Good manners and basic social skills such as taking turns are just as important to kids' success in school as a focus on reading, writing and 'rithmetic, a new book suggests.
Students should learn charm-school skills alongside the academic subjects that teachers must pass on to meet the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, said co-author Stephen Elliott of Vanderbilt University.
The top 10 skills that students need to succeed based on the authors' surveys of more than 8,000 teachers include:
* Listen to others
* Follow the steps
* Follow the rules
* Ignore distractions
* Ask for help
* Take turns when you talk
* Get along with others
* Stay calm with others
* Be responsible for your behavior
* Do nice things for others.
"If we increase social skills, we see commensurate increases in academic learning," Elliott said. "That doesn't mean that social skills make you smarter; it means that these skills make you more amenable to learning."
Elementary school kids and teachers value cooperation and self-control, Elliott said. When those behaviors are taught and reinforced, fewer children act out and there is more time for learning.
The book, "The Social Skills Improvement System—Classwide Intervention Program," is based on a survey done in 2006. The authors found almost exactly the same list of desired social skills when they did the survey in 1989, Elliot said. "Society has not changed what it values as fundamental social behaviors," he said.
Co-authored by Frank Gresham at Louisiana State University, the book includes a 10-week program that pre-school through middle school educators can use to teach the skills alongside academic subjects.