Category Archives: social story

Social Story Impact

comicpaperbackThe benefits of social story may not always have the results that we think it should have or show up in the form we think it will take. What I do know with certainty is that social story works. I trust the process.

Yesterday, I noticed that the pile of blank paper that I had just brought into our open classroom the day before, (I bring my own supplies) was completely gone. I couldn’t believe it. I expressed my dismay out loud. Later in the day, two first graders came up to me while whispering to each other, and then one of them said, “We used up the paper to trace our characters.” (They used it to make stick puppets, and for coloring.) “We will bring paper from home to give you.”

I was moved by their honesty and caring, and the desire to take positive action. They saw the impact their actions had and they wanted to do something to change that. I responded in surprise and thanked them for their honesty and their caring and let them know how much I appreciated their thoughtfulness, which made them feel good about themselves.

I have also noticed that there is more interest in the social story books we have in the classroom, and that generally everyone is more conscious of putting things back where they found them.

Although the missing story “dream” stone has not yet returned, writing and reading social stories together, and then talking about choices and the impact we have with the choices we make has had immensely positive impact. I am amazed and grateful!

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

How to Write Social Stories

dreamstonepage10There are many  helpful tips on the internet on “how to write social stories.” Most of the guidelines focus on stories that are meant to help children learn social cues and understand social situations.

I have been writing my own form of social stories (or what are called pedagogical stories in Waldorf Schools) for nearly 20 years now. I have written stories about many topics including bullying, teasing, racism, kindness, and recently, stealing. Writing and sharing these social stories with children has shown me that it is really important that the story is engaging.

When children are engrossed in a story, the lesson is more gently received. I might start writing with the theme in mind, like stealing. I think about the context of how it is playing out in the classroom or the household. I consider the children involved in the actual life situation, and I consider their interests and the dynamics of what is going on. I create a main character who has a similar challenge to one that the children in my life are facing, and I create a resolution. The setting I use is usually a village or a world I create that will engage the children’s imagination.

I ask questions about my main character like who are they? How old are they? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their dreams and wishes? What do they hate? What are they afraid of? Who are their friends? Who are their enemies? I ask other questions to, including what really matters to my main character? What do they want? What is their problem or challenge? Why? And how do they resolve it?

As I answer these questions, the story starts to unfold. Often, a magical alchemy happens where the story flows from beginning to end as though it has a life of its own. And it does!

Once the story is written, I share it with my students. We discuss what happened in the story and why. We talk about the subject in context of their lives and in context of the character’s lives. Usually, new awareness, and understanding surfaces.

This is one way I create and work with social stories that address emotional challenges in everyday living with children. When writing your own social stories for the children you care about, I suggest that you do a google search: “How to Write Social Stories,” or, “Social Story Writing Tips.” Here is a link that might be helpful: http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/explore/pbs_docs/social_story_tips.pdf

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Writing Social Stories About Stealing

dreamstoneWise mentors I know have used life situations as teaching moments. Recently, I brought a “dream” stone, a large tumbled quartz stone with yellowish iron veins and the word “dream” carved into it, to the after school where I work. My intention was to use it as a “story stone” encouraging the children to imagine and think about their “dreams” in context of story.

I set the stone aside on the pink drawers that contain all of the writing journals. I was aware of placing it there as one class left, and the other arrived. We had a lot of activities reading and writing plays, that I forgot about the stone. At the end of the class, as I was putting things away, I noticed that the stone was gone. I searched high and low, moving furniture, looking under tables, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I wondered if it was lost or if it had been taken without permission.

Later in the evening, I found myself still thinking about the missing “dream” stone, and wondered how I could use this as a teaching moment. I have written social stories professionally for classrooms in Canada and here in the United States, but I haven’t really written my own social theater play yet, so I decided to do so last night. The story flowed, and 11 play pages later it was written. My intention is to read it to the classes that were present when the “dream” stone went missing. While we discuss the story, we can also discuss the concepts of taking things without permission, and the consequences of how people feel when something is taken.

There are a lot of good articles on the internet on “How to Write Social Stories”. My method is different. The focus is more on the story, and the lesson is woven subtly through it.

My experience has shown me that when writing social stories it is important not to be too preachy or even obvious. The lesson can be woven into the story, but a strong main character still needs to move the plot forward. If you know your audience well, you will know what sort of story will draw them in, so that they are so involved in the story they don’t realize it is teaching something until it is over. That’s when you can discuss both reading comprehension questions, and questions about the particular social topic.

(More on how to write social stories in the next blog post.)

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.