Halloween Trial and Error Activity for Social Skill Building

5 Oct

It has been a while since I posted but I am back. I had a great summer visiting family and am refreshed.  Recently, I was looking at old posts.  Back in  April 2013, I posted about an activity called Trial and Error Pass.  I have always felt this activity had a lot of value. I was surprised to find the post is now 4 years old.  Some of you may not even remember seeing it the first time.  Sometimes when an activity is packaged a little differently It allows for multiple presentations without students disengaging because they have seen it before.  I decided to rework it  with a Halloween theme.

Halloween is often a time when students are allowed a group celebration.  Students may think it is time off from work but little do they know.  It is an opportunity to build social skills.   Trial and Error Pass is a good activity to use with small groups or a class.  For those  who are working on social skills, it provides an opportunity for students to generalize skills into a classroom setting.

You can make this activity easily enough on your own with  clip art.  If you want to save some time and effort you can down load it from my TPT store for a  minimal cost. Just click on the button for a direct link.

The activity requires students to use a trial and error method of problem solving.  It reinforces the idea that mistakes are not necessarily bad and can be used for learning.  It also teaches students to work together toward a common goal.  The solution is found by observing the mistakes of everyone and it would be very difficult to succeed individually.  It also requires students to use their short term memory and make inferences to predict the pattern.

This activity can be used with small groups of students, two competing teams, or with one or two students.  The object of the game is to cross a grid in 6 moves stepping on the correct sequence of objects.  They determine the path by trial and error.


Cards are laid out on a carpet in a grid pattern.  If you do not have room to lay them out you can print off a grid to make a game board and use a game marker to represent the person crossing  the grid.  I think using large motor movements makes it more interesting for some students.

A judge, who could be a student or teacher, is selected.  The judge takes one of the  pattern cards that will be the solution to the stepping pattern.

A student begins the challenge by stepping on one of the objects in the first row and moves one row ahead for each step.    As the move is made the judge indicates if it is the correct one by saying right or wrong move.   There are  buzzer sounds available on apps for electronic devices that make it even more engaging for some students.

The  student continues to move forward as long as he steps on the right object.   If  it is the wrong step the person returns to the start or the end of the line and watches the attempts of others until they get to the front of the line again.  The students may notice that a pattern is developing as students discover the correct moves.  This will speed up the progress until someone finally makes it across.  The students should be reinforced for working as a team and not make it an individual competition to make it to the finish.

For other versions just click on the button and it will take you there. 

Trial and Error

This fall I am enjoying my retirement status and doing things I didn’t have time for the last few years. It is nice not to have the stress that comes with the beginning of the year.  I have been thinking about all of you SLPs in the trenches.

I hope your year is going well.

A Group Therapy Lesson for the Concepts of Half and Whole.

6 Nov

At my recent assignment at the middle school, I did push-in  speech therapy sessions with the life-skills classroom.  Students had a variety of skill levels.  It can be a challenge to find activities everyone can do and enjoy. There was  not a curriculum or materials available to me so I ended up using my ingenuity to make lessons. That is when I was  thankful for the history I have posted here. I dug back to the beginning of my post archives. I did find some inspiration but it  was also an eye opener. My posts have come along way since then and the post really didn’t look to appealing.  I thought a revision would be helpful since it is unlikely many are finding it from six years back.

The original post was labeled Concept Group 12.  A real catchy title uh. That was before I realized the importance of a title for search engines or appeal.  It was a time when I was pushing into Kindergarten classes and teaching concepts using group activities.  Although each lesson focused on concept vocabulary, we also worked on taking turns, asking questions, and following directions.  The lesson I used this last week with my middle school life skill students  focused on the concepts of right, left,  top bottom, half, whole, and match.  The class still benefitted from working on social pragmatic skills, following directions, and concept vocabulary.

You need some old alphabet animal cards for this activity. Prepare the cards ahead for use in the classroom.alpaf1
          The ones I used came from an old reading program that was taken out of circulation. There are two free downloads available on the internet from Jason’s Online Classroom and  Jan Brett’s blog.


To prepare the cards, I cut them in half.


Divide them into two piles.  One pile should have the upper halves and the other pile the bottom halves.  Count out the number of cards to the number of students. There is a possibility of 26 matched sets so you may not need all of them.  Do make sure you have the matches in the two piles.

In the classroom, pass out the top halves of the cards to students and talk about how it is only the top  half of the card or animal.  Show them that you have the other bottom half of their cards.

Mix up the 2nd pile of bottom half cards and place them in a box.  Let the students draw a random card and match it to the card they already have. This creates a somewhat  cooky animal which often elicits some laughter. You can take this opportunity to ask them if they have a match and how do they know it is not a match. You can also talk about bottom and top.


