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Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Nonverbal Language
Ages: 6-10   Grades: 1-5

Lessons on posture, hand gestures, facial expression, personal space, and more help students improve their social skills.  


  • Develop age-appropriate social language and interaction skills
  • Understand and use appropriate nonverbal language
  • Improve self-esteem and learn to make friends
  • Interact successfully in the classroom
  • Understand and use appropriate nonverbal language
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** This is a Cloud E-Book that is accessible from any device with Internet access. .

The activity pages consist of interesting graphic organizers, photos, and art supported with specific, clear directions.  Targeted skills include:

  • interpreting others' emotions
  • understanding and using appropriate facial expressions and body language to enhance communication
  • controlling distracting movements
  • using appropriate listening behaviors
  • interpretation and use of appropriate eye contact
  • maintaining appropriate physical distance from others
  • recognizing when someone looks friendly (and using a friendly expression)

These learning strategies are used to help students understand and respond appropriately to nonverbal communication:  

  • modeling
  • observation
  • direct instruction
  • discussion
  • role-playing
  • other guided practice

Extra helps include:

  • pretest/posttest
  • progress checklist 
  • answer key

You may purchase Nonverbal Language individually or as a 6-book set.  The 6-book set consists of:

Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Conversations
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Emotions
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Making Friends
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Making Social Inferences
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Nonverbal Language
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Predicting Consequences


Copyright © 2009

40 pages, pretest/posttest, progress checklist, answer key
  • Children with language difficulties, particularly those with pragmatic impairments, need specific teaching to help social understanding (Taylor-Goh, 2005).
  • Research has established the reciprocal relationship between language skill and social acceptability among peers (Gallagher, 1993).
  • The abilities to adjust messages to listeners' needs, initiate conversation successfully, ask appropriate questions, contribute well to ongoing conversations, communicate intentions clearly, address everyone when joining a group, and make more positive than negative comments are related to peer acceptance and sociometric status (Putallaz & Gottman, 1981; Rubin, LeMare, & Lollis, 1990; Gallagher, 1993).
  • Conversation partners require skills in both verbal and nonverbal interactive behaviors (Sillars, 1991).
  • Social skills intervention can improve children's social cognitive skills (Timler, Olswang, & Coggins, 2005).
  • Targeted language intervention with at-risk students may result in more cautionary, socially acceptable behaviors (Moore-Brown, Sanger, Montgomery, & Nishida, 2002).
  • Only 7% of the information we communicate to others depends upon the words we say; 93% depends on nonverbal communication (Mehrabian, 1971).
  • Students with language disorders often perform much like younger, typically-developing students on measures of pragmatic development (Lapadat, 1991).
  • Social and emotional development lay the foundation for later success in school, work, and life.  Addressing students' social and emotional needs also increases their capacity to learn (Franklin, 2008).
  • Language facility is a key component of social competence (Gallagher, 1991; Guralnick, 1992).

Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Nonverbal Language incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Franklin, J. (2008, January 29). Social and emotional learning: Educating the whole child. Southern Illinoisan. Retrieved February 7, 2008, from 

Gallagher, T. (1991). Language and social skills: Implications for clinical assessment and intervention with school-age children. In T. Gallagher (Ed.), Pragmatics of language: Clinical practice issues. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group.

Gallagher, T. (1993). Language skill and the development of social competence in school-age children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 24, 199-205.

Guralnick, M. (1992). A hierarchical model for understanding children's peer-related social competence. In S. Odom, S. McConnell, & M. McEvoy (Eds.), Social competence of young children with disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Lapadat, J.D. (1991). Pragmatic language skills of students with language and/or learning disabilities: A quantitative synthesis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24, 147-158.

Mehrabian, A. (1971). Silent messages. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Moore-Brown, B., Sanger, D., Montgomery, J., & Nishida, B. (2002, April 30). Communication and violence: New roles for speech-language pathologists. The ASHA Leader, 7, 4-14.

Putallaz, M., & Gottman, J. (1981). An interactional model of children's entry into peer groups. Child Development, 52,

Rubin, K., LeMare, L., & Lollis, S. (1990). Social withdrawal in childhood: Developmental pathways to peer rejection. In S. Asher & J. Coie (Eds.), Peer rejection in childhood. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Sillars, A.L. (1991). Behavior observation. In B.M. Montgomery & S. Duck (Eds.), Studying interpersonal interaction. New York: Guilford Press.

Taylor-Goh, S. (2005). Royal college of speech & language therapists: Clinical guidelines. United Kingdom: Speechmark.

Timler, G., Olswang, L., & Coggins, T. (2005). "Do I know what I need to do?" Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 73-85.


