Spotlight on Strategy

Role Playing in Social Skills


Role Playing is a core instructional strategy that all students benefit from. Students on the autism spectrum learn through social stories and can more easily relate to a story about them or someone else. Role playing allows children on the spectrum to act out these social stories. Teaching using social stories, according to Carol Grey, helps share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience (Grey, 2013). The strategy helps students practice social skills and develop a theory of mind. The digital media used will reinforce key social skills and help students practice ‘expected’ and ‘unexpected’ social situations and to hopefully be able to generalize them to a real world situation.


In this example students will generate expected and unexpected problems, evaluate them and solve them. Below I have listed all the types of problems and how to handle them.
  • Little Problem – Occurs when we don’t get what we want or when a mistake happens. We take 5-10 deep breaths think it’s ok or I can get/have it later.
  • Middle Problem – Occurs when people get hurt, either feelings or physically. We need to tell an adult. It’s ok to cry to 5 minutes but need to stop and move on.
  • Big Problem – Occurs when people go to the hospital or could die. We can run and scream for help, call 911, get an adult immediately.

Review power point for little middle and big problem. (Link below)

Students will analyze pictures of problems and categorize them according to type of problem. Students will also analyze solutions of problems at categorize them correctly with the type of problem. (Link below)

Students will be challenged to use digital media to help them generalize using Role Playing. Students will pick one of the problems given in the categorizing activity or choose their own problem that they have experienced recently. Students will evaluate the problem and pick a way to solve it expected as well as solve it unexpected.

  • Students can Role play the situation using the Ipad apps Sock Puppets or Toon-town, .


To make this more challenging, students can develop a script for the role playing scenario and work cooperatively to create is digital story with Windows Movie Maker. To differentiate based on interest; students can write their own script and draw pictures with Microsoft Paint to accompany their script.

You Can Take the Challenge

All students learn best from stories. Research done at Arizona State University in Tempe and the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that students can understand and infer more by physically acting out text—either in real life or virtually—than by reading alone (Sparks, 2011). You can take the challenge by using role playing in your classroom.
  • Math: Have students Role Play stories to apply math skills that involve word problems.
  • Reading: Have students change the ending to a story.
  • Science: Students can take a concept like the water cycle, and Role Play it by acting it out or creating a digital story.
  • Social Studies: Instead of reading, Role Play with a readers theater!


Grey, Carol (n.d.) What Are Social Stories? Retrieved from:

Sparks, Sarah D. (July 12, 2011) Studies Find Students Learn More by ‘Acting out’ Text Education Week Retrieved from:

Images created in Prezi and Sort using Boardmaker plus (2014) by Mayer Johnson

All other images created by Trish Clemmer