Be Attentive to Each Child’s Needs – Be attentive to the social-emotional skills and needs of each unique child so you can respond with lessons and interventions tailored to help every child develop their skills. Your attention and presence as a teacher can be a pillar of confidence for children who are dealing with stressful life circumstances. Letting children know that you are there to help will build children’s trust that you are a source of guidance. Keep in mind that children who are English language learners may need additional support to feel secure and self-assured in a learning environment that is responsive to their needs.
Early Emotional Experiences Matter – Recognize that the emotional domain is foundational to all other developmental domains. If children start school in an emotionally supportive environment, they will acquire the love of learning necessary for success in all areas of school. “As young children develop, their early emotional experiences literally become embedded in the architecture of their brains,” therefore great care should be given to children’s emotional needs, according to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. If you seek children’s opinions, allow children to initiate activities and are flexible about responding to children’s ideas, you’ll build children’s feelings that they are competent and respected, and at the same time motivate their desire to learn.
Promoting Consistent Structure with Play – Providing your transitional kindergarteners with consistent structures and expectations about appropriate behavior through play activities helps them remember and follow classroom norms, and behave in ways that are conducive to learning. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is integral to the academic environment. It ensures that the school setting attends to the social and emotional development of children as well as their cognitive development.” Creating routines of fun and meaningful activities such as songs, chants and games can minimize problems or stress during challenging times, such as when children wait in line or during transitions.
Building Relational Capacity and Importance of Close Relationships
Positive relationships with peers and adults – including parents and teachers – are key to children’s social-emotional development. First, they make school a comfortable, secure safe place where children can focus on learning. Second, mutual, caring relationships provide opportunities for children to develop and practice important social skills.
Positive and Consistent Relationships – Social-emotional development is supported through positive and consistent relationships among teachers and children. Try going beyond expectations of compliance with school rules, and support social-emotional development by crafting a positive, emotionally supportive climate in the classroom that skillfully connects new experiences with children’s unique home experiences. According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, “Children who develop warm, positive relationships with their [TK] teachers are more excited about learning, more positive about coming to school, more self-confident, and achieve more in the classroom.”
Children are more likely to develop positive relationships when teachers:
- model appropriate social behaviors;
- provide opportunities for them to develop new social-emotional skills;
- give explicit guidance;
- offer curriculum that is engaging and relevant to children’s lives and cultures;
- engage with parents in a two-way relationship to build children’s social-emotional skills; and
- reflect an ethic of caring and nurturing.
Specific examples of productive teacher behaviors include:
- showing respect and valuing children’s cultural and language backgrounds;
- modeling the polite use of language and encouraging children to imitate your behavior;
- encouraging empathic thinking with questions such as, “Why do you think he is crying?”;
- promoting children’s confidence and development of new skills by engaging them in problem solving, for example by asking, “Can you think of a way to help you remember to wait for your turn?”; and
- attending to signs of personal trauma and providing additional support to children who are experiencing unusual stress in their lives.
Seven Social-Emotional Teaching Strategies
The teaching strategies below give concrete approaches for promoting social-emotional development in your classroom. They are designed to guide developmentally appropriate TK instruction, moving your students along a continuum of learning by bridging the Preschool Learning Foundations with the Kindergarten Common Core. Click through to view all seven.
Strategy 1: Relationships and Social Interactions with Peers
Strategy 2: Social and Emotional Understanding
Strategy 3: Conflict Negotiation (Problem Solving)
Strategy 4: Child Regulates Emotions and Behaviors
Strategy 5: Engagement and Persistence
Strategy 6: Responsible Conduct
Strategy 7: Integrated Approaches for English Language Development and Family Engagement