Social Thinking Group Updates ~ 3rd Nine Weeks

We’ve had a great time in Social Thinking groups over the past 9 weeks. Here are updates about the topics that we’ve tackled…

  • Kindergarten/1st grade group: We’ve been learning the basics of Whole Body Listening and have read the book Whole Body Listening Larry at School. We’ve practiced “looking like Larry” as we attend with our whole body to the group. We’ve continued to work on being able to accurately identify feelings in static examples and beginning to attach the “why” of thoughts to the feelings. We’ve worked on basic play skills including sharing, taking turns, participating in a game even when it is not our preferred activity, and handling winning and losing. Finally, we’ve begun to work on basic social problem solving in book format by reading a story with a problem and then rewinding back to the beginning to find another way to approach the issue that will result in a more positive solution. These boys are working hard!
  • 1st grade group: We began this 9 weeks by studying the Social Detective. The Social Detective is a super smart dude who uses three tools to help him make good social guesses. The tools in the social detective’s toolbag are his EYES, EARS, and BRAIN. He takes the information he sees and hears and runs it through his brain computer to be able to make a smart social guess about what is expected and what might happen next.

    We practiced first with static images and then moved onto short dynamic video clips where the boys had to identify what in the video was expected/unexpected and make a prediction about what might happen next. This is TOUGH, but they became successful Social Detectives!

    Next, we moved on to beginning to learn about Superflex. Superflex is a super hero who uses his flexible brain power to help him defeat a team of Unthinkables. Unthinkables are not “bad guys”, but instead are troublemakers who bother all of us at different times. So far, we’ve learned about defeating Rockbrain (his power is making you get stuck on your own ideas and not flexing to work with the group) and Crankenstein (who makes you fuss and say or do mean things when you don’t get your way). When the boys demonstrated that they knew basic facts about Superflex and were ready to take on the challenge of growing their Superflexible powers, they were awarded with a Superflex cape. They have since earned their first “power badge” for demonstrating the power to defeat Rockbrain. They are currently working on earning their second “power badge” for defeating Crankenstein.

    One of the ways that we’ve practiced defeating Rockbrain was by running obstacle courses on the playground. But there was a catch! At any time in the routine, we would call “freeze” and change the plan. The kids had to be able to switch their activity to match the new direction. 

    2nd grade: We have learned about applying our Superflex knowledge to solve social problems using the 5 Step Power Plan.
    We have also engaged in a long unit on building conversation skills. The students have learned the parts of a conversation and that to maintain a conversation we have to keep the ball bouncing back and forth between participants. We can keep the ball bouncing by asking a follow-up question or comment. At home, you can practice this by encouraging your child to keep the ball bouncing back and forth between conversation partners during family time at dinner or even in the car as you run errands.
    Feel free to download either of the above visuals to help reinforce these concepts at home by clicking on the link below each image.
    3rd grade: During this 3rd nine weeks, we had a great time applying the social thinking concepts that the boys have been working to develop over the past couple of years in a cooperative movie project. The boys were divided into teams and assigned at least two Unthinkables to target. They had to work together to develop a story with a beginning, middle, and end that stayed on-topic. They created storyboards to tell the story, wrote scripts, designed sets from Legos, and then took about a bazillion photographs with digital cameras. I then helped them construct a stop-action movie on the computer where we applied sound effects and the boys recorded their dialogue. 
    The boys had to use many skills that targeted executive functioning including setting a goal, planning, negotiation and compromise, time management, writing skills, and their individual targeted language/articulation goals.
    Our movie premiere was quite the event and a visiting celebrity (Dr. Pena!) attended. The boys were super proud of themselves! And I was so impressed by the high level the boys applied all the social learning that they’ve done. This is a super group of young people!
    Check out their fantastic movie creations here…
    We also finally harvested our garden. All groups were able to harvest a little bit, but unfortunately I only had my camera with me during one of the groups. 😦 So, here are a few shots of the great carrot/broccoli/cauliflower harvest. 
    The kids (and I!) definitely have great appreciation for anyone who lives off the land. 🙂


Social Thinking Group Updates

We’ve been super busy working in our Social Thinking groups. I’m proud of all the hard work that the kids have been putting into learning new skills. Here are some of the things we’ve been working on and resources you can use at home…

Kinder group #1: We’ve been working on developing language skills for positional words including “on, under, and above”. We’ve also worked on expanding our recognition of basic feelings facial expressions.

Kinder/1st grade: We’ve continued working on expanding the accurate recognition of facial expressions. We’ve also worked on learning how to use a 5 point scale to identify our anxiety level, triggers that typically put us in the “danger zone” (4 or 5), and strategies to use to bring our anxiety back down to a manageable level (1 or 2). The 5 point scale is adopted from Kari Dunn Burton’s work The Incredible 5 Point Scale.

The calming sequence is adopted from her book When My Worries Get Too Big.  The instructions for the calming sequence are to: close your eyes, breathe in and out slowly, and rub your thighs. We also add the instruction to “think of your happy place”. The kids all came up with a location or image they could think of that made them feel calm and good. Ask your child where his “happy place” is. It is a great idea to practice using the calming sequence during calm periods so that it is easier to access during stressful moments.

2nd grade: We’ve spent a great deal of time delving into Superflex (created by Michelle Garcia Winner) and the strategies to defeat the Unthinkables. Superflex is a superhero who uses flexible thinking to solve social problems.

The two main Unthinkables that we have covered are Rockbrain (the boss of the Unthinkables) who makes us get stuck on our own ideas and not be flexible with alternative ways of doing things and Glassman who makes us have big reactions to small problems. The boys have identified common situations that cause them to have difficulty with Rockbrain and Glassman and strategies to defeat them. Please feel free to use any of these resources at home to help your child (or have your child help you!) defeat the Unthinkables.

The main calming tool that we are using to defeat Glassman and start to problem solve is progressive relaxation. Here is a visual that you can use to guide at home. The “shortcut” way is just to tighten fists and release with a deep breath.

We also use the following guidelines to help us determine what size the problem really is. Sometimes problems can feel really big, but when we check it out we find that they are more manageable than we originally thought.

5th grade: We have been working on continuing our discussion about conversation skills and have explored how to identify sarcasm. As you can imagine as we prepare for middle school, recognizing sarcasm is an important skill to know! We discussed the common characteristics of sarcasm which include variations in tone, saying the opposite of what is meant, and appropriate audiences for sarcasm – usually not your teachers or parents! 😉  We watched video examples of sarcasm and identified what the real meaning is in the verbal exchange.

We are eager to expand all these skills in the new year!

I want to wish all of you a relaxing, peaceful and joyous holiday. I hope you all get a chance to relax and enjoy quiet time with your precious kiddos! See you in 2013!

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  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.

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: 

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.