YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning by Anna Vagin, Ph.D.

YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning by Anna Vagin, Ph.D.

Social Learning comes naturally to many; however, for others, a lot of effort and learning is involved. For teachers and parents, 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.

The two resources on social learning introduced in this post were written by Anna Vagin, Ph.D. They guide students in thinking about, talking about, and ultimately, practicing important social learning ideas in their everyday lives:

  • Movie Time Social Learning: Using Movies to Teach Social Thinking and Social Understanding (2013)
  • YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning (2015)

In life there are no pause, rewind, or replay buttons but movies and videos do; therefore, they are an excellent medium to use for teaching social skills. The team at Special Needs Book Review was excited to learn about Dr. Anna Vagin’s books. This is part Dr. Vagin’s first email, ” I am language therapist in California. In my private practice I work primarily with children on the Autism Spectrum. My first book, Movie Time Social Learning (2013), published by Michelle Garcia Winner, shows therapists and parents how to break down popular movies to teach fundamental concepts of relationships. In my second book, YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning (2015) I present 25 selected YouTube videos and 50 activities that focus on expanding emotional vocabulary, tracking feelings, and discussing one’s own emotional experiences.

My new work has broadened the media I use therapeutically to include video gaming. This summer I presented at the Autism Society as well as PAX Prime – the largest video gaming conference in the US (wow, was that an experience). When I speak, I emphasize that, when we are responsible in what media we select and are clear in our goals, there is lots of very engaging material to be found.”

*A description of the book(s)

YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning (2015) explains how to use YouTube videos as engaging and effective social thinking material. The book contains summaries and links to 25 YouTube videos with 50 accompanying activities. YouCue Feelings expands feeling vocabulary (beyond “happy”, “sad” and “mad”), helps students track changes in feelings, and, ultimately, supports students to think and talk about their own emotional experiences. It can be hard for students with social thinking challenges to talk about feelings, but YouTube draws them in and engages them in learning. It is so much easier to talk about our own experiences after we have seen characters going through some of the same situations. Students often don’t even realize that they are learning!

The preselected videos described in the book are brief, captivating, and tell great stories. The activities, many of which involve sketching, are clearly presented. Many illustrations show sample student sketches, so it’s easy to get an idea of what direction to take with students. There are suggestions for parents about how to introduce YouCue Feelings at home. The Appendices include pictures of feelings, lists of feelings and a very detailed list of books that can be used to supplement the YouTube work.

Movie Time Social Learning: Using Movies to Teach Social Thinking and Social Understanding by Anna Vagin, Ph.D. (2013)Movie Time Social Learning: Using Movies to Teach  (2013)

The author’s first book, Movie Time Social Learning: Using Movies to Teach  (2013), presents a way to use popular movies for social learning. Movie Time comes with a CD containing specific, scene-by-scene breakdowns of 7 movies (like “Frog Goes to Dinner” for younger children, up to “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” for older students). These guides cover a range of social concepts, from identifying thoughts and feelings to connecting empathically with the characters.

Movie Time comes with additional information on supporting learning, including chapters on using silence, creating visual aids, and speaking in ways that prompt discussion. Appendices include recommended books, toys, games, and additional movies.

*The “purpose” or reason the author wrote them:

YouCue Feelings and Movie Time incorporate media into therapeutic, classroom, and home environments. Instead of using static pictures to support social learning, we can now use materials that move. This is particularly important, since recent studies propose that the processing of biological (social) motion is a significantly impaired in students with ASD (Kaiser & Pelphrey, 2012). Pausing and re-winding YouTube videos and movies gives students the time they often need to figure out the social intricacies of relationships. These materials are super engaging with eager learners as well as more passive or reluctant students. Together, YouCue Feelings and Movie Time present a unique and timely way to enhance social thinking.

Kaiser, M.D. & Pelphrey, K.A. (2012). Disrupted action perception in autism: Behavioral evidence, neuroendophenotypes, and diagnostic utility. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience: 2: 25-35.

*The target audience it is for:

YouCue Feelings was written for therapists, teachers, and parents of elementary through middle school students. Specifically written for therapists, teachers and parents of K-8th grade students. While all students can benefit from the social emotional learning at the core of YouCue Feelings, it’s specifically written for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD/ADHD, or other Social Learning Challenges.

