Social Thinking

  • Social THinking

    This year we will continue to explore Michelle Winner Garcia's social thinking curriculum in various social skills groups.


    Here are some key terms:



    Thoughts we have about others that make us feel happy, calm, and comfortable


    Thoughts we have about others that make us feel anxious, angry, sad, or uncomfortable

    Doing what is EXPECTED

    Following the rules for any given situation; people have BLUE thoughts about us when we do what is expected

    Doing what is UNEXPECTED

    Not following the rules for any given situation; people have RED thoughts about us when we do things that are unexpected


    Listening with your brain, eyes, ears, heart…every part of your body


    We face our bodies (eyes, faces, arms, legs) toward the group to show we are a part of that group


    We keep our thoughts on what is going on in our group to show we are a part of the group




    Key Concepts in Social Thinking:

    We also learned about Social Thinking and how to become a good Social Detectives.  We learned:

    1. We all have different kind of "smarts".  For example, some people may have computer smarts, sports smarts, math smarts etc.
    2. At school we use "school smarts" and "social smarts".
    3. We use "social smarts" whenever we are around other people.  At school, at home and in the community.
    4. When we use "social smarts" we understand that others have thoughts about us and we have thoughts about them.
    5. One part of "social smarts" is knowing that kids think about how other kids behave.  We figure out how to behave based on where we are and what we are expected to do at that time.
    6. We are doing what is expected when our brains and our bodies are part of the group.
    7. When our brain is part of the group, we are using our eyes to watch the speaker.  This shows we are thinking about what the speaker is doing.  This is expected behavior.
    8. When we use our social smarts we are expected to work and play nicely and respectful with other kids.  We use kind words, take turns, share, and stay calm when someone else wins.
    9. When we are doing what is expected people have good thoughts about us.  These are blue thoughts.  We feel good and others feel good too.  When people feel good and are having blue thoughts their faces are calm, their voices sound nice, and their bodies are calm.  When people are calm they are more relaxed.
    10. When kids feel good everyone enjoys being with that kid.  It makes playing and working together feel just right.
    11. Sometimes we make mistakes and do what is unexpected . When we are doing the unexpected our brains and our bodies are not part of the group.
    12. If a person's body is NOT part of the group, he or she is wandering around, sitting or standing too close to others or bothering others.
    13. If a person's brain is NOT part of the group, they are NOT using their eyes to think about the teacher and others in the group.
    14. If kids use unkind words, don't take turns, or get very angry when someone else wins this is unexpected.
    15. During group time, if a student does not listen and just does whatever they want to do-that is unexpected.
    16. When we do the unexpected people will have uncomfortable thoughts about us.  Then, we don't feel so good about ourselves and others don't feel great about us  either.
    17. When we don't feel good, we may not seem friendly, we may use a mean or angry sounding voice or show an angry face.  Our body may be tight and we are upset.
    18. When people have uncomfortable thoughts everyone starts to feel unhappy.  They may not want to work or play with the person who is doing the unexpected.
    19. To figure out what is expected in all the different places we work and play, we use our social smarts and become social detectives. 
    20. Social detectives use their eyes and ears along with what they know in their brains to figure out what is expected and even what may happen next.
    21. When I do what is expected people have blue thoughts about me.  When I do what is unexpected people have red thoughts about me.


    Social Thinking

    Source:  You are a Social Detective!  Explaining Social Thinking to Kids by Michelle Garcia Winter and Pamela Crooke  Illustrated by:  Kelly Knopp


  • Social Behavior Mapping

    Connecting Behavior, Emotions and Consequences Across the Day

    Michelle Garcia Winner, Editor

    Below are links to examples of social behavior maps that we use in group.  Social behavior maps help students to learn that the "expected" versus the "unexpected" production of behavioral skills impacts directly how people feel, which alters their course of action towards us (natural consequences).  How people treat us directly impacts how we feel about ourselves, as well as the people around us.  If we feel bad about how people treat us, we are likely to come back and treat them even worse.  Furthermore, this tool was created to help students develop a more solid understanding of how their behaviors directly impact the natural or artificial consequences imposed on them as a result of their behavioral acts.  (From Social Behavior Mapping by Michelle Garcia Winner)


    Instructions for Completing a Social Behavior Map
    Social Behavior Maps can be filled out with a student before they go into a situation to help them better navigate the social scene, or after something has taken place in order to explore all the perspectives of those involved and bring to light why everyone acted as they did.

    Social Behavior Maps are designed around the fact that there are two groups of behavior for each situation– behavior that is expected, which gives others good/okay thoughts and cause them to have comfortable or good feelings, and behavior that is unexpected, which gives other uncomfortable thoughts and causes them to have uncomfortable feelings. Using these terms helps students develop self-awareness as they figure out the “hidden rules” of a situation. Make sure the student understands these terms before filling out a map. 

    When filling out a Social Behavior Map with a student, start with a blank map (again, you can use the completed maps in this book as guides) by completing the Expected section first (this has the smiley face on it). Starting in the column on the left, have the student brainstorm the behaviors and feelings under each column and step in to guide their thinking when necessary. 

    Expected Behavior (see example image below)

    1. List the specific situation at hand at the top of the map. For this example, we’ve chosen Working in a Small Group in Class, and we will imagine that we are helping a student named Matt.
    2. In column one, list the expected set of behaviors that Matt should do when working in a group
    3. In column two, list how Matt’s behaviors make other people feel. Use emotion words or phrases such as calm, productive, connected to Matt.
    4. In column three, list how others treat Matt based on how his behaviors made them feel
    5. In column four, list how Matt feels when being treated that way

    Unexpected Behavior (see example image below)
    Repeat the process above on the Unexpected page, but this time:

    1. In column two, list how these unexpected behaviors affect others’ feelings by writing emotion words such as frustrated, annoyed, angry
    2. In column three, list the related consequences using vocabulary such as: Matt’s classmates will not want to work with him next time, they might be rude to Matt, they won’t think Matt is cool.
    3. In column four, list Matt’s feelings after experiencing the consequences in column three: Matt feels frustrated and left out.



    Click Link Here for a sample map

    Behavior Map