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Friendship groups + social skills groups + lunch buddies = Social Skills success…Continued…

Continuing from our last blog about different types of social learning groups, this blog is a breakdown of the first four half-hour sessions that will help you launch a new social learning group.

In this blog, we’ll dive into the what to do, why to do it and how to do it!


What do we do during the four half-hour sessions?

(P.S. These usually take place over a two-week period)


Day 1 (30 mins)

The first day is all about team-building. One of the struggles that many of my students have is making friends or connecting with their peers. I find that team-building activities fast-track learners’ feelings of being part of something, allowing them to gain mutual respect and a sense of belonging.

So, we start by making a silly team name (this is one of my favorite parts). Making a team name provides so many opportunities for students to practice a variety of skills, and for us as staff to embed literacy and numeracy skills (I will be expanding upon this in another blog, as the whole lesson is based on creating a team name). We often come up with the silliest names! For example; ‘the excited, stinky, neon green, flying burritos.’ Or the ‘flabbergasted, lazy, rainbow, jumping unicorns.’ By this point, the students are already beginning to warm up to the concept of team-building, and are even laughing and sharing ideas with peers. The group at this point is just starting to form.

Next, we do a team cheer: “go thrilled, sleepy, turquoise, swimming bat monkeys!” This cheer is not meant as a competitive game, but can often become a little competitive. However, as long as it’s well-managed, it can be very fun for students. What we then need to do is give the students an opportunity to use their new team cheer. I like to use games such as Jenga, completing a puzzle, or a game of ‘would you rather’ (this is a particularly good game as it encourages the students to get to know each other better and see what they have in common). You could even have them play a more challenging/physical game, as well as any number of great team-building activities that you can find on the web. There are lots of choices here. We end this session with the team cheer again. By now the group is storming; we have friendly competition, and the students understand their roles within their group. A little area to watch out for here is that the quieter students, or students who do not like being in a group or loud noise, do not get left behind – you may need to think on your feet on how to adapt the activity to better suit all learners.


Day 2 (30 mins – total = 60mins)

The second day is all about learning a skill. Let’s say the skill we are working on is compromising. I would explain that this is the skill we will be covering and ask any of the students if they know what this means and how we do it. I would use a variety of resources to help cement the learning, as well as covering as many different learning styles as possible (kinesthetic, auditory, etc.). For instance, I start by reading the A-Team books (if there is an appropriate fit) about Social Emotional Learning (SEL).

autism, SEL, social emotional learning, asd

In this circumstance, I would read: "The A-Team Presents... Alex’s Compromising Curse." Then, we would go through the book and identify when Alex figures out how to compromise. After the book, we might look at a video or poster on compromising. To summarize/evaluate the session, I would get the students to give me examples of different ways to compromise. We would, of course, end the session with our team cheer. The group is now at the norming stage and functioning at a very high level.


Day 3 (30 mins – total = 90 mins)

The third day is all about role play. As a group, we would come up with different role plays. I would pair students up and have them demonstrate the unexpected way to act during an opportunity to compromise, and then the expected way. Depending on the age of the students, either they would come up with their own unique role plays, or I would have it ready for them. So, if they are role-playing the skill of compromising, the skit might look like this:


Student A: “Do you want to play tag?”

Student B: “No, I want to play zombies.”

Student A: “I don’t want to play zombies.”

Student B: “I don’t want to play tag.”

Student A: “Fine, then I don’t want to play with you.”

Student B: “Fine, I don’t want to play with you either!”

(They stomp away).


Student A: “Do you want to play tag?”

Student B: “No, I want to play zombies.”

Student A: “I don’t want to play zombies. Can we compromise?”

Student B: “Sure, why don’t we mix the games and play zombie tag!”

Student A: “That sounds fun! Let’s play.”

Student B: “Okay!”

(They walk away together).

We end with our team cheer. The group is still at the norming stage and functioning at a very high level.


Day 4 (30 mins – total = 120 mins):

The fourth day is all about performance. On this day, I bring the friendship group out into the hallway, and we do a quick review of our skit. Then we go into the classroom, and I explain what we have been learning. My group will then explain what compromising is. I again then read the SEL book: "The A-Team Presents... Alex’s Compromising Curse."

After that, my friendship group performs the skits for the class. They are now the class experts on compromising. We end with the cheer in front of the class. This group has reached the performing stage of group development.

While they may be heading into the "reform" stage, our learners will have gained so much from this experience. They may have made a new friend, learned about the likes/dislikes of others in the group, found that they share a common goal or interest with someone in their group, and most importantly will have learned how to socialize with others in sometimes uncomfortable situations.


You may have noticed some lingo that we were using throughout this blog - forming, storming, norming, performing and reforming. These terms were inspired by Bruce Tuckman’s work around group development, which includes these stages:

Forming – Group in its infancy stage, very new and starting to come together.

Storming – Group may become a bit more competitive, and people start to fit into their roles in the group – leader, followers, builders, communicators, etc. If you have a stable group that has been through the group development cycle multiple times, then you will be able to assign appropriate roles.

Norming – The group is now achieving its goals and working together with more efficiency.

Performing – The group is now working with complete autonomy and in our case for this blog/session are ready to show/present their results if applicable with confidence.

Reforming – The group is changed, and the cycle begins once again.

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