If you are a teacher or counseling provider for grades Tk-2nd, you are brave! This age level is adorable, but can be challenging to teach. This is because children are making such huge emotional and cognitive changes during this developmental period. Everything is still so new and there is a lot to learn.
There are also so many new emotions and social situations to navigate, often for the first time. With those new experiences, there will be a need for learning what to do and how to manage those big emotions, as this knowledge is not exactly innate. It is learned through experience and through instruction with modeling by others (peers and adults) and direct information.
Students in this age range are also new to learning and school
Children ages 5 and 6 were previously at home or in a daycare prior to TK or Kindergarten. This means that they are going from settings with minimal academic stress or behavioral expectations to a highly structured day full of rules and academic work. They are expected to sit still for prolonged periods, interact appropriately with their peers, make mental effort with learning new skills, and follow the rules at all times. This can be a tough adjustment for some children.
Helping facilitate Social and Emotional growth through lessons, games, and structured skill practice can help all of your students. It can especially help the ones, however, with difficulty adjusting to the expectations in school. These expectations include social skill expectations, emotional regulation, and academic effort and achievement.
These skills are not often present for lots of younger children, however. Some may have difficulty with appropriate play and conversation skills, while others may have limited self-awareness of theirs or others feelings. These gaps can impact their ability to make friends, follow directions, complete tasks, and learn.
How can SEL in the classroom help children?
Providing instruction and practice with a variety of SEL topics related to personal growth, emotional awareness, and social skills can greatly support all of your students with learning academic information. There are many reasons why. One is because knowing how to identify and then manage feelings of stress, anxiety, or frustration can help children when attempting new or challenging tasks.
Another is that building social skills can help their self-esteem and confidence. This can also help their ability to learn. In addition, by addressing social and emotional topics consistently, you can support students with significant behavioral difficulties. This can help prevent loss of your instructional time that their behaviors will inevitably cause.
SEL Topics that are best for TK-2nd graders include:
Expected vs. Unexpected School Behavior
Learning About Emotions
Identifying Emotions in Self and Others
Regulating Emotions-Coping Skills and Mindfulness
Anger Management-Calming Strategies
Initiating Conversation and Play
Respecting others (including peers and teacher)
How to Provide SEL
There are several types of instructional activities that you can do to teach SEL to your students. For more specifics on 5 of these activities, you can visit my article on the 5 ways to make providing SEL easy. If you are looking for an organized and inexpensive way to provide SEL to your class for the whole school year, there are two SEL Activity books (Tk-2 & 3-5) that have each month organized into specific topics with games, circles prompts, video links, and social story coloring books. Both activity books were created to have activities that are specific to the developmental age level of the students. When it comes to SEL, it is really not one size fits all.