Last weekend in San Francisco at the Social Thinking Providers’ Conference, we felt lucky to have met so many like-minded people who all share our goal: making children successful in school and in life. Social Thinking and MindWing Concepts have amazing synergy. We both take abstract concepts that are challenging to teach & learn and make those abstract concepts concrete, teachable and child-friendly. What an effective combination of methodologies and materials! In light of this synergy, Sean Sweeney has written this Blog.
Group Activities to Complement a Focus on the Character Icon
Recently I wrote about students with social-cognitive deficits and their tendency to lack strategies related to character description and traits. Another manifestation of this weakness is the fact that a group of kids could be in a group with me for weeks and still not know each other’s names. Or mine! I have learned to engineer lots of activities in which kids practice using each other’s names and character traits, and the Braidy and SGM Character Icons provide a key visual and common thread through these activities.
I first like to emphasize the concept of Friend Files, described in Michelle Garcia Winner’s Think Social. As Winner says, it is expected that we remember certain things about people we know by keeping an imaginary file in our brain (and first of all it is helpful to label our friend file with the person’s name)! Drawing from that file allows us to a) use the oft-positively-received behavior of showing interest and b) have a wealth of conversation starters. Maryellen writes in It’s All About the Story about a kiddo we probably all know: “To make conversation, it would be essential for John to know that the classmate liked baseball, but more specifically liked the Red Sox, and disliked the Yankees.”
The SGM Character Map is a great resource for developing actual, physical Friend Files. Try getting some colored manila folders to add motivation (pick your color) and attaching the Character Map inside. Over the course of some weeks, kids in your groups can “interview” each other in a rotating fashion, with the Map serving as a visual to prompt great questions. The Map can later serve as a context for the kids to make “Smart Guesses” (see Winner’s You Are a Social Detective) to practice social inferencing. After the maps have some accurate and more robust content, try making some quizzes (or having the kids do so) with a site such as StudyStack or ClassTools. I can guarantee it’ll be a lesson that reinforces your students’ ability to recall facts about each other and thus foster some great connections.
There are also some great games that develop a sense of character in a fun context! Try prominently displaying the SGM Character icon while playing any of the following:
Loaded Questions Junior
Things (edit the cards carefully)
Using any of these games would provide a great opportunity to add to the Friend File Character Maps as a post-game wrap-up. What did you learn about John during the game?