Social Filter Lesson Plan: Social Safari

The second lesson in our “social safari” mini-unit was on a topic near and dear to my heart: using your social filter. Thinking before speaking is tough, even for adults. Our second graders seem to be struggling with this a little extra this year; some of it is their age, some is not-yet-developed empathy skills, and I think some of it is cultural. Our school is incredibly and wonderfully diverse and some of our families come from cultures where conversation can be very direct and blunt – which sometimes results in kiddos saying hurtful things.

social filter lesson plan

We started this lesson off with another safari story, this time about animal biologist Carlos and how his words were scaring off all the animals he wanted to study. He finds a net in his backpack and a letter from a friend explaining that the net is a reminder to use his social filter. After each of the (bad) examples, I asked the kiddos to tell me what went wrong; why Carlos couldn’t get close to the animals. It was pretty telling to see a confused look on some of our students’ faces – some of them didn’t see right away why the elephant wouldn’t want to be called “old” or “wrinkly”. Which is why this lesson was needed!

social filter social storysocial filter social story

social filter exampleThen I held up some example thoughts and asked them to identify how someone would feel if these were said out loud. It felt risky to do this because some were flat out mean…but the reality is some of my kids say flat out mean things so I went there. It’s important to be that examples and scenarios I use in my lessons feel real to my students. Sometimes this means including meanness that I would ordinarily not present to kids. The examples for this activity were really no brainers in terms of whether to say it or filter it; the thinking part for them came in with feelings identification piece.

social filter puzzle activityThen the kiddos were on their own (well, with small groups) to put together some puzzles. Each included three pieces: the thought, the feeling the person hearing it would have, and whether it should be said or filtered. This was a little tricky for some because their first impulse was just to put them all together as fast as they could – without reading them. And I purposefully did NOT make these puzzles “self-checking” (where they only fit if they’re correct). Once they realized they needed to use their brains, and some teamwork, they were pretty successful. There were a couple puzzles where an argument could be made for two different emotions, and it was great to have conversations with them about how different people have different feelings and reactions. Perspective taking is still really tough for these kiddos and I was glad for the opportunity to sneak that piece in.

The last part of the lesson was my favorite because it was a new activity for me to use (kind of) and ended up being such a huge success. I’d used “snowball fight” before in some other ways, but this time I used it as an alternative to a simple sorting activity. I’m going to write separately about that but here’s the gist: students got thoughts and decided if they should say it or sort it, they walked to a location matching their answer, we had a snowball fight, and then we repeated it until time is up.

social filter snowball fight activity

Four parts seemed like a lot for a lesson when I first thought it up but it went by quickly and ended up being perfect for the 45 minutes. I’ve already heard one of my teachers ask a kiddo “Remember when you learned that you need to filter some of your words and not say them out loud?” This is a win in my book!

You can find all the materials for this lesson in my store by clicking the pic below:

social filter lesson plan

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social filter lesson plan in 2nd grade


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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
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