settings is that there are many variations and applications.This makes generalization tricky. That is why I love teaching social skills in the moment as they are needed within my classroom.
“What is Your Neighbor Doing?”, is just one of many that can be easily taught through initial instruction and then supported with visuals. I am sure most teachers can attest to having students walk into their classroom late and either interrupt the instruction by being disruptive or join quietly but do not engage. At first glance these students are assumed to be disrespectful or apathetic. However what if we considered their behavior simply a need for skill development.
This is where a visual like, “What is Your Neighbor Doing” can be so powerful. I teach the meaning behind it at the beginning of the school year. I explain to my students that if I show them this visual it is a reminder that they need to enter my classroom quietly, look to their peers to see what they should be doing, and independently engage. This allows me to continue with my instruction, provide a visual direction to the students entering my classroom late, and teach a problem solving skill all within the same moment.
The result: development of a life-long skill for my students and positive classroom behavior management for me.