Early childhood is a unique period when the development of a child’s personality and character is happening at a rapid pace. An empathetic and loving teacher along with a progressive school is critical for nurturing happy and socially adept children. Social skills, problem behavior, and academic learning are interrelated and a child’s social skills are indicators of success in the later years.
The role of a teacher is critical in influencing the development the core skills of communication, cooperation, responsibility, empathy, engagement, self-control, and assertion.
Let’s see what are the 4 things that a great teacher does to inculcate these social skills.
1) Acknowledging Feelings and Modeling appropriate social behavior
Identifying and acknowledging feelings is essential for building trust with children. The classroom of good teachers has the ‘Emotional Corner’ or a ‘Mood Meter’ where children go and mark their feelings. Starting from ‘happy’ or ‘sad’, the options extend to angry and anxious etc. Teachers play ‘identify the emotion’ game by making faces or holding placards of different emotions. This helps students differentiate between emotions and express them better. By talking about what you’re doing as you’re doing it, the child will better understand how to manage the situation and replicate it, even when the adult is not there.
2) Play and Learning Centres
The classroom of great teachers has inbuilt routines of play. Such teachers will turn up the music for song and dance routine, they will pull out their puppets and use stories to effectively to develop attributes and attitudes in children.
Teachers set the sound level in the class by using the ‘Noise-O-Meter’. They set the level as ‘inner voice’, ‘outdoor voice’, ‘whisper voice’ or ‘no voice’. This routine allows children to speak and interact. The Literacy Centre /Reading corner, Science or Exploration Centre, Math/ Numeracy center are the basic learning centers that teachers set up. Social interactions with peers and adults, self-regulation of behaviour, time management, trying out new things in a safe environment and age-appropriate academic learning through hands-on practice happens at these centers.
3) Encourage Exploration and Inquiry
When children know what they are doing and why they are doing a particular task then they are bound to learn better and develop the confidence to engage in inquiry and exploration. One strategy that effective teachers use is ‘WALT’: What Are We Learning Today. They begin with the end in mind; the child always knows what she is learning. Rather than the teacher dispensing knowledge, the classroom is flipped and the child enquires and constructs her learning. They grow into confident communicators as the teacher builds inquiry into the teaching-learning process.
4) Positive and Consistent Relationships through Collaboration
Such teachers use a variety of ‘grouping strategies’ to ensure inter-mingling in the class. The grouping strategies are followed up with ‘collaborative group tasks’. The collaborative approach ensures that the group works together and then communicates the learning as a group. Individual excellence gets balanced with the ability to work in a team as this is the skill set that is needed in the years ahead.
Positive social skills go a long way in cognitive development, effective communication skills, and academic success. An early start definitely helps in maintaining this through adulthood!