Social skills and social interaction need not be taught explicitly to young students. Instead of discussing social skills theoretically or through an academic discourse headed by the teacher, the mutual interest discovery model introduces a process of structured activities for students. This process aims to increase peer acceptance by having students discover similarities they have with others.
The prevalent presumption is that attraction between people increases as known shared similar attributes increases. It is further postulated that the higher level of self-disclosure between two people, the deeper liking there is for one another (Burger, 1981). This model was applied to students with learning disabilities; however, it has been applied to classes where students need not necessarily have such disabilities.
To introduce this social skills activity to a class of elementary school students, the procedure was outlined and I shared some of my own interests with the group. The students were then asked to pair up with one other. I thought this activity to be a timely remedy since in this particular group several of the students did not get along well with the others. The activity proved fruitful as I observed that those who had strained or distant relationships prior to the activity were observed to have become more sociable to each another. I consider this activity a greater success with the marked change between one 2nd grade boy and a 4th grade girl.
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They had been talking and discovered that they both had scars in their chest area from surgeries they had undergone. They were so pleased that they even came up to me saying “So and so is the same as me! We both have a line.” Now, every time that they see each other in school they hug each other. The older girl has become like an older sister to the smaller boy. I regard not just the activity as a success, but I myself feel fulfilled. Such change effected into the life of pupils was more than I could have hoped for from this interaction activity. It brings a renewed drive to teach and a deeper significance to this most dignified profession.
Burger, Jerry M. Self-Disclosure and Liking During Initial Encounters: An Attributional Approach. Social Behavior and Personality, 1981, 9 (2), 179-183.
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