I have had several initial and triennial assessments this year at the middle school that have had a large emphasis on social pragmatics.  Many of my assessments revealed that making social inferences in social situations is tough for my students! I have been giving the Social Language Development Test-Adolescent from Linguisystems to get a more in depth look at the student’s interpretations of social interactions and making social inferences.  You have to give the WHOLE test (no ceilings), so it is a bit time consuming.  For my higher functioning students on the Autism Spectrum, this test really helps expose the significant challenges they have with interpreting social cues and interacting with peers.

A few of my students in particular struggled significantly with taking the perspective of another person on the subtest: Making Inferences.  They were given a photo of a person and asked to look at the clues in the picture and make a guess at what might they be thinking?  The student must comment as the character or person in the photo.  The second part of the assessment asks them to explain the clues that helped them come up with the inference. You can imagine the types of answers I got on this assessment.  One student did not respond in 1st person and could only make “thoughts” in the third person.  For example, a lot of the students responses looked like this “He is thinking he is bored.” Another student didn’t understand WHY we had to do this in the first place because the people in the photos were not real and didn’t have thoughts because they were just pictures (ended up not giving the full test due to validity on that one).

making social inferences

When I asked the students explain why they thought the person was thinking that thought, many of my students either said “I don’t know” or gave very vague details to verify their answers.  Needless to say, I discovered an area of need and needed materials to help improve my student’s abilities to make “social inferences”.  If our student’s struggle with making inferences from photos and social situations, I can only imagine what bits of information they are missing in stories, commercials, sitcoms and movies!

My middle schoolers LOVE dry erase markers, so I thought I would make my latest interactive flipbook for them!

making social inferences flip bookPrint all the pages onto white cardstock and laminate.  Punch holes in each of the cards and connect with binder rings. Then, have students use a dry erase marker to document their answers in the book!

I bought mine off of amazon (affiliate link included for your convenience) and they have been very handy for all of my interactive books and flashcards that I have been making.

making social inferences

There are 27 photos in the book.  Next to each photo, is a space to write what the person may be thinking and then a spot to cite evidence.  With some of my students, I had to do some of the photos with them and explicitly show them what to look for in the picture.  I used lots of visuals to show that in my brain, I collect clues in order to make a smart guess.

Once they get the hang of it, I think these books is perfect for mixed groups when you have some language and pragmatic kiddos together.  So far, several of my students who say “I don’t know” A LOT, are beginning to make some gains with this skill.  I try to really praise them during the scaffolding part because they get really down when they don’t get the answer correct. I made this activity for my middle school students, but I think this activity could be scaffolded to fit 2nd/3rd graders to work on beginning inferencing and prediction skills.  What do you think?  How to do you target perspective taking with your older students?

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