By Bevin Daly, Lower School Language Therapist
I am honored to be a faculty member at Mary McDowell Friends School, where professional growth is encouraged. I truly appreciate the opportunity to research and explore social skills and the connection to the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum in the lower school. Through a generous grant from the MMFS Parents Association, I was able to dedicate time this past summer to creating and compiling Social Thinking materials to align with the SEL curriculum. After a careful analysis of the current materials, I discovered the need for Social Thinking materials that could be embedded within the SEL teaching as well as during snack, lunch, and small groups such as choice time.
About five years ago, I first attended Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking conference Thinking About You Thinking About Me, and I was amazed by her teaching of explicit social language skills. Winner explains that social thinking is really about encouraging others “to think socially” as a way to “think about you thinking about me and then figure out what we can do with all that thinking so that people think and feel about us the way we want them to.” As their ability to think socially develops, children sometimes need more significant support to acquire foundational skills and apply them in their everyday interactions. While teaching a whole group pragmatic language class in the 2018-2019 school year, I discovered the strong need for more accessible book choices, visuals, activities, and journal prompts. In this way, the Social Thinking language can be more consistent and fluid, and can correspond with the SEL classes during teachable moments throughout the school day.
During this past summer, I explored our shared drive for SEL and Social Thinking materials. Currently, the SEL curriculum is teacher- and classroom- driven, based upon the social and emotional needs of the make-up of the classroom. With the unified RULER program as a backbone of SEL, there are several common themes that teachers are addressing, including the areas of self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and social awareness. The ten core Social Thinking concepts include: Thoughts and Feelings, Thinking with Your Eyes, The Group Plan, Body in the Group, Whole Body Listening, Expected and Unexpected Behaviors, Flexible and Stuck Thinking, Making Smart Guesses, Size of the Problem, and Sharing an Imagination. I created shared folders and generated book choices to align with these core Social Thinking concepts. I then produced journal prompts and assembled visuals and related worksheets that could be easily integrated within these topics.
Thank you so very much to the MMFS Parent Association for its unique support to explore this important program this summer.
Thanks to the PA, I’ve developed materials that can be used not only in language therapy but during social interactions throughout the school day. This school year following clubs, I am excited to pilot a Social Thinking group called Social Thinking Fridays. I am also eager to provide consultation to teachers who would like to incorporate these topics during the teaching of their SEL classes.