Category Archives: Books for Teaching Social Skills

“Tier 1 Collaborative Learning Lessons” and Whole Body Listening Larry!


WBL SchoolWBL Home

The books, Whole Body Listening Larry at School, and Whole Body Listening Larry at Home, have become invaluable resources for my new venture at school this year.  Authors, Kristen Wilson MS-CCC, and Elizabeth Sautter MA-CCC have provided educators an engaging children’s storybook that teaches learners that “listening” is more than just hearing with your ears.  Listening is a holistic process – engaging multiple senses and self-regulating behaviors to help focus your brain and body to be engaged in learning.  These books are fittingly published by Think Social Publishing, Inc – ( – these books align perfectly with the goal of teaching early childhood and young elementary age learners about all the components and social behaviors of good listening skills.

As you review the Common Core Learning Standards under the ELA category of Speaking and Listening for kindergarten and 1st grade learners, you will find standards that directly relate to specifically developing good listening skills in the classroom.  Consider the following standards:

  • Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.  (CCSS.ELA-Literacy SL 1.1)
  • Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion). (CCSS. ELA-Literacy SL 1.1A)
  • Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges. (CCSS ELA-Literacy SL 1.1.B)
Wilson and Sautter’s books, Whole Body Listening Larry at Home, and Whole Body Listening Larry at School are the precise tools an educator needs to explicitly teach the skills discussed in these standards.    These books would be at the top of the list of “anchor read aloud texts” for preschool, kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade classroom teachers, speech-language pathologists, parents, special educators, social workers/school counselors, etc.    Through the experiences of two sibling characters, Leah and Luka – children learn what “paying attention” means, as originated by the work of Susanne Poulette Truesdale and Nita Everly (More information about the original work here:
 WBL Senses

Tier 1 – Collaborative Learning Lessons

This year, I have been thinking about how I can bring some of my social skill resources and lessons into general education classrooms.  At my elementary building, we are continuing to reflect and adjust our teaching based on student data and growth – all the while using an Rti framework, implementing proactive positive behavior practices school-wide, and aligning instruction to the Common Core.  This year, I have committed to trying to weave some of my social/emotional strategies into 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade general education classrooms.  I am calling my efforts,Tier 1 – Collaborative Learning Lessons.   “Tier 1” = core instruction for all.  “Collaborative learning” = over the past few years, I have personally noted classroom activities are much more constructivist, interactive, and utilize social communication skills more than ever.  My intention this year is to go into each 1st/2nd/3rd grade classroom once per month and lead the students and teacher through a lesson that promotes positive social interaction necessary for learning in small groups and in the collaborative manner we are moving toward in education.  Stay tuned… I will take you on this journey and see how it pans out.
This month (October) is my first month of lessons.  It was without any hesitation that I chose to use the resources from Wilson and Sautter’s Whole Body Listening Larry series for this first round of lessons.  Each target grade level has learning standards related to active listening – I am finding that teachers are thrilled to find this resource to have in their classrooms to refer to throughout the day, and use the specific language to give feedback to students, “I need you to listen with your eyes”, or “I am noticing that everyone at table group 2 is doing a great job listening with their mouths!”
WBL Poster
   I look forward to adding this resource to my primary classrooms!  Check out this poster available from Think Social Publishing as well!
   Stay tuned for more posts about my venture with Tier 1 Collaborative Learning Lessons!  – Jill

Perspective Taking Skills…with Tacky the Penguin



Tacky and the Emperor book jacket       Have you read the “Tacky the Penguin” books with your students?  Author, Helen Lester and illustrator, Lynn Munsinger have created this endearing little penguin character who, frankly…..has some challenges reading social cues.    I have been working through the Tacky the Penguin books with my students over the past couple of weeks, working on various language skills such as comprehension, comparing/contrasting (with the character, Penguin Pete by Marcus Pfister), story structure/narrative work, and vocabulary.

      One of the books, “Tacky and the Emperor”  particularly lends itself for some opportunities to work on Theory of Mind/perspective taking skills.  I created a guide for you to use with this book when targeting 1st order and 2nd order “false-belief” types of perspective taking questions.  “First-order false belief” tasks refer to understanding what one person might believe/know/think about a another person.  An example from this book might be, “Do Tacky’s companions know that the visiting Emperor is really Tacky?”  “Second-order false belief tasks” refer to one’s ability to infer what one person believes/knows/thinks that another person believes/knows/thinks.”  This adds another layer to the social understanding.  An example of a second-order false belief question from the book might be, “Does the Emperor know that the Penguins found out that Tacky stole the Emperor’s fancy clothes?”  Perspective-taking questions with a socially-ladden theme can be a great way to work on higher level inferential comprehension in text, as well as “theory of mind” skills in learners with social cognitive needs.

Check out the book from your library, and download the question guide here…Try it with your students this week!

Tacky and the Emperor Perspective Taking Questions

Here is a small screen shot of the question guide:

Tacky PT questions




New Children’s Book to Teach about Resiliency!


