Movie Time Social Learning


by Dr Anna Vagin

for ages 4 – 18

Item No: 3193

Movies allow viewers to pause social interactions and talk about what’s going on. This creative book combines movie watching with many tools and activities to encourage socially based critical thinking and perspective taking. Three strategy levels are offered to align lesson with students’ social learning abilities. Lessons included on a CD for east printing.

Buying Tip:  If your child or client is a visual learner, this book is for you.  Using movies is a really accessible and fun way to teach about the social world.  Movie Time Social Learning is a great companion to Anna’s other book YouCue Feelings and Leah Kuypers book The Zones of Regulation.

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In life there are no pause, rewind, or replay buttons. In Movie Time Social Learning, there are!

One of the greatest challenges in teaching social thinking is finding interesting, imaginative, and enjoyable ways for students of all ages to study complex social situations. Movie Time Social Learning takes an activity many students already love—watching movies—and uses it as a springboard to study the intricacies of social interaction, the depth and range of emotions we experience in our lives, and the social expression that drives our interactions. By hitting the pause button, we freeze social situations and give students the all-so-valuable extra time to read context, interpret thoughts, feelings and plans, make predictions about social behaviour, and formulate narrative language to discuss social interactions.

Author Anna Vagin’s thirty years of experience and deep understanding of social learning shine through each page as she thoughtfully explains social concepts and provides detailed, fine-tuned lessons for seven different popular movies that students will recognise and love.

About the book

The Movie Time Social Learning method is explained via seven different easy-to-find movies (see list below) and their accompanying lessons. The movies range from short, simpler movies that can be used with children with more limited social thinking, to movies with more complex social interaction, better suited for individuals who are working on more advanced levels.

Each lesson plan identifies the clips used in the movie, and then for each clip, presents ideas and suggestions for teaching Spy Eye, Detective Head, and Me Too! tasks. These tasks help students develop their abilities to identify context, take perspective and make personal connections. The book comes with a CD that includes all seven lesson plans as well as ready-to-print templates, handouts, and letters.

Read the entire Chapter 7 on Spy Eye Tasks here.

Read an excerpt from the lesson for the movie, The Indian in the Cupboard, here.

Helpful chapters include

  • Places Everyone! Your Role as Mediator — working with a movie audience of students, including suggestions for helping students regulate before they watch, strategies for sessions, and when to take a break
  • Mark Up Those Cue Cards! Knowing How to Help Visually —visual tools, such as emotions strips and feeling lists, thought bubbles, and text-based organizers, that can support student work
  • First Lessons: Spy Eye Tasks — exploring context and the feelings, thoughts, and plans of movie characters
  • Practicing Empathy: Me Too! Tasks — activities that explore students’ empathy with movie characters
  • Off and Running: Generalising What Students Have Learned —suggestions for applying knowledge learned to other contexts, including at home
  • And many more!

The Social Thinking Connection

Movie Time Social Learning incorporates the concepts, vocabulary, and strategies that are at the heart of Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking framework. At the start of the Movie Time Social Learning program, you place students in one of three categories of social learners (aligned with the Social Thinking-Social Communication Profile), called Mindreaders. The specific movies students watch differ depending on their Mindreader group and are based on what’s developmentally appropriate for that group of social thinker. No matter which movie they view or which Mindreader group they’re in, students participate in three different types of social learning activities as they watch the movie. Each of these tasks addresses skills that are necessary in successful social interactions:

  • Spy Eye: Students think with their eyes to explore context and what each character is doing, thinking, and feeling within that context.
  • Detective Head: These activities involve perspective taking and promote the understanding of more complex social relationships and social subtleties, such as indirectness and politeness.
  • Me Too!: These tasks focus on students making connections between characters and themselves to explore the foundations of empathy.

The Movies

The movies referred to in the book generally are easy to find; all were released between 2000 and 2009. Many are available at local libraries or video rental stores. Some can be viewed directly on YouTube or Netflix.

Movies for Junior Mindreaders (lessons for each on CD):

  • Frog Goes to Dinner (Scholastic Video Collection)
  • Knuffle Bunny (Scholastic Storybook Treasures)
  • No Roses for Harry (Scholastic Video Collection)
  • Whistle for Willie (Scholastic Video Collection)

Movies for Moving Up Mindreaders (lessons for each on CD):

  • The Indian in the Cupboard, rated PG (Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment)
  • Like Mike, rated PG (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Movie for Varsity Mindreaders (lessons for each on CD):

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, rated PG-13 (Warner Home Video)

Additional movies that can be used:

  • Akeelah and the Bee, rated PG (Lions Gate Films)
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid, rated PG (20th Century Fox)
  • Finding Nemo, rated G (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)
  • Fly Away Home, rated PG (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • The Pink Panther, rated PG (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
  • The Red Balloon (Janus Films)
  • Shrek, rated PG (DreamWorks Home Entertainment)
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (Scholastic Video Collection)

What People are Saying

  • Peter Vermeulen – Author of Autism as Context Blindness

“Movie Time is innovative and in-line with how people use social thinking in real life, not in laboratory situations. Using films and even YouTube video is what we really need to do if we want to help children struggling with the complexities of social events.”

  • Bryna Siegel – Professor of Psychiatry; Clinical Services Director

“… interesting, refreshing, and ‘ecologically valid’ for the population we serve… increases social vocabulary without forcing social interaction…”

About the Author

Anna Vagin, PhD is a licensed speech and language pathologist. In private practice for over thirty years, her work focuses on social cognitive abilities of children from four months through high school. She frequently consults with schools and speaks to parent groups, private organisations, and national conferences on the social cognitive issues of children on the autism spectrum. She and her family live in Marin County, California. Learn more at

Publishing Information

  • Ages: 4-18
  • Pages: 162
  • Format: Paperback
  • Published: 2012
  • CD: Includes 7 detailed lesson plans for 7 movies, all handouts, Mac/PC compatible
  • Item No: 3193

Additional information

Weight 0.60 g
Dimensions 5 × 5 × 5 cm

Primary School, High School, Parents & Professionals


Anna Vagin, PhD

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