Wow! What a fantastic year of learning we’ve had. Not only have I seen each student make great gains academically, but their Social Smarts have grown by leaps and bounds! Check out the updates on your child’s group below. Because several groups span grade levels, I’ve included initials in parentheses so you can find the correct grouping for your child.
Our 4th grade Social Thinking Superstars put their learning into action yesterday. For many months we’ve been focused on learning to understand the perspective of others as well as developing our executive functioning skills to be able to think through a project from end to beginning to end (see below!) and generate a plan for completion.
When teaching students with executive functioning challenges, there are many aspects that have to be considered. Do they kids have a concept of time (how long is 5 minutes compared to 30 minutes)? Can they envision what the product should look like when it is finished? Can they identify the necessary materials needed and how to obtain them? Can they identify what steps will be involved and how long each step will take? Combining that with the need to take the perspectives of the other people in the group is a huge challenge!
In group we’ve learned to use the Get Ready, Do, Done chart to help us organize our thinking when planning for an activity or project.
- In step one, the students are expected to first envision the “Done” box. What will your assignment/project/activity look like when it is finished? Draw or list that information first.
- In step two, they jump to the “Get Ready” box to list their steps and/or materials necessary.
- Step three is to actually follow the steps of the plan and then compare to their “Done” box to see how it worked out.
As many of you know, the early projects this year using their planning skills were fabulously unsuccessful and have become anchors in our conversations (I love it when things work out like that and provide meaningful learning moments!). As we neared the end of this school year we assessed the ability of each student to take the perspective of their fellow group members through a party planning project.
Two boys were assigned to the decorations committee, two boys to the activity committee, and three boys to the food committee. They were given instructions and a Get Ready/Do/Done chart to complete. Mrs. De Los Santos and I completely stepped back and they took control. Each committee member had to use their “friend files” to remember information about the preferences of their peers, use their conversation skills to ask peers’ opinions, and use their flexible thinking to alter the plan to meet the needs of everyone in the group.
It was a rousing success!! To watch these boys use all their skills to plan absolutely blew me away! They were incredibly proud of themselves for being flexible and planning an awesome party. Check out our photos below!
Our Activity Committee…
Our Food Committee…
Our Decorations Committee…
(And it’s a little tough to pick out in this picture, but check out the AMAZING origami pinwheels created by one member of our decorations committee below!)
Finally, their ticket to 5th grade Social Thinking Group was to share with the group one thing they either learned about their social smarts this year or one thing they think they can do better now than at the beginning of the year. Every boy had amazing answers. Here are a few of the highlights…
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3rd Grade Lunch Bunch & 2nd Grade Social Thinkers (BM, NB, KS)
These smart cookies spent a lot of time recently putting the jigsaw pieces of their social learning together to make connections. These kiddos have done a beautiful job becoming masters of the 5 point scale! They can now identify situations that increase their stress and their own personal strategies for calming to get themselves back down to a lower level. Next year we will expand their knowledge to learn to attend to warning signs in their physical bodies that they need to use their calming skills.
They also reviewed the tools of a Social Detective (using your eyes, ears, & brain to make a smart guess about what is expected and what may happen next). They translated this knowledge into practicing taking the perspective of others using a 5 point behavior scale (1 = behaviors that make others have good thoughts, 2= behaviors that are fine or okay, 3 = behaviors that make others have weird thoughts, 4 = behaviors that make others feel annoyed, 5=behaviors that are against the rules). Using simple scenarios we identified the levels of the thoughts of others based on the behavior presented. This is a huge challenge for this group. They tend to only be able to determine thoughts at the extreme ends of the scale (1 or 5) and needed guidance to find the more nuanced levels. This summer please point out times that your thoughts or the thoughts of other family members or friends fall in those middle zones and why. We will continue to work on this next school year.
The group also learned about using their “remote control” to pause when a problem occurs to use coping skills to calm down, think about the size of the problem and then use their problem solving strategies to come up with an solution that uses expected behaviors. The use of the problem solving visual is incredibly helpful with this group and I encourage its use at home! You can download it by clicking the “problem solving” tab at the top of this page.
Finally, this morning the kids’ ticket to next year’s social thinking group was to share with the group one thing they learned about their Social Smarts or one thing they are better at doing now than they were at the beginning of 2nd or 3rd grade. I couldn’t be more thrilled with what they have learned! Check it out…
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1st/2nd grade Social Thinkers (AM, MB, EA)
We’ve spent a lot of time working on issues related to Theory of Mind. We’ve learned what a thought is. A thought is words or pictures in you mind that are invisible to everyone else and we can’t hear. We’ve practiced seeing a picture in our mind or reciting the ABCs or a sentence in our head without speaking it out loud. Wow. This was a revelation to this group! It is incredibly hard not to speak everything you think! We played games where the students had to hide an object while I hid my eyes. They then wrote where the object was in their “thought bubble” without showing me. They tried hard not to blurt it out. I demonstrated that my thought bubble stays empty as long as they keep it in theirs without speaking, but when they speak it it jumps from their thought bubble to their speech bubble and then into MY thought bubble. Then it is not a secret anymore! Over multiple sessions they got better and better at inhibiting the impulse to verbally relate all their thoughts. We also connected it to times in the classroom you have to keep your thought in your head (taking a test, doing your work, reading to self).
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1st/2nd Grade Social Thinkers (MO, CM, KL, JW)
We’ve spent most of the past few weeks exploring the tools a Social Detective uses. The Social Detective uses his eyes, ears, & brain to make a smart guess about what is expected and what may happen next.
We’ve practiced observing other groups to determine what is expected at that time (are they talking with peers? working quietly? at the carpet? at their desks? listening to the teacher?) and then matching the group. We examined the feelings and thoughts created in others when people do what is expected vs unexpected. We also practiced using video clips and role plays identifying the expected and unexpected behaviors in situations and WHY they were expected or unexpected.
This summer please ask your child to help you be a social detective. When you go places pause first and look at the people and what they are doing (at a nice restaurant people are sitting, talking quietly, using good manners vs at Chik Fil A people wait in line, eat at tables, play on the playground. Loud voices are expected on the playground, but not at the tables, etc). Practice matching the group and reflect on the feelings and thoughts created in others when behaviors match what is expected.
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Thank you all once again for sharing your kids with me. Being their teacher is my great privilege! They are amazing, brilliant, creative little people!
And watch your email next week for a big announcement. Exciting news is coming in SCORES land!
Enjoy your summer!