Oliver and Hope Book

One of my fabulous 1st grade students shared with me a wonderful children’s book called, Oliver and Hope’s Amusing Adventure.   The authors/publisher describe the story:  At the heart of the Oliver & Hope series is a focus on resiliency. The characters in our stories thrive on creative problem solving and encouragement when encountering life’s challenges. That resiliency is demonstrated at the conclusion of Oliver & Hope’s Amusing Adventure, when the two friends realize that the journey is every bit as exciting as the destination. “

Not only is this a fabulous read aloud book for elementary age children, but this book is created by the talents of folks at the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation.  The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) is a 501c3 charitable organization, supporting UnitedHealth Group’s Mission of “Helping People Live Healthier Lives.”  UHCCF offers grants to help children gain access to medical-related services not covered, of not fully covered, by their commercial health insurance plans.

I encourage you to check out this book, and the UHCCF website.  The group anticipates adding more books to the Oliver and Hope series, focusing on social/emotional health for all children.   Here is the link:



Meet Woodfin!!! A children’s book to promote social self-confidence and celebrate individuality…



Hello readers!  I want to share about a fabulous children’s book that I used with my social skill students to kick off the school year.  The book, Has Anyone Seen Woodfin?, by Susan Egner and illustrated by AJ Dewey, has been such a hit with my students!!!

Woodfin is a precocious, adventurous little chameleon who likes to match the vibrant colors of the forest around him.   But, his family worries about his safety when winter comes and the effervescent colors of summer fade to muted colors of winter where “ordinary” chameleons  remain safe from predators in their camouflaged shades of green and brown.   The message is to “be your true self”, and is captivating for children- and adults – of all ages!

As a kick off to my social skill groups with my learners on the autism spectrum this fall, I wanted to find resources that supported a positive self-concept to start the year with optimism and excitement.  I work with most of my students for 6 years (Kindergarten-5th grade) – through thick and thin.  Some of the situations we work on are “thin” –  there are certainly many occasions where I am supporting a child through social misunderstandings, feelings of social failure, and exclusion that sometimes result in subsequent feelings of confusion, anxiety or frustration.  As I thought about returning to my students this fall, I wanted to find some tools to promote positive self-concept and celebrate individuality.   Woodfin was just the ticket!  My students enjoyed reading the stories, exploring the characters on the author’s website, creating crafts about Woodfin, and………..meeting the author!!!!

Yesthat’s right!!   You see….one of my own precocious little 1st grade students asked where the author lived.   Of course, I turned to the back flap of the book cover to find out.  Well, you can only imagine my excitement to learn that Susan Egner lived less than 5 miles from my school!!   It took me all of about 8 seconds to hop on my email to contact her!  Susan Egner was so gracious and excited to come meet my students the following week and shared a fabulous visit with my special group of kids – complete with Woodfin costumes, an interactive program, and most importantly –she fostered the excitement my students had about meeting a “real” author and reinforcing the message to “be your true self.”   Woodfin

These books are a wonderful addition to any literary library – they can be used to support social/emotional skills as I do in my work, but there are also solid character and setting elements, with a clear story structure to use as an anchor text to teach literacy skills.  Check out the Woodfin website at:

Souls on Board Susan Egner has also published several e-book novels – available on her professional website:  .  I think I will start reading the 1st novel in a series called, Souls on Board for some “fun” reading if anyone wants to join me in a virtual “book club”.  I’ll bring the virtual wine, cheese and crackers….

Video-game obsessed students? Check out Julia Cook’s new book… But, It’s Just a Game!


But Its Just a Game


Does anyone out there have a student or child totally obsessed with playing video games?  Uh…I can definitely join those ranks!  The gentle hum of the Xbox is a regular source of background noise in my own house.   If you also have children – or students – that obsess about video games – have I got a resource to share with you!

My favorite children’s author – JULIA COOK – does it again!  The book, But It’s Just a Game, tackles the issue of video gaming and screen time taking over every aspect of a child’s social life, daily thoughts, and focus/attention skills.   But It’s Just a Game, helps kids understand the difference between a “game controller” and a “life controller.”    I love this metaphor!  I read this book to my 4th and 5th grade social skills group – their conversation quickly revealed an immediate connection with the character, Jasper.  Throughout the story,  Jasper realizes how excessive gaming impacts his participation in sports, performance on his schoolwork, impacts his friendships, and his ability to listen and focus on others, just to name a few.    This book was a springboard for my social skills crew to have an insightful, mature discussion about how gaming impacts their lives.

But It’s Just a Game was also featured on the blog, Moms Everyday.   Julia was featured as a guest blogger to share parenting tips to help kids regain control of screen time and live a more balanced life.  Check out the article here:

This book is a wonderful resource to add to your social skills teaching library!  It is truly a gem for your collection that tackles the topic of gaming and screen time in a way that paves the way for open discussion, decreases defensiveness in kids about this precious commodity in their lives, and teaches kids the importance of living with balance.

        Check it out here: