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Activities, Games, and Lessons for Social Learning

Activities, Games, and Lessons for Social Learning
A Practical Guide

Foreword by Kari Dunn Buron, Julie Erdelyi for Stern Center for Language and Learning

April 2020 | 168 pages | Corwin

In these games, the prize is success in school—and life.

Having good social skills doesn’t just affect classroom behavior—it’s the key to making learning stick. When students improve their self-regulation, social communication, and perspective-taking competencies, they are better prepared to challenge themselves academically, take on tough tasks, and collaborate with teachers and classmates to achieve real, lasting school success. And since these skills also improve life outside school, the benefits come full circle.

Designed for both explicit instruction and “learning by doing,” this practical guide provides hands-on activities that are easily adapted into any curriculum and can be used in general education, special education, after-school settings, and in the home. The design of each game keeps kids engaged and motivated, while educators benefit from clear, thorough explanations that unpack the complexities of social learning. Other behind-the-scenes features include:

  • Evidence-based, teacher-tested lessons
  • Anecdotes and real-world examples
  • Links to relevant research
  • Expansion ideas for applying learned skills to broader situations
  • Templates and reproducibles for easy implementation

This curated collection of activities puts social-learning theory into practice, helping even the most challenging children develop the social skills necessary for real success in school—and beyond.

List of Tables and Figures
Foreword by Kari Dunn Buron
About the Authors
What Is the Need for Social Learning?

What Is the Ideal Approach to Social Learning?

What Does Social Learning Look Like for Students?

Section 1: Teaching Self-Regulation
CHAPTER 1. Self-Regulation: The Basics
What Is Self-Regulation?

Functions of Behaviors and Interventions

Cognitive Skills

The Sensory System

CHAPTER 2. Lesson Plans for Teaching Self-Regulation
Table 2.1 Self-Regulation Lesson Plans Overview

Lesson 1: Suspend

Lesson 2: Taboo

Lesson 3: Tenzi

Lesson 4: Chill Out

Lesson 5: Flexibility Points

Lesson 6: Balloon Release

Lesson 7: Uno

Lesson 8: Personal Space Role-Play

Lesson 9: SKIP-BO

Lesson 10: Spit

Section 2: Teaching Social Communication
CHAPTER 3. Social Communication: The Basics
Relationship Types

Complexities of Social Communication

Nonverbal Communication

Teaching Conversation

CHAPTER 4. Lesson Plans for Teaching Social Communication
Table 4.1 Social Communication Lesson Plans Overview

Lesson 1: Hidden Message

Lesson 2: I Doubt It

Lesson 3: Follow-Up Questions

Lesson 4: Hedbanz

Lesson 5: Relationship Types Card Sort

Lesson 6: 5-Second Rule

Lesson 7: Hidden Objects

Lesson 8: Ball Toss Communication

Lesson 9: Word on the Street

Lesson 10: Beanbag Crash

Section 3: Teaching Perspective-Taking
CHAPTER 5. Perspective-Taking: The Basics
Theory of Mind

Social Cognitive Theory

Informal Assessment Tasks

The Intersection of Perspective-Taking and Social Communication

Hidden Curriculum

Levels of Friendship

Listen, Care, Change

Comic Strip Conversations and Social Stories

CHAPTER 6. Lesson Plans for Teaching Perspective-Taking
Table 6.1 Perspective-Taking Lesson Plans Overview

Lesson 1: Apples to Apples Personalized

Lesson 2: Celebrity

Lesson 3: Telephone in Pictures and Words

Lesson 4: Spoons

Lesson 5: Suspicion

Lesson 6: Picture Sequencing Activity

Lesson 7: Faceland

Lesson 8: Listen, Care, Change

Lesson 9: Guess My Gaze

Lesson 10: Bubble Talk


"This book is a perfect guide for teaching social learning in a fun, collaborative, and simple way for people of all ages! It provides practical, realistic and useful guidance, as well as ease and utility for practitioners and teachers with the content and in the way the book is structured."

Kimberly Mendenhall Brennan
University of Hawaii

"It can be challenging for educators to find resources  for students who struggle with social skills and self-regulation. This book is a good resource for those working with students with autism spectrum disorders."

Karen Eastman, PhD Professor, Special Education
Minnesota State University, Mankato

"This book has everything you need to teach students with fun, engaging, hands on lessons and activities that will transform their social skills!"

Renee Bernhardt
International Dyslexia Association

"Teachers require a broad pedagogic skill base as they address the issue of educating the whole-child. This book provides a repertoire of practical, proven SE strategies that work in a variety of classrooms. It is an essential resource for hardworking teachers and educators."

Dr Neil MacNeill, PhD.
Ellenbrook Independent Primary School, Australia

"This book provides accessible, ready-to-use lesson-plans with research links to build understanding and practice of key social emotional skills such as self-regulation, social communication, and perspective taking."

Katie Aeschleman
Conejo Valley USD, CA

"The format of the book provides practical and realistic strategies by presenting a research base follow by explicit strategy presentation for each topic.  The authors present the best of both worlds in providing brief theory/rationale while including techniques that can be used by a wide variety of child-serving professionals.  It has a solid research base and the authors convey thorough knowledge of the subject matter, as well as real-world experience.

Chris Grace
St. Mary’s County Public Schools, MD

"Teachers know that if we want students to be able to learn, we have to build a foundation of trust. This book is one of those foundational, handy books that combines research, implementation techniques, and activities that are easy to use. Every new teacher, as well as veteran teachers, need to have this in their hands."

Jennifer Harper
Cavendish Town Elementary School

"Demystifying social learning through games is not only an effective and engaging strategy, it is paramount to supporting students in today’s world of multifaceted communication. This book has a number of “ready-to-use” lesson plans that will provide explicit instructions and “learning-by-doing” activities.

Carrie Carpenter

For instructors

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