Learning and Sharing

Social Problem Solving

on February 25, 2013

Silhouettes of children

Children who have a number of alternative cognitive problem solving skills to draw from can be more flexible in choosing solutions to social conflicts, are less likely to act impulsively, and more likely to act appropriately in social situations.  Some examples of cognitive problem solving skills are:  the ability to generate more than one alternative solution to a conflict; the ability to choose and implement an appropriate solution to a conflict; and the understanding and consideration of the social consequences of one’s acti0ns for oneself and others.

I found a wonderful resource for “safe and motivating social problem-solving practice”.  It is called We Can Make It Better!  by Elizabeth M. Delsandro.  In explaining the “Why” behind “We Can Make It Better!” she writes that, “some individuals require assistance processing social information (Attwood, 1998) and can benefit from direct instruction and repeated opportunities to process social information in a safe or nonthreatening environment. People attend to, recognize and store important details and information when they are actively engaged.”

we can make it better

We tried out one of the flexible stories Friday in the 1st grade group.  I bound the pages of the story to look like a book.  The short story provides an opportunity for the small group to ” identify a social dilemma, express ideas to make the dilemmas better, and gain more understanding in how one person’s behavior (spoken words or actions) can positively or negatively impact the outcome (relationship) between people”.

I really like this visual called the “Hello Board”.  It visually prompts students to think about another person.  Most of our students do not need this level of support for greetings, but they do need visual prompts for thinking about another person.

do say

Many of our students struggle to determine what others may be thinking or feeling about them.  This is another great visual called the “Thinking and Feeling Board” to encourage students to consider the thoughts and feelings of the story characters.

thinking feeling

Templates are included with the book, but I made my own on the dry erase board.

The students are given the opportunity to “repair” the social sceanario. As alternative ideas are generated, an adult writes it down on a sticky note.  Then the group can decide how to “make it better” and create a new story.


This activity was new to the Friday 1st grade group.  They were expecting a more “game like” activity so their reaction was not as positive as I had hoped : )  We will try it again.  I will be better prepared and work on making it more fun.

We Can Make It Better! is available at

I want to share what Michelle Garcia Winner wrote in the Foreword of We Can Make It Better!.  “Those born with social learning weaknesses often stand out as less successful in class and at play, given their inability to figure out much of what comes readily to most of their peers.  These students often are misunderstood and simply labeled as behavior problems, given the frequent disparity between how well they’re able to learn on their own and how unable they are in a group.  Scratch below the surface, however, and you frequently find a student who simply does not understand the social demands and emotional complexities that most of their peers comprehended by early elementary school”.

True that!


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