Carolyn LoGiudice, Paul F. Johnson


Carolyn LoGiudice, M.A., CCC-SLP, wrote and edited products and tests for LinguiSystems for 25 years, incorporating her previous experience as an SLP in school and clinic settings.  She is now retired and savoring time with her family, friends, and hobbies.

Paul F. Johnson, B.A., is a writer and editor at LinguiSystems.  He has a special interest in developing thinking and communication skills in students of all ages.  He also enjoys music, cooking, gardening, traveling, and spending time with his family.

Carolyn and Paul have collaborated to develop several publications, including Story Comprehension To Go, No-Glamour Sequencing Cards, and Spotlight on Reading & Listening Comprehension.


Age-appropriate social skills are essential for students to get along well with their peers and to foster strong self-esteem.  Social skills are rarely taught directly as a school subject, and most students gradually master social skills without formal instruction.  Those who fail to infer expectations and "rules" from personal interactions with others are at risk for being criticized by their peers or, worse, ignored.  Students on the autism spectrum are particularly at risk for poor social skills due to the nature of the disorder; many students with language and/or learning disabilities are also at risk.

The activities in Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary highlight specific aspects of social skills and include strategies of direct instruction, modeling, observation, discussion, role-playing, and other guided practice in contexts of everyday interaction.  These activities can be presented to individual students or small groups of students.  Small groups are preferred because they expose students to their peers' perspectives and offer a safe setting for practicing social skills.

For an overview of a student's social skills functioning, administer the Social Language Development Test Elementary (Bowers, Huisingh, & LoGiudice, 2008).  Use the pretest/posttest to check the student's awareness and functioning in the appropriate area addressed by one of the six books in Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary:

  • Conversations
  • Emotions 
  • Making Friends         
  • Making Social Inferences
  • Nonverbal Language                
  • Predicting Consequences

Less than 10% of what we understand when we communicate with others depends on words we use; the rest depends on nonverbal cues, including posture, gestures, facial expression, proximity, eye contact, tone of voice, etc.  Students need to be aware of facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, proximity, and posture at a minimum in order to convey meaning, avoid misunderstandings, and get along with others.

These are the student objectives for the activities in this book:

  • improve their interaction with peers and adults
  • interpret others' emotions accurately by processing nonverbal cues as well as verbal
  • understand and use appropriate facial expressions and body language to enhance their communication
  • control their bodies to minimize distracting movements and show appropriate listening behaviors
  • interpret and use eye contact appropriately
  • avoid threatening or annoying others by maintaining appropriate physical distance from them and not touching them inappropriately
  • recognize when someone is busy and shouldn't be bothered
  • recognize when someone looks friendly and adopt a friendly expression

As well as the pretest/posttest, use the progress checklist to document baseline skills as well as improved performance during the instruction period.  You can also gather helpful information by asking students' teachers and parents to complete this checklist.

The activities in this book are designed to raise students' awareness of nonverbal communication by highlighting specific aspects and encouraging discussion about noting, interpreting, and using nonverbal language.  Without more context than a photo of someone's face, we cannot be certain of the emotion expressed, although we can make a logical inference.  As you present such pictures for students to interpret, accept and encourage all logical interpretations.  The main lesson here is to notice people's expressions and think what they suggest about their emotions and intentions.

Here are some tips to improve your students' skills in understanding and using nonverbal communication:

  • Teach your students to look for "free clues" to understand what is going on in a situation.  "Free clues" are things you can observe directly without any additional information, such as what a person's posture or facial expression tells you.  Repeatedly noting and talking about such clues helps students realize the wealth of information available to grasp what is happening, how someone feels and why, and what someone is likely to do next.*
  • Try this activity.  Ask someone (student or adult) to talk to you for one minute.  Use only nonverbal communication to continue the "conversation."  Next "autopsy" the conversation, asking what nonverbal signals students observed and what they meant in the conversation.  Then have pairs of students replicate this activity.
  • Present a live/videotaped conversation.  As a group, tally the nonverbal behaviors each listener used during the conversation.  Discuss the behaviors as a group.
  • Show a video of a conversation without any sound.  Work with your students to create your own dialogue to match the characters' nonverbal behaviors.
  • Use The Nonverbal Language Kit by LoGiudice and Warner (LinguiSystems, 2003) for additional, in-depth training in nonverbal language.

We hope you and your students enjoy Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Nonverbal Language!

Carolyn and Paul

*We are indebted to Lonnie Legler, CCC/SLP, an autism specialist in the school district of Santa Clarita, CA, for her suggestion of teaching students to search actively for free information in order to form inferences in social situations.