Social Skills Activities: Minimum Prep, Maximum Fun!
If you’re anything like me, you have a ton of favorite resources you use but not in one place. In a perfect world we would have time to organize everything but between meetings and progress reports who has the time? For that reason I wanted to compile all of my favorite social skill activities into one place. These are my go-to, little to no prep activities that I can pull out and use. They’ve served me well over the years and hopefully will be helpful to you!
Before we start, let me just say, there are a lot of links in this post. Everywhere you see green, that’s a link to go get that activity. Let’s get started!
Social Skill Activities from Everyday Speech
I’ll get this shameless plug out of the way first. I’ve created my own social skills materials and love sharing them! I wrote social lessons for two apps – Let’s be Social and Let’s Learn Emotions, plus social skills videos and worksheets.
- Social Skill Video Lessons – We recently released social skills videos on our website that can be watched on anything- computers, laptops, or tablets. These are quick two minute lessons focusing on certain skills. When writing the lessons, I made sure the videos focus on how unexpected behavior makes others feel and then model the appropriate behavior. The characters talk to the camera in thought bubbles to tell how the situations made them feel.
- The Speech Therapy Worksheet Creator – We built a 100% free tool that helps users create completely customized worksheets from scratch in minutes! We even have a database of worksheets created by fellow educators – there are a ton of gems in there! I’d definitely check it out. You can filter worksheets by subject area, including social skills.
- Let’s be Social has 40 Lessons organized in the following skill sets: Personal Interactions, Navigating the Community, School Behavior, Handling Change, and Social Relationships. Each lesson begins with a social story and ends with questions to reinforce what student have learned. Users can also create their own social stories and include pictures of their own students, which is always fun for the kids.
- Let’s Learn Emotions teaches emotion recognition with fun matching games. It also comes with a discussion game to talk through when and why people feel these emotions. We included many different settings so learners can go at their own pace with different levels of prompting. Again, users can import pictures of their own students, which is a great way to model the different emotions.
Now on to some quick and easy social skill activities that I did not create myself but love to use!
Best Online Free Resources
These are my favorite places to look activities that are quick to use but still let me leave my session feeling like I gave a high quality lesson. I’ve listed examples of my favorite resources I have found from different sites.
- Think it or Say It –This is a great idea by Jenna Rayburn from Speech Room News (an awesome SLP blog with therapy ideas and activities and a great resource in itself!). The game is to think of a scenario (you hate your friend’s new haircut for example) and ask the students to decide if this is a moment you should say a comment or leave it in your head. This is a great way to practice the social skill of using a filter (which we have a video lesson on by the way!) You can purchase fancy sticky notes in the shape of a brain and a mouth (for “think” or “say”) or you could just print out a google image of a brain and mouth to give the students visuals.
- Connected Convos – An awesome free activity by Joel Shaul from Autism Teaching Strategies (a great website for more social skill resources). In this activity, students work on making connected comments during conversations. This reinforces the skills of staying on topic. The activity goes like this: tell students to have a conversation and try to stay on topic. Each student has cards with links on them and cards with broken chains. Whenever anyone makes a comment the group decides if this was connected or on topic and puts down a link card, or puts down a broken chain card if a student went off topic. Another way to play is to use the visuals of building a building and a wrecking ball. The group can “build” a conversation together but if someone goes off topic, they put down a wrecking ball card. I love the visuals of chains to “link” the conversation together and wrecking balls which effectively “blow up” the conversation.
- Social Skill Cootie Catchers – Another fun game from Autism Teaching Strategies. These take the fun cootie catchers we grew up making with friends and turn them into ways to practice social skills. There are couple different versions to choose from with topics on conversations and asking questions, feelings, and dealing with stress and anxiety. Once you get the hang of folding these down (he gives instructions and a YouTube video) these are easy to pick up and use for an awesome lesson.
- Jill Kuzma’s SLP Social and Emotional Skill Sharing Site – has wonderful ideas and free resources on her page. Some examples are the Conversation Map and Problem Continuum The Conversation Map does just that- maps and diagrams a conversation into it’s different parts. It breaks a convo into the greeting, starting comment or question, the body, short explanation, and the farewell. I love using the Conversation Map to teach how to make comments and give a short explanation. We all have kiddos that give responses that are way too long.
- The Problem Continuum is another helpful tool to teach problem solving skills. It helps students understand the different levels of problems and breaks down what a big or small problem looks like, who is affected, and how it can be solved. From there you can focus on how to react to those problems. If a student is having a big reaction to a small problem, that is a mismatch and needs to be worked on. It’s great because it has visuals as well as text and therefore can be used for many different age groups and cognitive levels.
