NEWS FROM THE CLASSROOM

The Importance of Social and Emotional Learning

News from the Early Kindergarten 2 classroom

April 10, 2021

For the past month or two in the Beluga classroom we have been actively focusing on feelings and our relationships with others. Sometimes “friendship” may actually be the theme for the month, as it often is during the month of February, but it is also is an underlying theme which permeates all of our preschool activities. Whenever you hear that your student’s class has been focusing on “friendship” that is a clue that the teacher is emphasizing (and re-emphasizing) what educators call social and emotional learning, or SEL.  There are many reasons that social and emotional learning is one of the fundamental purposes for preschool.

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​A quality early childhood education (ECE) program does much more than prepare a child academically for kindergarten, although at PNA we do feel that academic readiness is very important! A great ECE program should also support a child’s growth in all developmental domains.  Most early childhood educators would agree that social and emotional growth in the preschool years is just as important as academic achievement, and many would argue it is more important.  One reason for this sentiment is that social-emotional growth has an impact on every aspect of a young child’s life.  Self-esteem, personal relationships, and academic growth are all affected by a child’s ability to feel good about themselves and their ability to successfully interact with others.

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​According to an article written by Jeannie Ho and Suzanne Funk and published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children in March 2018:

​Children’s social and emotional health affects their overall development and learning. Research indicates that children who are mentally healthy tend to be happier, show greater motivation to learn, have a more positive attitude toward school, more eagerly participate in class activities, and demonstrate higher academic performance than less mentally healthy peers (Hyson 2004; Kostelnik et al. 2015). Children who exhibit social and emotional difficulties tend to have trouble following directions and participating in learning activities. Compared with healthier peers, they may be more likely to suffer rejection by classmates, have low self-esteem, do poorly in school, and be suspended (Hyson 2004; Kostelnik et al. 2015). Thus, children’s social and emotional health is just as important as their physical health, and affects their capacity to develop and potential to lead a fulfilling life.” (2018) Picture

Without question, parents and other family members have the primary responsibility for a child’s social and emotional health. However, because social and emotional health has such a powerful impact on a young child’s success, and because children spend so much time at school, it is vital that social and emotional learning be woven through all aspects of a child’s experiences at school as well.

​According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, there five core competency areas that are widely recognized as critical social-emotional skills:

  • Self-awareness – the ability to recognize your emotions and understand the links between emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
  • Self-management – the ability to regulate emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
  • Social awareness – the ability to take other’s perspectives and demonstrate empathy.
  • Relationship skills – the ability to build and maintain healthy relationships.
  • Responsible decision making – the ability to make good choices about your behavior and interactions with others.

​It is critical that we, as adults, remember that just as a young child’s physical, cognitive, and verbal skills develop over time, it is the same with social and emotional skills.  In order for children to develop effective SEL skills, they need explicit instruction followed by LOTS of time and opportunities to practice, so preschool is a terrific setting for this! While it can take a long time for a child’s social and emotional skills to fully develop, the rewards are totally worth it – Your child will be ready to take the next step into kindergarten and begin their personal journey towards becoming a PNA student of vision, courage and integrity!

​Funk, S., & Ho, J. (2018, March). Promoting Young Children’s Social and Emotional Health. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/mar2018/promoting-social-and-emotional-health

​Sel: What are the core competence areas and where are they promoted? (n.d.). Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://casel.org/sel-framework/

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