Me First! Teach Social Skills Through Games

Read Time:  min |  Counseling

What kid doesn’t love a game? What kid loves a lecture? When planning my counseling lessons, I like to think about ways I can teach social skills that engage students and puts them in charge of their learning. Games are the perfect tool for just that.

Trivia Games

career trivia game coverThere’s a reason that your local pub has trivia night once a month – it’s fun. Whether you prefer a Jeopardy-style game or a more Q&A type, make a list of 30 or so questions that have to do with the topic you are learning. Trivia isn’t just for review, I like to do a career trivia where the kids are learning about careers as they are playing. They have to work with their team to find the right answer and even then they get some answers wrong.

Another favorite is to draw grids of dots on the board. If a team answers the question correctly, they can connect two dots. If this closes off a box, they can earn a point. The same works for tic-tac-toe. Answer a question correctly, and take a turn.

Cooperative Games

In this type of game, the skills are learned in the actual playing. So many social skills are embedded in games – turn taking, emotion management, good sportsmanship – just to name a few. For this, you can google icebreaker games but here are a few of my favorites:

The Wind Blows

Sit in a circle with one person in the middle and start with the counselor. Name one trait or fact about you – bonus if it’s not physical. Everyone who has the same trait or fact gets up and changes seats. So much fun and a good way to get to know each other.

Tower of Truth

Give students a set of materials that could feasibly make a tower (ex: newspaper, tape, and stapler). Challenge them to make the tallest tower they can that will stand on its own. This is so much fun and requires a  lot of teamwork!

Factory Line

This is fun to teach the skills of negotiation. Challenge the class to create a product. I always had them make a letter of the word Cooperate – each class in a grade level made one letter and I made the rest so when we were done, we had the whole grade level.

One group will have a job that must be done cooperatively. There is a foreman group that will make the decisions. The foreman group has to decide what the other groups’ jobs will be – cutting, drawing, decorating, etc. There is a lot of hardcore negotiating that goes on her.

Tip – check your social studies curriculum, this goes nicely with the unit on job sharing.

Center Games

If you teach counseling lessons on a regular basis and are thinking about how you can make lesson planning a little easier, let me suggest centers.

One of my amazing colleagues made a video about how she did this in her lessons. As one of her centers, she used simple board games to allow kids a chance to practice their social skills. She found that rotating around the room, she was able to scaffold their social interactions and support their learning even more. This is possible even if you don’t have your own classroom!

Problem Solving Games

Working together to solve a problem teaches social skills such as explaining your thinking, listening, being a leader, and being a follower. Ideas include puzzles, word riddles, and building blocks.

We recently discovered Kanoodle and think it’s so fun! To play, you use picture directions to create different shapes using the interlocking pieces. A friend of mine uses building blocks in small containers. Each container has the same number of pieces in it and she gives students an idea or topic (ex: what machine could help you be more responsible?) and students can create whatever they want to describe their idea.

Practice Games

roll away worries game coverPractice games support learning by repetition. A favorite of mine is to take a drawing of the six sides of the dice and write calm down strategies next to each one. Students play in small groups and each person rolls the die one time. Whatever they roll, they practice that skill and cross off the number. The object of the game is to roll all 6 numbers. However, if you roll a number twice, you still have to practice the strategy. You can check out my Roll Away the Worries game for a visual.

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My Kindergarten daughter reminds me all the time, “playing is how kids learn.” How do you teach social skills through play?


Check out these other activities for low-prep counseling activities that use supplies you already have in your office.