Think It or Say It? Social Filter Lesson I Taught in 2nd Grade

I love working with second graders. They’re still little enough to be totally pumped for any activity I bring but big enough to start having deep conversations. We’ve reached the time of year when they’re really comfortable with their peers… so comfortable that they sometimes speak to them like siblings. We also touch on using a filter and thinking before we speak around this time to encourage kids to use empathy and self control in their words. I love doing this social filter lesson because kids really get the gumball machine analogy and it sticks with them!

Looking for a fun social filter lesson for your students? They'll move this gumball machine activity for counseling or small group!

Social Filter Lesson for 2nd or 3rd Grade

Read Aloud: What If Everybody Said That?

We start out by reading What If Everybody Said That? by Ellen Javernick. I have this book on my Kindle Unlimited shelf (which is my favorite go-to book resource for my counseling lessons). In this book, the main character says something that may hurt others’ feelings on the left page and is asked to think about what might happen if everybody said that on the right page. The kids love making predictions about what might happen and seeing it play out on the page.

Looking for a fun social filter lesson for your students? They'll move this gumball machine activity for counseling or small group!

Instruction: Gumball Machine

Next, I teach the kids my gumball analogy. I ask if anyone has ever gotten gum stuck in their hair (it’s amazing how many second graders can relate to this!). They share bout how it’s really hard to get it unstuck! I say that this is kind of like our words… once we let them out, they stick. In the analogy, our heads are the gumball machines. Our thoughts are the gumballs. Sometimes, it’s okay to get out the gumball and blow a big bubble (say what we’re thinking). But sometimes, it’s better if we leave the gumball in the machine (keep the thought to ourselves). When we say those thoughts aloud, it’s like sticky gum that’s really hard to peel back.

Partner Practice: Scoot

To practice identifying what thoughts we should say and what thoughts should be kept to ourselves, I have students do a partner scoot (this can also be done individually). I place a card on each desk that has a statement. Partners should read the statement together, share how they would feel if someone said it to them, and then decide if it’s okay to say or if it’s a big splat. If the statement is okay to say to someone, students color a gumball on their paper. If the statement is not okay to say to someone, students color the gum splat on their paper.

Looking for a fun social filter lesson for your students? They'll move this gumball machine activity for counseling or small group!

Modifications:

If your space doesn’t allow for scoot or if you have students who aren’t reading yet, you can do this as a whole group activity.

  • Read the statement aloud
  • When the statement is okay to say, students can make a fist with their hands to represent a gumball. If your students are standing, they can squat and curl their bodies into a gumball.
  • When the statement is not okay to say, students can make a wide-open palm with their hands to represent a splat. If students are standing, they can stand with legs wide and arms up and wide (like the jump part of a jumping jack) to make a big splat shape.

Debrief:

One of my favorite things about this lesson is the discussion that happens along the way. My students always say things like, “Wait, but if you said it like this, it would be okay to say,” or “But if you said this sarcastically, it wouldn’t be nice!” In our debrief we get to talk about how sometimes it’s not just what we say, but how we say it that matters. As a parting thought, I remind kids to keep the big plat gumballs in their head by thinking about how they’d feel if someone said it to them first!

Looking for a fun social filter lesson for your students? They'll move this gumball machine activity for counseling or small group!

Keep Reading:

Looking for a fun social filter lesson for your students? They'll move this gumball machine activity for counseling or small group! Great for social skills counseling lessons, social skills counseling group activities, social filter lesson, social filter activity, or classroom guidance lesson.

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