Strengthening social skills and emotional intelligence in high schoolers can be a challenge. At this age, teens are learning how to handle conflict, converse with their peers and regulate their rollercoaster ride of emotions.
To support high school students – whether as a teacher, a parent or a mentor – you can help them build positive social skills through activities and games. Here are some of our favorite social skills activities to put into action with your teens.
What are key social skills for high school students?
To become adults who thrive, high school students should learn key social skills such as:
- relationship building
- social awareness
- decision making
- active listening
- stress reduction
It’s important for young people to learn these social skills so that they’re able to engage with others in a positive way in the long run.
Top 9 social skills activities
Social skills are essential life skills that must be practiced over time. You can support your students or teens by engaging them in activities designed to work on these skills, such as:
1. Get to know you bingo
Get to know you bingo is a classic for getting teens to learn how to start a conversation, share stories and find common ground. Simply print off blank bingo sheets and ask them to fill it with personal information, such as their favorite animal, greatest fear, future career goal, etc.
Students then should mingle around the room, ask about others’ information and share their own. If two people have the same information on their bingo board, they can cross it off. The first individual to mark off all squares is the winner.
2. Conversation speed dating
Invest in conversation cards and have teens pair off. Every pair should be given a conversation starter (try the ones from Chat Chains) and hold a conversation for at least 10 minutes. You can then change up the pairs in a “speed dating” format so that teens have multiple opportunities to learn how to engage with others.
3. Kindness Jenga
Buy a new Jenga board and write a different “kindness challenge” on every block. This could be as simple as “give a friend a compliment” or as involved as “buy somebody lunch who needs it.” As students play the game, they have to complete the acts of kindness.
4. Emotions Uno
Emotions Uno is a fun way for teens to talk about their feelings. Have each color in the game stand for an emotion: blue for sad, green for peaceful, yellow for happy, and red for angry or scared.
In the first 10 minutes, as students play a card, they have to name an experience when they felt these emotions. So if they played a yellow card, they would mention a time when they felt happy.
In the next 10 minutes, switch up the rules and have students share strategies for avoiding or achieving these emotions. For example, if a student played a blue card, they would talk about something they do to overcome disappointment or sadness.
5. Role play
Role play is a tried-and-true activity that practices social skills. Come up with a dozen scenarios for high schoolers to act out, such as bullying, peer pressure at a party, etc. Every group will receive a scenario, come up with a script and act it out in front of the class.
6. Mind maps for self-analysis
Mind maps can be an excellent way for high schoolers to reflect on what defines them and share these characteristics with others. Have students write their name in the middle of a paper and create at least three initial branches: qualities, pastimes and goals. From here, students can add different branches for each area.
Once everybody has finished, teens can share their mind maps in small groups and ask questions about each other’s maps.
7. Group service project
Learning to work as a team is a vital part of social skills. Creating a service project for your classroom or group of teens can allow them to solve problems and work towards a greater mission.
Showcase some example service projects – such as a charity talent show, or a weekly soup kitchen – and then support your teens as they plan their project over the course of the next few weeks.
8. Drama workshop
Teens are naturally dramatic and working on a short play can build a sense of empathy and teamwork. Choose a play that you think teens would be interested in and then assign roles so that everybody feels valued (including scene creation, sound, costumes, etc.)
Debating is an excellent way to improve skills such as listening to others, speaking in public, solving problems and highlighting important information. Put together a list of debate topics and have students go through several stages of preparation: from research, to a short essay, to a practice debate and finally a formal in-class debate.
Leverage social skills activities with your teens
Help high school students strengthen their social skills through activities. These top options above can be used to build key skills such as listening, empathy and more, so be sure to make use of them in the classroom and beyond. And don’t forget to model great social skills yourself when interacting with teens!
Looking to build your high schooler’s social skills? Check out ThinkPsych’s social skills resources and games for more activities.
- 10 Social Skills Activities for High School Students, Everything Mom, https://www.everythingmom.com
- 15 Social Skills and Classroom Management Activities, Education to the Core, https://educationtothecore.com
- 25 Fun and Easy SEL Activities to Boost Social Skills, We Are Teachers, https://www.weareteachers.com
- Evidence-Based Social Skills Activities for Children and Teens, Parenting Science, https://parentingscience.com