Social-Emotional Development

Research shows – and you have probably seen firsthand – how important it is for children to feel secure, valued and cared about, and to develop strong social-emotional skills. As a TK teacher, you have the opportunity to play a vital role in children’s lives during a period of critical social-emotional growth.

Social and emotional development includes children’s experience, expression and management of emotions; pro-social behaviors; classroom behaviors (e.g., paying attention); self-confidence; and their ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others.

Homes and Schools: “The emotional health of young children is closely tied to the social and emotional characteristics of the environment…” – Scientific Council on the Developing Child

Current research shows that self-regulation of emotions and behavior is one of the strongest predictors of academic success and leads to success in the workplace, in social settings and in life for all young schoolchildren. Confident learners that stem from your classroom will have the foundational tools they need for continued success in school and beyond.

Elements of Social-Emotional Development

Social-emotional development consists of three main areas of children’s self regulation in 1) acting (behaving in socially appropriate ways and ways that foster learning), 2) feeling (understanding others’ emotions and regulation of one’s own emotions) and 3) thinking (regulating attention and thoughts).


Examples of behavioral self-regulation include:

  • interacting with teachers and peers in positive ways (e.g., sharing, taking turns);
  • inhibiting negative impulses (e.g., hitting, pushing, yelling);
  • solving problems with increasing independence; and
  • negotiating solutions to conflicts with peers.

Examples of emotional understanding and self-regulation include:

  • accurately identifying emotions in themselves and others;
  • managing strong emotions such as excitement, anger, frustration and distress; and
  • being empathic and understanding others’ perspectives.

Examples of cognitive self-regulation include:

  • focusing attention on a lesson or an activity;
  • screening distractions; and
  • planning steps or strategies to complete a task or activity.

Supporting Social-Emotional Functioning

Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)™ for Pre-K
Teachers’ abilities to support social and emotional functioning in the classroom are central to effective classroom practice. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) for Pre-K describes measures of Emotional Support in a classroom climate that encourage positive social-emotional development and learning.Establishing a Positive Learning Climate

  • Teachers and students enjoy warm, supportive relationships with one another
  • There are frequent displays of positive affect by the teacher
  • Teachers and students frequently share positive verbal or physical communication
  • Teachers and students consistently demonstrate respect for one another
  • Teachers and students do not display strong negative affect and only rarely, if ever, display mild negativity
  • Teachers do not yell or make threats to establish control
  • Teachers and students are not sarcastic or disrespectful
  • There are no instances of negativity between teachers and students

Teacher Sensitivity

  • Teachers are consistently aware of students who need extra support
  • Teachers are consistently responsive to students and match their support to the students’ needs and abilities
  • Teachers are consistently effective at addressing students’ problems and concerns
  • The students are comfortable seeking support from, sharing their ideas with and responding freely to teachers
  • Teachers are responsive to children who might need additional time to respond, respond in a different language, or need to access a quiet area in the classroom

Regard for Student Perspectives

  • Teachers are flexible in their plans, go along with student ideas and organize instruction around students’ interest
  • Teachers provide consistent support for student autonomy and leadership
  • There are many opportunities for student talk and expression
  • The students have freedom of movement and placement during activities

Social-Emotional Development on the Standards Continuum

TK allows you the gift of time to move your students along the standards continuum, preparing them for a successful kindergarten year ahead. As there are no set standards for TK, WestEd and the Child Development Division of the California Department of Education developed a publication that aligns the Preschool Learning Foundations with the Kindergarten Common Core State Standards to help guide developmentally appropriate TK instruction. Find the publication here. The alignment of the foundations and the common core standards illustrates the developmental progression of TK-aged students.

  • The kindergarten content standards related to social-emotional development are included as part of the health domain, under the mental, emotional and social health strand, rather than as a separate domain.
  • Some, but not all, of the content in the preschool domain Social-Emotional Development aligns with the mental, emotional, and social health strand of the kindergarten Health domain.