Social Learning Games engage students in quick challenges that will require everyone to build upon their social and communication skills. The games also require students to notice, reflect upon and self-regulate their emotions and learn how to manage with greater resilience.
These group games are particularly useful if you are running a Friendship Saver Program session, and start to notice that the students are highly wired and fidgety, or completely flat and fatigued. In these instances, group games are invaluable. Keep these quick games up your sleeve and play them again and again.
Each of these group games require students to confront winning and losing; triumph and disappointment.
If students amongst the group do struggle to accept disappointment and loosing, and have a tendency to display their disappointment, or alternatively, show a little too much self-pride upon winning, plan to engage the whole group in discussions on these topics before commencing a game.
“We are about to play with the Emotion Building Cards. Everyone will have three chances to guess the emotion but not everyone will get it right. This game is not easy. While we’re playing the game, think about how you feel and how you will react if you guess the emotion word correctly, and how you will feel and how you will react if you don’t guess correctly.
For example, if I guess the exact emotion word, how would I feel?”
“If I do guess the word correctly, I might feel proud and I could say “In Your Face - I Am The Best!” or I could say “Cool” in a neutral tone. What do you think of those two different reactions?” Discuss.
“If I don’t guess the emotion word correctly, I might feel disappointed and I could say “Oh well I tried” or I could say “I hate this game, I’m Never Playing Again, This Stinks!! What do you think of those two reactions?” Discuss.
- Build emotional intelligence / emotional vocabulary.
- Build Social Information Processing Skills (especially encoding and interpretation).
- Help students to appreciate that different people can display emotions differently.
- Begin to recognise that many emotions look very similar.
- Learn the directional movement of eyebrows, eye’s, shoulders, etc. as they all play a role in communicating emotions.
- Emotion Building Card Pack
Please Note: This activity can be incorporated into the Emotions Chapter (Session 5), or played again and again at other times.
- Students sit in a circle together with the facilitator.
- The facilitator selects one student to leave the room for a few minutes. That student will be the ‘Emotion Detective’.
- Once the Emotion Detective has left the room, the facilitator chooses an emotion card and shares it with the group.
- Name the emotion, ask the students to describe what the emotion means. The students might choose to use examples to help communicate their thinking.
- When the Emotion Detective is asked to return to the circle, they must choose someone with a raised hand to SHOW them the emotion. The student selected cannot use words and they cannot act out a situation. They can only use facial expressions and body language to communicate the emotion.
- The Emotion Detective has three chances (choosing three different students to demonstrate the emotion) to guess correctly.
While the Emotion Detective is making inferences and guesses (based on the cues available to them), ask the Emotion Detective key questions to highlight the particular facial movements and body movements that they observed. For example “You have chosen ‘sad’ as your emotion word. What exactly did you see in Jo’s facial expressions or body language that looked ‘sad’?” The student might mention the slumping of shoulders, head tilted towards the floor, eye lids almost closed, corners of the mouth turned down, body very still, etc. This type of detail will help all students to learn to read emotions.
If an Emotion
Detective is struggling to articulate their observations, ask the other student
to demonstrate a different emotion (such as happy), then return to the original
emotion to provide a comparison. Ask the
Emotion Detective to describe what seems to change between the two
When a student fails to guess the correct emotion after three attempts, use language purposefully to stress the main point of the game, that is; “It is difficult to guess what someone is feeling because everyone shows emotions differently, and many emotions look very similar to one another.”
This point does need to be emphasised throughout this game.
“Often, in real life, we can guess (and do need to try to guess what someone is feeling), but ultimately, we will only know how someone feels if they want to tell us. Otherwise, an attempt at a good guess is the best we can do in order to be a good friend and sensitive to other people’s feelings and experiences.”
Once the Emotion Detective’s guesses and observations are discussed, select a new student to become the Emotion Detective.
Robot Shut Down
- Build students observational skills.
- Build students understandings of how to manage and manipulate their facial expressions and body language in order to communicate a particular emotion.
- Continue to build resilience.
Read these instructions to yourself to grasp the concept of the game before describing the game to your students.
The game has 3 primary characters
- The Head Engineer (The facilitator/ Teacher)
- The Master Controller ( 1 selected student )
- The Human Robot ( The remaining students in the class)
- All students form a circle, with their body turned towards a wall.
- All students close their eyes.
- The Primary Facilitator is the Head Engineer and can walk around the center of the circle
and tap one student on the shoulder. That student will be the Master Controller for that
round. No one else is to know who has been chosen as the Master Controller.
- To begin the game, the Head Engineer will say ‘ACTION’ and all of the Human Robots
(students) in the room must walk around the room and say ‘hello’ to one another while softly
- The Master Controller must slightly squeeze Human Robot hands when they say hello.
When this happens….. the Human Robot takes four steps and then folds forward (shuts
The aim of the game for the Master Controller, is to shut down as many Human Robots as possible, by slightly squeezing their hands without the other Human Robots noticing.
The aim of the game is for the Human Robots, to work out who the Master Controller is before he/she shuts all of them down.
* Before beginning the game, demonstrate how to shake hands to say hello. Practice a soft
hand shake and compare it to a gentle discrete squeeze hand shake to ensure that everyone
can participate appropriately and safely.
* The soft hand shake is to be used by all students that are Human Robots. The hand shake
with a slight squeeze is only to be used by the Master Controller.
* Students might come to recognise the importance of taking four more steps before shutting
down. Without this sequence, everyone will very easily guess the identity of the Master
Controller, and that’s just too easy and no fun.
-While walking around the room, you cannot refuse a hand shake. If someone’s hand is
squeezed by the Master Controller, that Human Robot must take four more steps and then
‘shut down’. They cannot tell others who had shut them down.
- If one of the Human Robots suspects someone to be the Master Controller prior to having
their hand shaken with a squeeze, they are to quickly report their suspicion to The Head
Engineer (the Primary Facilitator).
- If the Human Robot is correct, they win the round. However, if the Human Robot is
incorrect, they must shut down immediately.
- If no one can guess the identity of the Master Controller, everyone will eventually be shut
down and the Master Controller wins.
Subtle Social Development:
Generally, two key strategies for social success are;
(1) Effective encoding
(2) Interpretation skills as demonstrated in the S.I.P model.
While playing this game, students will begin to fine tune their ability to watch others, and strategically encode and interpret facial expressions and body language as they go. Success in this game also requires mastery of your own body language and facial expressions. Some students are likely to look awkward, grin or look embarrassed when they become, The Master Controller. If this occurs, other students (who are fabulous encoders) will immediately guess the identity of The Master Controller, and the game will be over. Hence, success in this game also requires students to learn to manage, mask and control their body language, actions and facial expressions, and this helps to develop their social skills.
Crazy Nose Game
- Develop students understanding of eye-contact as a communication tool
- Build students ability to encode and interpret non-verbal communication cues
- Build Whole Body Listening capacity
- Build group cohesion and cooperation
Just yourselves, sitting or standing in a circle.
Note: After the initial instructions are provided, this is a wordless game.
The crazy nose game is a drama based game that uses an imaginary nose that is thrown towards someone in the group, caught, placed on their own nose, then thrown to someone new. The facilitator starts the game by extracting the imaginary nose from their pocket, placing it on their face, and looking around the room to capture someone’s eye contact before removing the imaginary nose from their face, and throwing the imaginary nose towards a looking participant.
Importantly, participants will only be able to throw and successfully get rid of the nose, if they have first caught the attention of someone else by catching their eye-contact. They cannot say a person’s name to gain their attention. This is a wordless game.
If someone does throw the imaginary nose to a participant that’s not actually looking, the nose rebounds back to them, and they need to start again.
Also, body language and facial expressions are emphasised in this game. For example; If the imaginary nose is thrown with imaginary force, your reaction might be to propel your body back to catch the imaginary nose.
Once participants become particularly coordinated, tuned into one another, and successful at throwing the nose across the room to one another, add a second imaginary nose and see what happens!
Tallest to Shortest
- Develop whole body listening skills.
- Develop non-verbal communication skills.
- Use a timer to see how quickly the group can coordinate themselves in a straight line from
tallest to shortest.
- The challenge is simple. Students can communicate with their facial expressions, body
language and actions only. Words are not allowed. Touching, tapping someone on the
shoulder or pulling them into line is also not allowed.
- If you do see a student speaking or touching another student, that student is required to sit
out of the challenge immediately. This is a very important step within the game.
- When the group believe that they have completed the challenge, they all need to raise their
hand to let you know that the timer can stop.
- Walk along the line that the students have created and check if they have indeed achieved
their challenge. If so, announce success. Announce the students time score and record the
time so that you can re-challenge the group again at a later date.
During this challenge, notice the students that take on a leader ship role.
Also take note of the students that were required to sit out; and observe their efforts to manage their impulse to talk or touch at later attempts of this challenge. This simple challenge (and the no talking/no touching rule) can help to build students’ self-regulation skills.
Friendship Styles Group Shake Up
Friendship Styles Group Shake Up
- Reminds students of the different friendship styles.
- Generate competitive emotions that students need to manage.
- Encourage inclusion and team work.
Music and a music player
This activity requires a large space, and is an ideal outside game. It can get noisy.
- Students need to move around the space to music until a friendship style is called out
(Two Peas in a Pod, Tribal Style, Bouncy Ball Style). Group combinations; Two peas in a
pod, Three peas in a pod, a bouncy call (students can jump on the spot for this one), tribe
of 4, tribe of 5, tribe of 6, tribe of 10, etc.
-The students need to form that group as quickly as possible. If they fail to find a group, they
will need to sit out. The game continues until one person (the winner) is left standing.