Manners are an important part of good social skills. In my own home, I teach my children to use good manners subconsciously, as I correct them when they forget to say “please”, give them consequences when they take something from their sibling without asking, and will prompt them to say “thank you” when adults give them a gift.
Just trying to raise my own humans to be people that others want to play with and work with one day. But, not all children have a school psychologist mother. Many children live in homes where parents are busy, working long hours, or do not have parents that are quite as aware of the importance of good manners.
It is definitely important for students to learn and practice manners in the classroom, particularly if they are not getting the information or prompting at home. Things like greeting their teacher in the mornings, refraining from rude comments, sharing with peers, and helping others are skills that can be learned at school. However, sometimes these manners need to be explicitly taught, not just assumed that children will “know” how to behave and show good manners during their school day.
To help with teaching “Good Manners” as part of either my small group counseling for students working on social skills, or my classroom SEL presentations, I have come up with a few activities that can help teach children about manners in some fun and interactive ways.
1) The Kindness Quiz
I will sometimes start out my Social Skills groups with this activity. It’s a “Kindness Quiz” that is intended to have students rate themselves on their own kindness. While the intention appears to children to be to take the quiz and learn about how “Kind” of a person they are, it’s true intention is to help teach children about kindness and manners through the questions and response options. Most children actually rate themselves much higher than they truly are because they want to appear “good.” However, by putting information in the form of a self-rating “quiz”, students learn what behaviors are considered good and may think about their own behaviors that may not have been “good manners.” I’m a sneaky lil’ school psych, muahaha.
2. “Mrs. Manners Says” Presentation/Game and YouTube Video
For an easy and fun activity, I created a game using PowerPoint called “Mrs. Manners Says.” It starts out with a quick review with examples of Good vs. Bad manners. Then the game begins. It is essentially like Simon Says, but all that the students have to do is give a “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” if what Mrs. Manners says to do is a “good” or “bad” manner.
I will play this game in-person for my Small Group Counseling and SDC Whole Class SEL support, but I also have recorded myself giving the presentation and have posted it on YouTube, so that I can just send the link to teachers to show if they want something for their whole Gen Ed class. Hey! I’m a busy school psychologist!
For my counseling groups, I created a fun game to practice and check their knowledge of manners. It’s easy to play, but I just printed it in color and laminated it. This way I don’t have to keep printing it out when I want to use it. I also have to borrow a die and game pieces. My students really have liked this game because it makes learning something that they might not think of as fun, like “manners”, into a fun little game.
3. Friendship workshop
I made a 2 part- Friendship workshop called “Making and Keeping Friends” for classroom SEL a few years back. I maybe gave it a handful of times, but in it is my “Kindness Quiz”, discussion on picking friends, “Ingredients” that make someone a good friend, resolving conflicts, and being a good friend to others skills. There are also a few short classroom activities to keep kids engaged.
4. During Counseling Sessions … Correcting and Modeling Students for Turn Taking, Rude Comments, Greetings, Saying “Thank You”, etc.)
Last, but not least, is prompting, correcting, and modeling good manners during your counseling sessions. This means, correcting your students when they enter counseling without making a greeting to you or their peers, calling out kids on rude comments or not waiting their turn, and practicing good manners, such as saying “please”, “thank you”, and giving peers compliments or encouraging words. It also means frontloading them with how to show good sportsmanship when playing game activities in counseling.
This is often the main area that my students will struggle with, as one might like to announce every time that he is winning or losing a game, and another may always get angry when he or she loses at a game. I like to frontload these students before the game begins with how to be a good sport, and then sometimes make them lose, so that they can practice being put in that situation within the controlled counseling session. Like I said, I’m a sneaky school psychologist, muahaha.