Activity: Self-Awareness through the Analogy of Animal Behaviour

The aim of this activity is to foster skills of objectivity and self-reflection by observing animal behaviours similar to human behaviors.


If there’s no animal available, many animal videos are available in the library or on YouTube.

The benefit of live observation is you can interact. The drawback of live observation is your influence on behaviour in the moment.

The advantage of observing recorded behaviour is the ability to watch repeatedly. The downside is the lack of interplay between behaviour and observer.

Activity instructions

Part 1 – Log what you see

  1. Begin by simply logging what you see.
  2. Create simple secret shorthand for things like ‘moved’ or ‘stopped’ or ‘changed’ so that note taking can keep up with the action.
  3. Review your notes with a special eye on the following questions:
    • what was the behaviour?
      • B for behaviour
      • for example, the bird hopped to the ground
    • what happened right before?
      • A for antecedent
      • for example, the bird was sitting on a branch, just looking
    • what happened after?
      • C for consequence
      • for example, the bird found a worm and ate it and chirped

Sometimes, the consequence quickly becomes the next antecedent.

This can be fun if the child notices a chain of inter-connected behaviours and outcomes.

  • The pattern is not ABC but ABCABCABC

Part 2 – Discuss the behavior

  1. Discuss the behavior with the child.
  2. You can ask some of the following questions to generate discussion:
    • what was the purpose of the behaviour?
      • for the bird to eat
    • what was wanted or needed?
      • food
    • was the animal successful in getting what they wanted through their chosen behaviour?
      • yes
    • could there be a less obvious purpose to the behaviour that we don’t know about?
      • she’s feeding her babies
      • kids can make up funny answers to this question
      • no answer is wrong
    • could the animal have chosen another way?
      • it could have been waiting for the worm to climb the tree
      • it could have used the bird feeder hanging in the tree beside it
    • if the animal experienced difficulty did it problem-solve in any way?
      • it had trouble pulling out the worm so it leaned back and pulled harder
    • what was the pay-off (the reinforcement) of the behavior
      • a yummy worm
      • a full tummy
      • other birds joined her on the ground
    • will the pay-off make it more likely or less likely to happen again?
    • how long (in its lifetime) has the animal been doing this behaviour?
    • what would it take to change the animal to do something different?
      • you might have to catch it
      • you would have to find something it loves to eat more than worms
    • when is the animal most likely and least likely to behave this way?
      • it is most likely to catch worms when it is hungry and it is nice outside
      • it’s least likely to catch worms when it’s full, sleeping or there is snow on the ground

Part 3 – Application

In time, it may be possible to utilize the same chart for self-observation or reflecting on a problem behaviour.

It may become a tool for future self-regulation, self-awareness and self-advocacy.

Modified: 2015-09-09
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