5 Ways Teachers Can Help Socially Isolated Students


Every student needs to feel like they are a part of a group or connected to their peers. Most of the time, these connections are built at school. But for those who struggle to develop friendships or who frequently find themselves on the fringe of every social circle, the school can be a significant source of pain. Every day they are reminded of their struggle. For instance, they might have trouble finding a partner in class or be picked last for group projects. They might also feel alone at lunch, left out at recess, and lonely on the walk home from school.

This lack of social connection also puts these students at risk for bullying. Bullies tend to target kids who are socially isolated. Even just one healthy friendship can go a long way in preventing bullying. As a result, it is increasingly important that teachers and administrators do what they can to help socially isolated students connect with others. If you recognize that a student is being isolated socially, here are five ideas on what you can do to help.

Investigate the Situation

Before you can help an isolated student, you need to find out why the student is struggling socially. Begin by observing the student in different settings such as at lunch, during recess, and in class. Discreetly talk with former teachers and trustworthy students to see what they think are the issues behind the social isolation. You may learn that the student’s difficulties are related to bossiness, mean girl behavior, shyness, home life issues or hygiene. Or, a student may be isolated simply because they are different. You may also find that the student is a victim of bullying, rumors and gossip, or even cyberbullying, and other students are avoiding the student due to peer pressure.

Address Any Bullying Issues

If you discover that social isolation is related to bullying and not a lack of social skills, be sure you address the bullying immediately. If the student is the victim of rumors or being ostracized by others, address these behaviors when you see them occur. You also can give the student ideas on coping with these types of bullying. And you can even plan several lessons that encourage empathy, respect, and other positive character traits. 

Coach the Student

Begin by helping isolated students improve their social skills. Offer guidance about social situations they might encounter and provide pointers on how to deal with those situations. This exercise might be as simple as encouraging the student to make eye contact with others and to be friendly. The goal is to get them to make an effort to build friendships and relationships with others.

Arrange Social Opportunities

One option is to encourage socially isolated students to get involved in activities that give them an opportunity to socialize with others. The activities you recommend will depend on the student’s areas of interest or talents. But these activities can include everything from yearbook and chess club to drama and sports. Even activities that involve community service are good opportunities for the student to socialize.

Another option is to develop a group project that students work on outside of class. Put the socially isolated student with a couple of mature, empathetic students who will be sure to include him in the project. Then, check on the group's progress and be sure things are moving along smoothly. You also can take the opportunity to help these students recognize their strengths and talents.

Organize a Lunch Club

Use the lunch club concept as an opportunity to reward students for being empathetic, compassionate, respectful, kind or helpful. The reward is that the students get a break from cafeteria food to eat in your classroom. If you can, provide pizza or another favorite food. Or, have the kids each contribute a few dollars toward the special lunch. Another option is to have them bring their school lunch to your classroom and the reward is that they can listen to music, relax, and enjoy ice cream after.

Whatever method you choose to reward your lunch club, be sure your socially isolated student is included. This special lunch will give the student an opportunity to connect with other students who will most likely be receptive.

A Word From Verywell

Overall, when it comes to forming connections at school, teachers play a vital role in helping more socially challenged students discover where they fit in. They also play a vital role in communicating that these students offer value to the school community and that they belong just as much as the next person. By engaging students and helping them connect, teachers are helping students get the most out of their school experience.

2 Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Who is at risk.

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Respond to bullying.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.