ACCESS-ABILITY ACCESS-ABILITY_Vol1_Issue4 - Page 38

SMALL TALK Social-emotional learning is important at all grade levels, but especially in early childhood. At this age we lay the foundation to help children develop into responsible, independent learners and members of the community. They become aware of both themselves and their impact on others. While social and play skills are part of everyday life in preschool, we also teach those skills explicitly. Many students work in small groups to learn social rules and to practice using them. All of our classes also have whole-class social skills lessons, focusing on a specific skill each week. Additionally, social-emotional learning is embedded into every aspect of the school day? from learning to stay together in the hallway to asking questions of others during snack time. We start with the basics. For example, if you are looking at your friends when they are talking to you, they know you are listening. When playing in a group, children learn the ability to communicate their own ideas, which involves being flexible enough to imagine and accept the ideas of others. Children also spend time learning what it means to be a good friend. Students work together to develop charts of ?Good Friend? behavior and ?Not A Friend? behavior. Since the children are involved in these decisions, they have more meaning. The adults are not just telling them what to include; they are speaking from their own experiences. These charts are displayed for reference and serve as talking points to guide conduct during future activities.. To further expand social-emotional learning skills, children read stories that include characters who are and are not using good social skills. Often the characters who do not make good choices are more relatable to our students. Children are then asked to make personal connections to the social