I think film shorts are some of the best social skills videos for kids. Film shorts are animated films that often have no verbal language. In other words, the viewer has to understand body language, intent, and other nonverbal cues to understand the gist of the video. For many of my students, this is a challenge. I often use film shorts to make learning how to read nonverbal clues fun and engaging.
Social Skills Videos for Kids | Why I Love Them
Social skills and social thinking are two of my favorite things to teach. I love to work with the quirkiest kids and to introduce them to nonverbal cues! Some of my favorite moments have been with students who don’t notice or attend to the facial expressions of others (or themselves).
Is she Pregnant or Fat?
For example, my favorite teachable moment by far occurred while I was working with a group of students on the Autism Spectrum just before my maternity leave. For what may be obvious reasons, I didn’t tell my students that I was pregnant until they asked. This group of boys never asked. Some of my other students asked early and often (student: are you having a BABY? Is it a boy or a girl? Does that mean you did it?! me: yes, boy, let’s move on to watching this fun video!) But these boys didn’t ask and it was getting close to the time for me to have a baby (yes, I was pretty obviously round). Here’s how it went:
Me: So, I have some news to tell you…
Me: let me see if you can guess *stands up with huge pregnant belly*
Me: What do you notice? *pointing to huge pregnant belly*
Student: Your stomach
Me: Um yeah, I’m not fat. There’s something else going on.
Student: Ohhh!!! You’re having a baby? Cool… So what games are we playing today?
Needless to say, there was some work to be done with this student on noticing visual cues about others. My favorite way to do this is by using videos. I start off with film shorts, pausing to notice the context of the cartoon world, and then I move on to videos of the student in social situations.
How to Develop Social Skills | Film Shorts
I use film shorts to work on receptive skills. Which means I’m working on what a student understands. I want them to be able to watch a video and see several factors and how they relate to one another. They need to look at the context of the entire film, facial expressions, motives, make connections to background knowledge, and inference. Now do you see why I love this for my mixed groups? I can easily use this for a group working on both expressive language and pragmatics.
Here’s how a lesson might look:
- Activate Background Knowledge
- Make Predictions
- Watch the video
- Check Comprehension
Activate Background Knowledge
I spend less than five minutes on this task. I usually just ask an open-ended question that starts with “Tell me what you know about _______.” I might ask a student what they know about the dessert before they watch Tumbleweed Tango or if they know anything about soccer before watching Quest for Glory Eurocup 2016.
I tell the student the name of the video and we make predictions without seeing any pictures. Then I show them a still frame from the video and we might revise our predictions. I recommend writing in pen and crossing out. It is often very cool to see how many assumptions you made that were totally incorrect!
Watch the Video
Be better than me. I always pause in the middle to comment (blabbermouth). But if you can help it, let them watch the whole movie uninterrupted. Then they have a whole schema to work from. They may be able to pull from their knowledge of how the story ends to infer the emotions when you go back and review key parts. If you pause and start throughout the movie, they may lose track of some of the storyline and then they won’t benefit from practice coming to their own conclusions.
Once the video is done, ask your students questions to see if they “got” it. I’m still surprised sometimes by how off my students with poor receptive pragmatic skills can be. There is so much information in a silent film that our eyes analyze and interpret in a millisecond.
Now that you know what they understood and didn’t understand, go back and have them analyze the context. Make sure they look at the environment, body language, facial expressions, body posture, the tone of the music in the background, and any other sensory information. If you’re using a computer, I like to use the annotate feature of Zoom to circle and point out all of these elements remotely.
Social Skills Videos
Quest for Glory Eurocup 2016
For the Birds
The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse
I love these social skills videos for kids on the Autism Spectrum. They help to strengthen that awareness of others in a non-threatening way. I also think that these videos are fantastic for other students with language-based disabilities. Try out these social skills videos, along with my other therapy resources, to pull through vocabulary, inferencing, complex sentences, and pragmatics skills within one engaging session.
Let me know how it goes!
Looking for more therapy activities? Try some of these!