Online Activities to Purchase
Free resources are great, but we want to encourage our fellow SLPs to keep creating great content and activities for us. Paying just a little bit supports them in their journey and allows them to keep creating GREAT stuff. The paid resources on Teachers Pay Teachers are typically very inexpensive and worth every penny! A TON of effort goes into creating these, so I wanted to pass along some of the most popular social skill/pragmatic activities on the site. TpT pages are generally very informative and often make it really easy to get in touch with the creator if you have a question. Let’s get into it.
- Social Filter Activity by Jenna Rayburn- This is an activity to work on using a filter. Should I think it or should I say it? I work on this ALL the time, so resources like this are really great! For $6.50 you get an instruction booklet teaching the main lesson, 3 practice activities including games and a space to create your own game cards, voting cards, desk visuals, homework, awards, and links to related social videos on YouTube. The game cards tell the situation and ask the students if they should think it or say it. With so many materials, it is well worth the small price.
- Super Social Skills by Super Power Speech- This activity costs $10 and includes lessons, worksheets, games, and posters on 9 different topics! This is a lot of material! Topics include safety, respect, being responsible, expected vs. unexpected behaviors, understanding feelings, asking about others, thinking about others, problem solving, and learning expressions. All of the games/lessons are based on a cute superhero theme that kids love. Each lesson comes with a social story, worksheets and games and a poster to use as reminders. It is basically a mini curriculum. Check out the Super Power Speech blog for more fun therapy ideas and activities.
- Social Skill Reminder Cards by Lisa Parnello- These reminder cards serve as scripts/cues of appropriate actions for many different social situations. For $2.50 you get a set of 30 different social skills cue cards on the topics of class expectations, conversation skills, sharing, subject area rules (for subject classes outside of the homeroom like gym, art, music, etc.), manners, managing emotions, and many more!
- Can You See it My Way? By Maureen from The Speech Bubble SLP – This is an awesome perspective taking game. For $2.00 it comes with 27 different game cards/ scenarios for students to practice seeing someone else’s side. I love the visuals of glasses to reinforce “seeing” someone’s view point. My students have such a hard time with this so I’m always looking for great activities to practice this skill. For more fun games check out her Teaches Pay Teachers store here.
Free Offline Activities
Sometimes it’s nice to get a break from technology! Here are some great games and activities that don’t require any computer. And since we’re teaching social skills, these require actual interaction with real human beings. How innovative!
- Conversation Rounds– This is one of my favorite activities because no supplies are needed. I split the class into partners and everyone has a quick conversation lasting about 2 minutes. I set a timer and observe my students. Before we start I give reminders to remember the basic structure of a conversation including greetings, making comments, listening, asking questions, and saying bye. At the end of each round we talk about what went well, and what we can improve. Students can give feedback about their own skills and their partner’s. It is handy to have additional adults in the room either the classroom teacher or paraprofessionals to be in different places at once while the many conversations are going on. If you are in a limited space, have one group go at a time to reduce the noise. This allows everyone to rate the skills and be involved.
- Emotion Charades– Take the traditional game of charades but use emotions instead of movie titles or other typical words. All you need to do is write down the emotions on pieces of paper and find something to put them in. If students need pictures showing the emotions include these as well. All players can pick the emotions from a cup and take turns acting the emotions out.
- Stay on Topic- This is a game that can have many different variations depending on the skills you’re working on. The gist of it is to simply stay on topic for a set period of time. This can range anywhere from 30 seconds to multiple minutes depending on your students. I split my groups into pairs and give out a topic to each set. Then one group at a time takes their turn to have a conversation. The rest of the group listens and will let us know if someone is veering off topic. I simply ask students to stand up and raise their hand if anyone goes off the given topic. This acts as a visual cue for the student who can then try to get back on topic.
- What do we Have in Common– This is a fun activity to get students up and moving. I ask students to walk around the room and find one thing they have in common with ten different students. This is an awesome way to get everyone interacting, asking questions, and just being social! As you can imagine it may not be the best activity for a group with behavioral challenges, and it can get a little loud with many conversations going on at once. Set clear game rules and make modifications if your group needs stricter guidelines.
To wrap up let me leave a list of blogs that regularly post social skill activities:
- Speech Room News
- The Speech Bubble SLP
- Crazy Speech World
- Home Sweet Speech Room
- Speechy Musings
- Constantly Speaking
- Super Social Skills
- Allison’s Speech Peeps
- Carrie’s Speech Corner
- Us at Everyday Speech
What are your favorite social skills activities? Have some online or offline activities that are your go-to for social skills groups? Let us know and we’ll keep adding to this blog!