*Excerpts from YouCue Feelings:

Introduction excerpt, p.10

YouCue Feelings (YCF) uses the appealing story lines of short, easily accessed videos as engaging and relationship-rich teaching material. YouTube videos selected for YCF have great story lines, full of emotions and interpersonal engagement. Most students are more than happy to watch a YouTube video and then talk about their observations. When chosen carefully, there’s something for everyone on YouTube. YouCue Feelings makes it easy to guide students in thinking about, talking about, and ultimately, practicing important social learning ideas in their everyday lives.

YouCue Activities excerpt, p. 40-41

Got Worries? Level 1

Like all feelings, worries come in sizes. As worries become larger, they may seem to take over and be impossible to contain. Root your discussion with an example or two from your life (not too big). Then watch a YouTube video and discuss the worries of the character. What size were they? How did the character respond? Were there options? Students can make sketches of the character worries, comparing and discussing their drawings. If students bring up their own worries, incorporate them into your discussions, making sketches to support the group process (Illustration 12).

Illustration 12.

These students decided to make a list of what each of them worries about. They were ready to talk about themselves!

Our Worries

Tom: Worries about mom being late

Mark: Worries about going to Jack’s house

Jeffrey: Worries about taking a shower

Jules: Worries about loud music

*What people are saying about YouCue Feelings:

“This is a must have resource for teachers, therapists and parents supporting the development of social emotional skills in our youth. YouCue Feelings builds fundamental skills in emotion recognition in self and others, social cognition and contextual awareness. It is a win-win for all.” –Leah Kuypers, OTR, Author of The Zones of Regulation (2011)

“YouCue Feelings is an exciting, engaging way of building children’s social abilities using YouTube videos. Dr. Vagin has used her extensive experience with children with social challenges to thoughtfully develop a program that is easy to read and use. YouCue Feelings is progressive and adaptable to students at different levels. It is illustrated well, fun and useful for everyone! I highly recommend it.”-Robert L. Hendren, DO, Professor & Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco

“This is a WONDERFUL tool to help kids better understand the connection between thoughts and emotions. Anna has organized this book well so it’s easy to find videos and lessons that are appropriate for the kids the facilitator has in mind. Videos are highly engaging so kids are excited whenever they see my computer out. Most of the videos described in this book are only a few minutes long, and yet they provide ample things for kids to think about and talk about.” –Dominique Baudry, M.S., E.D., Social Group Facilitator

“YouCue Feelings is a great addition to my therapy. At first, I was a bit unsure how I would work the videos and activities into my sessions, but I was surprised at how easy and intuitive it turned out to be! I love it, the parents I work with love it, and, most importantly, my students love it. The videos and activities always    lead us to discussions full of laughter and learning.” –Gaye Roegiers, M.S., SLP

Anna Vagin PhD, Author of YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social LearningAbout the Author:

Anna Vagin, Ph.D., is a licensed speech/language pathologist with over 30 years experience. In her private practice in Marin County, California, she provides individual sessions and social learning groups to children and their families. Her particular interest is using media to support social thinking in students with diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD/ADD, and Anxiety Disorder. She provides consultation to parents and schools, and is a frequent speaker in the US and Canada on topics related to social cognition. She is the author of Movie Time Social Learning (2013) and YouCue Feelings: Online Video Viewing for Social Learning (2015).

Follow Anna Vagin, Ph.D.:

Web site

Buy Books by Anna Vagin, Ph.D.: 

  • YouCue Feelings: Using Online Videos for Social Learning (2015) by Anna Vagin PhD
  • Movie Time Social Learning: Using Movies to Teach Social Thinking and Social Understanding by Anna Vagin, Ph.D. (2013)

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.
  • Mary Hollis Bowman Keiger

    Love this book! Wonderful resource for social learning!

  • Nancy S Cotton

    How well Anna Vagan knows kids who have yet to develop their social minds, but are wanting to do the right thing, have friends, not make social mistakes, be like their typically developing peers. These books are rooted in Anna’s deep, sophisticated knowledge of effective clinical practice, developmental psychology, and the field of Speech and Language Pathology. She provides us with step-by-step treatment protocols to directly teach what does not come naturally to otherwise bright and healthy kids. She uses visual media to teach and not just distract from developing the ability to make and keep long term relationships for children and youth of all ages. Thank you Anna! I use your books daily in my clinical psychology practice.

    Nancy S. Cotton, Ph.D.