The next part  works best if students are seated in a circle.  It involves following one and  two part directions as you direct them to pass the top or bottom to the student on the left or right. I vary the directions according to the ability level of the group. They may not be able to handle two part directions such as hand the top card to the person on the right. in that case I bring it down to one step such as pass the bottom card  and direct the direction.  After each pass they look to see if they have a match.  If they get a whole set they can keep it and discontinue the passing.  Keep going until everyone has found their whole card.



The Potential of Tap Roulette – Make Decisions with Friends Free App

7 Nov

tap roulette framedI am just discovering the full potential of a free app called Tap Roulette – Make Decisions with Friends put out by laan labs.  You can find it in the App Store for your iPad.   I have no affiliation with this app.  I just find that I use it consistently so I thought I would review it.   Basically students put one finger down on the screen and lights appear alternating under the fingers until one is lit up.  It is a random impartial way to make choices.  Obviously it is a good app to use in therapy  to choose quickly  who goes first and who can choose an activity. I  found out this tool actually has some additioal side benefits.

I have several students who have difficulties regulating their feelings and reactions with unexpected events in which they have no control.  They end up with undesirable  behaviors  or refuse to join in an activity that  is not of their  choosing.  I  use Tap Roulette to set up such a situation so they can practice their strategies to remain calm and stay with the group.

It is very important  to do pre-teaching of the strategies.  There are a lot of programs out there that promote self-regulation and those techniques need to be taught before hand.  Some of the strategies may be things you are familiar with such as deep breathing and self talk. I usually get student buy in and assurance from them before we start. We all have bad days so no use using it then.  Even the ones that have the most difficulty usually want to do it.  If they are not chosen and remain calm I give a lot of praise for keeping feelings in check and staying with the group.  This seems to be a strong reinforcement that starts to break the cycle of an immediate blow up.  This is such an important skill for students to learn socially in order to get along with their peers and function in a classroom.

Free Sample; Unexpected and Expected Behavior Task Cards

29 Apr

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I use Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® curriculum with many of my students. One of the concepts that is explored in this curriculum is “I have thoughts about you and you have thoughts about me.” In other words, people are always thinking about each other and they may have comfortable or uncomfortable thoughts depending on their actions. This may affect how they treat individuals in the future. People want to be with people they are comfortable with and have good thoughts about. They may avoid those that don’t make them feel comfortable. Therefore being able to tell the difference between what is expected behavior in given situations and what is unexpected can help us when making and keeping our friends. You can find more information on her concepts at http://www.socialthinking.com/

I needed a good set of task cards to review actions that students may do or observe others do.  You may find them useful  if you are teaching from this curriculum. They are double sided with an unexpected behavior on one side and a matching expected behavior on the other side.

I put the cards in a draw bag. The students reached in and drew a card out, and placed it on the table.  They then decided if the side facing up was an expected behavior or unexpected.  They talked about how the actions make them feel. If the unexpected is presented first, students can talk about what they think the expected behavior would be on the other side.

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Students checked their answers by using the Top Secret UV light which I got at our book fair.  I put a U or and E in the box for them to check.  There is also a QR code for those who would prefer to use a scanner. My students find this motivating and they can self check if they are working in small table groups.

The draw bag is an easy thing to make.  I took a sleeve off an old sweater and sewed across the bottom.  The cuff makes a nice finished opening and the bag is stretchy.  It has got to be the easiest bag I have ever made.

In my TPT packet, there are 28 expected cards and 28 matching unexpected cards side by side.  They are meant to be printed on card stock, cut on the horizontal lines and folded back to make a double sided card.   I put a box on each card so I could write with my UV light pen a U or E in the box.  Students can light the answer up. I also put a QR code for those who like that option. The QR code is from http://www.qrstuff.com/. When scanned it will read expected or unexpected to correspond to the side it is on.

I am putting 2 pages of the cards below for you to review as a freebie.  If you like them consider getting the full set at TPT.   Just click on the cover page button at the top  for a direct link to the product.  Your patronage covers the cost of this website and keeps it advertisement free, except for me I suppose.  I am trying to keep the commercial  aspect down and provide resources. I know most of us are on really tight budgets.

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Free Trial: Reply to a Comment Task Cards

31 Jul

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Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Back to School Sale on Aug 4th and 5th. If you are waiting for the right time to get back to school materials, now is the time.  Don’t forget to use the Promo code when you check out to get the full discount.

In a previous post I mentioned how I worked with students to recognize comments and questions and how they should make a reply.  I made comment and reply cards last  Spring.  I have since updated them to include  pictures.  I’m putting a trial set here for my readers to try out.  If they look like something you could use, the full set is on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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Reply to a Comment trial set


Quick link to Teachers Pay Teachers.

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