Social Learning and Video Games

If you know what this is without reading this post.. you’re addicted too 🙂


Let me start with this disclaimer …

I did NOT plan this session in advance. It’s what we lovingly term “flying by the seat of your pants”

Many of my students are into a certain video game …  Angry Birds. I found it enjoyable when I played it, but they take it to a whole new level. Today a student brought the stuffed toys into group to show the others. One of the other boys quickly identified the characters and the two of them talked and laughed. What they failed to notice was the third group mate, who clearly had no experience with Angry Birds. A lesson was born …


Perspective Taking

I used my HP TouchPad to cue the trailer for Angry Birds. Throughout the trailer I paused the movie to check-in with the students. I would ask them about the thoughts and feelings of the birds versus the pigs, the “trick” that was pulled off by the pigs, what were the different characters’ plans and what were their “clues” for each “smart guess”. Getting the answer correct wasn’t enough — I wanted to students to explain HOW they figured out each answer. As a therapist, I am constantly reminding myself it’s not about them getting answer, it’s them knowing how they got to that answer. It’s increasing their understanding of how their brain works so they can learn how to make those “smart guesses”.

A quick demo of how the game is played for the inexperienced student(s), then let the game prep begin!

Team Work

Next we began to recreate the game.  This takes compromising, brainstorming, problem solving … everything our social cognition students needed to work on! First, you need to find your building materials. We brought in the cardboard blocks from the preschool room to build our “structure”. Everyone has to add to the same tower and be “flexible” about others putting blocks onto the tower. They need to agree on where the pig goes, how tall the tower should be, how many blocks to use and work together when the tower falls over. This is not easy, but the end goal was clearly in the minds of my students. They wanted to play Angry Birds – talk about motivation!

Playing Together

Now to add the most difficult components … excitement and competition. Before the game begins, a lesson on “playing for fun” versus “playing to win” always helps! As the game begins, bodies can be very difficult to regulate. Set up clear areas where each student stands. The “playing spot” versus “waiting spots” helps students clearly see their space bubbles. Although reminders are frequently needed, they know how to “make it better” when they have clearly defined visual expectations. Spend time pre-thinking the expectations of those taking their “waiting turn” — encouraging words, “cheering” and excited body language! Pick how many “birds” each round allows and let the game begin!

Some peaks into our game …

Happy “Angry Bird-ing”!

– Speechy Keen


UPDATE: Check out this similar therapy session  — it seems Angry Birds is taking the therapy world by storm 🙂


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