Social Thinking Group Topics ~ April 2012

I will periodically be posting updates to keep you informed about the topics that your child is learning in Social Thinking group. I suggest  that you subscribe to this blog or follow by email so that you will be aware when new material is posted.

The kids have been working to create “team” names for each individual social group. You should have received an email letting you know what “team” your child is on for reference purposes. If you are unsure, ask your child or shoot me an email. At this point, the only group who does not yet have a name is the 1st/2nd graders. We will be working on a team name soon.

The Cardinalsaurs is a group made up of Kindergarten and 1st grade students. The team name was created by combining two ideas from group members (Cardinals and Dinosaurs!). The great thing is that the kids figured out how to compromise with no guidance from me! I love it! One of the group members has contributed this fantastic drawing of what a Cardinalsaur looks like. 

The Cardinalsaurs have been working on improving joint attention through building projects. Joint attention is the shared focus of two people on an object or other person. Joint attention is a critical skill for social competence. It is necessary in order to reference the people and context of a situation. Social referencing is crucial in order to monitor the actions and feelings of those around us and to help adjust our own actions in response. We’ve worked on building our joint attention through play without verbal communication. One of the favorite activities is to choose an object that we want to build and each member of the team adds a designated number of pieces to the creation. You direct your partner’s actions through your eye gaze by looking directly at the piece you wish for them to pick up and then directing their movement through your eye gaze.

To practice this at home:


 1. Use Legos, K’Nex or any kind of building toy with varied pieces.

 2. Allow your child to initially decide on an object that you will build as a team. One important rule is that no one can speak, they can only communicate through eye gaze. This emphasizes the rule of thumb “what I’m looking at is what I’m thinking about”. The other rule is that you cannot move or remove any piece that another player adds to the creation. This rule allows for practice of flexible thinking when someone’s idea varies from your own. Decide a number of pieces that can be added on each turn (1-3 is recommended).

3. After the first creation is complete, then the next person gets to pick an object. Emphasize that the pictures we create in our minds of the same object may vary. For example, if we are going to build a boat,  you may picture a speedboat, while I might picture a cruise ship. Neither is wrong and we have to be flexible as we build to accept the ideas of others.

This week the Cardinalsaurs are learning the basics of being Social Detectives. A Social Detective uses his eyes, ears, and brain to figure out what others are likely thinking and feeing and make social predictions. If you would like to read The Social Detective by Michelle Garcia Winner feel free to visit the Baldwin SCORES Wiki at mrshively.wikispaces.com.  The book is available for online viewing under the “Superflex” tab on the right sidebar.  If you do not yet have a login for the wiki, please email me and I will send you the login info.

The Social Detective concepts are important because they lay the foundation for learning basic Social Thinking skills. From this point on, we will begin to use the terms “Expected” and “Unexpected” to describe social behaviors. This takes away the connotation of “good” or “bad”, but instead examines behavior from the perspective of whether it is expected in a given situation or not.  For example, crying when you have to transition activities is unexpected while crying because you fall down and scrape your knee is expected. The behavior of crying is not good or bad. Expected behavior creates calm feelings in others and yourself while unexpected behavior creates uncomfortable or upset feelings in others and yourself.

The other terms that we will begin using are “smart guesses” or “wacky guesses”. Using the Social Detective tools (eyes, ears, brain) allow us to make “smart guesses” about what others are thinking or feeling and predict what may happen next. When we do not use these tools our guesses tend to be wacky and off-base.

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The soon-to-be-named group is made up of 1st and 2nd grade students and the Thinkables are a group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students. Both groups are currently working on expanding their knowledge of the Superflex strategies and techniques to defeat Braineater. Braineater is one of the Unthinkables that is a troublemaker for all of us at one time or another. Braineater causes us to be distracted and make our brain leave the group.

Watch the Superflex page on the right sidebar for various visual tools that I am in the process of uploading. So far the kids have learned about defeating Rockbrain and Glassman. You can also check the SCORES wiki for access to the Superflex books to read from home. If you do not have a username or password, email me and I will make sure you have access to the wiki. The wiki address is: mrshively.wikispaces.com. 

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The 5th Grade Transition group is focusing on preparing for the transition to middle school. This is an exciting and anxious time for students who are moving into this new setting. We are preparing through video clips and discussion about questions and concerns that they have. I have created a series of 20 short video clips of current 8th grade students providing information on topics that they wish someone had told them before they entered 6th grade. Here are the first two clips:
#1 – Reputation Begins on Day 1
#2 – What if I Don’t Get a Class I Want?
More clips will be uploaded as we work on them as a group in class. It would be a good idea to have these clips available from home in the summer before the school year begins in August.