Students walking together

How to Teach Soft Skills in Elementary School

May 6, 2024 • By Studies Weekly

In elementary school, students learn and refine an immeasurable number of skills. They develop math, reading, spelling, grammar, and writing skills that teachers measure and monitor. But what about the skills they learn that are hard to quantify, like active listening, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving? 

These are soft skills. A teacher can use quiz scores to measure math skills and reading levels to measure reading skills, but soft skills are more abstract and harder to measure with numbers.

Yet, we cannot underestimate the importance of soft skill training. Soft skills help prepare students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers who can succeed in higher education, future careers, and adult life. Although difficult to measure, children are developing their soft skills every day. Elementary teachers can help students hone these skills through science, social studies, and health. Teaching these subjects is vital because each equips students with essential knowledge and both hard and soft skills.

Soft Skills in Social Studies

There is a clear connection between social studies and soft skills like: communication, emotional intelligence, teamwork, and cultural awareness. When students learn about history, they see social skills in action. Stories of the past can illustrate empathetic, innovative, hardworking people – people who look and sound like the students.

How you teach social studies can also help your students develop soft skills. Studies Weekly’s Social Studies curriculum encourages students to collaborate and listen to others. 

A unique feature of Studies Weekly’s Social Studies is that students can cut up their publication copies and turn them into learning artifacts like posters, graphic organizers, and visual aids. After students make their artifacts, they can practice listening and speaking skills by using the visuals as teaching tools. 

Studies Weekly Teacher Advocate Debbie Bagley encourages teachers to give students presentation opportunities by having students use their artifacts to teach other students about what they’ve learned:

“When children are engaged in the process of creating their own artifacts and get to ‘show what they know,’” to their peers, they are involved in using timeless skills. When they process their learning metacognitively and share a part of their story, they are involved in creating and problem-solving their future.”

Students learning at a museum

Soft Skills in Science

When you think of science skills, you may first think of hard skills like collecting data and reading graphs. However, science also allows our elementary school learners to develop critical soft skills. Science asks students to answer, “what, why, and how?” Inquiry guides science learning, which helps students build curiosity and problem-solving skills that they can transfer to any other discipline. 

Science helps students build confidence as they learn that they can find real solutions to problems. Studies Weekly’s Science curriculum is hands-on and helps students learn by doing. Learning in this way helps them feel engaged and interested in their learning and also builds soft skills like following instructions, organization, and sequential thinking as they conduct experiments. 

Along every step of the scientific process, students sharpen their soft skills. Before experimenting, they learn to analyze the situation and identify the problem. Then, they pay close attention to detail as they test different variables and persevere until they reach a solution. Each of these skills is applicable outside the lab, but science can be the perfect setting to develop them.

Student learning about her brain and mental health

Soft Skills in Health

Teachers report that behavior issues have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2023 survey conducted by EducationWeek researchers reports that 70% of teachers say student misbehavior has increased since 2019, and 68% say their students have lower morale than they did pre-pandemic. 

Quality emotional, mental, social, and physical health training is essential at this time when students have an exceptional need for additional support. Regular, dedicated time to teach health and wellness skills can help students regain motivation, learn to regulate their behavior, and take an active role in their health. 

Studies Weekly’s Tier 1 Health and Wellness curriculum helps students grow into health-conscious adults and equips them with the skills to care for their minds and bodies. Teaching soft skills with a dedicated health curriculum can set young students on a healthy path with knowledge and competencies that will help them throughout their lives. 

Having a curriculum purposefully built to help your students increase their soft skills can have a lasting impact on them now and throughout their lives. 

Start teaching soft skills in your classroom today with Studies Weekly’s Social Studies, Science, and Health and Wellness curriculum.