Classroom Strategy - Social Emotional Learning - NextGen Spaces

Develop Social & Interpersonal Skills with These Classroom Setup Ideas

Written by Patricia Cadigan, M.Ed., ALEP

There’s no denying that students need strong social and interpersonal skills to be successful. However, these skills aren’t instinctive—rather they must be patiently developed. We see this, for example, when a child is trying to communicate or collaborate with others. Face-to-face exchanges necessitate an ability for the child to react and respond in a positive manner. To be the most successful, the child needs the ability to read verbal and nonverbal cues.


How to Encourage Students to Develop Social & Interpersonal Skills

There are many activities you can use to develop social and interpersonal skills in your students. You’ll need to focus on skills that advance awareness and focus, collaborative learning, as well as promote the understanding of social cues. These things and more can open the doorway to a better educational experience, which then leads to students having healthier relationships, future employment opportunities, and overall better citizenship within their community.

In this blog, we’ll discuss educational best practices and tips for creating activities and classroom setup ideas that will help you develop your students’ social and interpersonal skills.

Social and interpersonal skills support children to accurately interpret other people’s behaviors and effectively navigate social situations and interact positively with peers and adults.” (2017, Jones) 


Classroom Setup Ideas to Promote Social & Interpersonal Skills

  • Social Awareness:

    Provide time for your students to reflect on important current events. Encourage students to see outside of themselves and explore other situations. This may involve debate, written reflection, or artistic expression. Give your students permission to move around the classroom to better facilitate natural peer interactions. This can be accomplished using mobile classroom furniture and a strategic classroom setup that incorporates a variety of learning strategies.

  • Collaboration:

    students collaborating with whiteboardWhen students work collaboratively, they are placed in situations to practice their social cues, interpret body language, and develop reasoning skills. Create an optimal learning environment by ensuring your classroom setup allows students to work in partner groups. Set students across from each other at shape tables or pair student desks together.  Activities that foster peer collaboration include “Think, Pair, Share” and “Turn to Your Partner." These types of interactions encourage creativity and provide a safe way for students to practice communication and problem-solving skills. Learn more on collaborative learning by reading, "How a Collaborative Classroom Enables Learning." 

  • Mindfulness:

    students practicing mindfulnessThere are different ways to help your students practice mindfulness and bring awareness to their physical selves. One activity is to have your students find a comfortable seated position—a chair, a Pixel on the floor, a rocker, or a MOV stool—and instruct students to survey their senses Calmly talk them through the activity, encouraging them to focus on what they see, hear, smell, taste, what they can physically touch, and what emotions they are experiencing. The great thing about mindfulness is it can be practiced in any classroom setup and with any classroom furniture. For more information on the concept of mindfulness and how you can use it in your classroom to encourage social and interpersonal skills, check out or review this Harvard Health Article, “Benefits of Mindfulness.” 



Create the Right Classroom Setup for Your Students

Creating an optimal classroom setup that encourages students to develop their social and interpersonal skills can be challenging without the right tools and information. If you need help designing your classroom setup and incorporating the best classroom furniture for your school’s needs, we can help! 

At Artcobell, our learning specialists are ready to help you through every stage of your project. From concept to installation, and continued support afterward, our team is passionate about helping you build the right learning environment for your students. Let us know how we can help you get started today!

Thanks to Nancy Sykes, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor for her contributions to this article. Sykes has 25+ years’ experience working in education. Her education career began as a sign language interpreter for Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students in Mesquite, Texas. She later taught special education in a discipline alternative education program with middle and high school students. Fifteen years ago she moved to Central Texas and taught in a Regional Day School Program for the Deaf. Sykes is currently working as an elementary school counselor. She also counsels children and adults part-time through her private practice. 



Jones, Stephanie, et al. Navigating SEL from the Inside Out: Looking Inside & Across 25 Leading SEL Programs: A Practical Resource for Schools and OST Providers (Elementary School Focus). 2017.



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Jul 21, 2020

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