How to Take Data on Play Skills

Categories: Data | Social Skills

You read that right. Data and play in the same sentence. Seems kind of ridiculous right?! Why should you be taking data on play? As we have been talking about all month, play and leisure can be used not only to teach but to generalize and maintain so many essential academic, social, and functional skills. Being able to take data and see that growth or mastery is key. But even if you are sold on the idea of taking data on play skills, how does that work? How can you  be simultaneously playing with a chid and collecting data? It’s tricky and you have to get a little creative but when there’s a data will, there’s a way. 

Simple Frequency Count

For some play based behaviors, it may be possible to collect a simple frequency count of the behaviors occurring. Something like imitation, answering a question, or following a verbal request could be counted during a play session. You can leave a post or dry erase board near by and discretely add tally marks to count up the total. I also love putting a piece of masking tape on my leg or on the ground and adding the tallies there. It’s easy and small so you can still move around and play. Click counters are also a great option. I talked all about click counters in this post and these would be a great option for collecting simple frequency data during playtime! 

Interval Data

Another great option is interval data. Interval data is breaking up a time period into small intervals and then tracking the presence or absence of the behavior during that interval. So for example, if you are going to have play time for 10 minutes, break up the time period into 10 1 minute intervals. You are tracking Johnny’s sharing behavior. Set a timer on your phone (using an interval timer app so it vibrates every minute) and every minute put a plus or minus to note if sharing occurred during the past minute. You and Johnny are playing with other students. A minute goes by, your timer goes off, Johnny hasn’t shared in the last minute, mark a minus. You keep playing Johnny shares twice, the timer goes off, you mark a plus since the sharing occurred in the last minute. You can get talented and track multiple students at the same time if you are observing. The interval component is nice because you just have to remember what happened during the last time interval and you don’t have to count. You just want to know if it happened or not. Then you can get a percentage to compare data so on Monday Johnny shared on 2 out of 10 time intervals so 20% but today he shared on 8 out of 10 intervals so 80%.


I have been having a full blown love affair with rubrics lately. Rubrics are great because they break down a complex skills like having a conversation or group play into a specific list and adding a rating component. You are no longer arbitrarily summarizing if a behavior happened or not. You can get detailed and notice exactly which components of the skill are mastered and which still need work. You can grab these in my Social Skill Rubric set!


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