I was introduced to the concept of Social Stories about 10 years ago by Pat Getz, the support services coordinator at the Montessori School of Syracuse. The Social Stories technique, in my experience, works very well with Montessori Grace & Courtesy lessons.
“Grace and Courtesy” is the term we use to describe manners and learning how to be polite, with respect to cultural norms and values. Generally speaking, these lessons encompass basics such as how to walk in the classroom, how to watch someone working, how to say please and thank you, etc. See more examples here and here.
What are Social Stories?
Social Stories were developed in the ’90s by Carol Gray and others to help children with Autism learn how to cope with social situations. Read more about the The History of Social Stories.
The goal of a social story is to give the child accurate information in a simple, understandable and reassuring manner. Social stories use specific sentence types to convey information. You can read more about the sentence types here.
Examples of Social Stories
Using Social Stories to Ease Children’s Transitions is a great article by Jennifer Briody and Kathleen McGarry describing how a social story was used for a toddler in a Montessori classroom.
Patrick’s daddy is taking Patrick from the car. (Photo of Patrick leaving car)
Next, Patrick hangs up his coat. That is a good idea. (Photo of Patrick at coat hook)
Patrick’s daddy says good-bye with a hug. He will miss Patrick today, but he will see him again at home tonight. (Photo of Patrick and parent hugging)
This is a sample of a simple story, but combined with the photos, and the reassuring tone, it can be extremely helpful for a young child.
Make Your Own Social Stories
If you are a Montessori teacher, you are probably using some variation of Social Stories in your lessons without realizing it. They are such a great way to teach grace and courtesy lessons to young children and they do not have to be reserved for children with special needs. The idea is to keep the story simple, realistic, based on the child’s real-life experience, and give the child strategies he can use to handle certain situations. Sometimes the strategies aren’t even necessary. The most basic social stories will simply describe a routine or procedure, such as the drop-off story above, in a reassuring manner.
I create social stories on the fly all the time. If I observe a situation that seems to be causing some sort of friction in the class, I tell a social story about it when we come to circle. We then role play it together. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of using simple and reassuring language. The goal is to give the child tools for handling a social situation, not make him feel bad for having done it wrong.
If a young child is having particular difficulty with something, it can be very helpful to create a little book for the social story. Take photos, or find generic photos online, and write simple text to go with it.
It is my goal to one day create a little library of classroom social stories for the many grace and courtesy lessons we do!
Free Manners Matching Cards by Wise Owl Factory
Free Social Story Downloads by Headstart
Social Stories printables on Teachers Pay Teachers
Grace & Courtesy Lessons on Montessori Album
Grace & Courtesy Lessons on Living Montessori Now
Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy by Deb Chitwood Kindle eBook
Sharing vs. Grace & Courtesy by Teaching from a Tacklebox
Seemi holds a Master's degree in education, and an AMS Early Childhood credential. She has twenty years of experience in Montessori as a teacher, school administrator, and school owner. Seemi is the founder of TrilliumMontessori.org.