Modeling Positive Interactions

Successful teachers make a point of reporting that just telling students what's expected doesn't get it to happen. This is particularly true in the area of developing social skills. To surmount a wide range of negative role models on television, in movie theaters, and even within the home and neighborhood, you must find fictional, historical, and current day characters that promote the values and social skills of a civilized society. Then you must teach students to role play positive scenarios on an ongoing basis.

Consider which of the following approaches would work best for you.

1. Ask your school librarian for a list of books, stories, and videos that present positive role models for children. Make these available to your students.

2. Prepare a "Hero Book Rack" for materials you have borrowed or purchased. Include sports heroes. Allow students to browse if they finish their written work early.

3. Visit your librarian and find out how to locate news stories on heroic feats. When you find these stories, share them with your class.

4. Collect back issues of Time and copy or tear out the Local Hero of the Week section. Tack them up on a poster board and have the students vote on their favorite. Have groups of students campaign for their choice.

5. Have students who are sports-minded nominate an athlete for the "Most Sportsmanlike Conduct" of the week. Emphasize qualities such as getting along with others, being a good winner or loser, and being a team player. Let students defend and debate their choice among competing nominations.

6. Use journals. Have students write or draw pictures in their journal on assigned topics such as friendship, trust, respect, bullying, name calling, etc.

7. Use role playing. Collaborate with another teacher, spouse, or friend to role play or act out common school conflict situations such as name calling, mother name calling, line budging, accidental bumping, or tripping. Present smart and dumb ways of dealing with conflicts. Involve students in scripting smarter ways of dealing with social problems.

8. Have students role play destructive and constructive language in various social situations. Some examples are: including oneself in a play activity, competing for friendships, dealing with criticisms, "put-downs," etc.

9. Have students practice kindness, fairness, and caring phrases in little skits for the class. Practice makes perfect!

10. Praise kindness. Look for students who include others in their play or activity on the playground, and praise them publicly when you have observed two or three such examples.

Giving students a chance to see role models and positive interactions can open up a new world of possible ways to behave with others. Giving them a chance to practice interacting constructively can stop problems before they start.

From The Discipline Checklist by Ken Kosier. Copyright 1998, the National Education Association.