Collaboration Corner: Finding the Common Core of Social Skills



A few months ago, I wrote a blog about making speech and language goals integrated throughout the IEP. One person commented, “We need to work smarter, not harder.” I completely agree. Our caseloads will continue to increase, and our students will become more and more complex.

Now we have this Common Core thing to worry about, right? Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core Standards related to math, language, science and social studies, all focused on developing a well-rounded student ready to take on the challenges of college and career.  So with that in mind, I took to trip to the website.

I was checking out the speaking and listening, section under English Language Arts, when what to my wandering eyes did appear? First grade standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1a Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1b Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.1c Ask questions to clear up any confusion about the topics and texts under discussion.

(Core standards, 2012)

Why doesn’t that look just like … wait a minute, something familiar … social pragmatics! In my district our schools are busting at the seams with kids needing social pragmatics skills. We even have city-wide social thinking educators that run groups all focused on social skill development.

Here is how we are going to work smarter—by haring our expertise with others. It is fantastic that the need for social skill development has hit the national education scene, this gives some street cred to our social skills groups and lunch bunches. Now we need to bring it to the next level: get it out of the speech office, and back into the classroom.

Some things to consider:

1) Make your consult time be staff development time: Train your teachers, paraprofessionals, whoever will listen to use social skill strategies you are using with students.

2) Set a reasonable goal for adoption: Maybe it’s visuals for the first grade classroom one year, or key words and phrases for whole class lessons and expectations using the social thinking curriculum by Michelle Garcia-Winner.

3) Use the Common Core to guide IEP objectives: Look at the standards, and then simply make them achievable and measurable, and hold everyone accountable for following them.

4) Market your tools as “good teaching” rather than “special education” tools: A total pet-peeve of mine … there are no “special education” tools to learning—there are just tools.

5) Run a couple of whole group lessons, model for the teachers, and gauge what is doable.

Your presence in the target classroom reminds teachers to use you as their point person, their resource. They won’t know you’re there unless you make yourself present, and that’s when the good stuff, the collaborating, starts.


Kerry Davis, Ed.D, CCC-SLP, is a city-wide speech-language pathologist west of Boston. Her areas of interest include working with children with multiple disabilities, inclusion in education and professional development. The views on this blog are my own and do not represent those of my employer. Davis can be followed on Twitter at @DrKDavisslp.