We all know people are naturally social beings—we need interactions to survive. But just because we’re naturally social doesn’t mean we know how to be social. We have to learn social behaviors—from our families, caregivers, and peers. Teachers play a key role in promoting social development, which includes peer play and friendships.
Knowing how social development looks at different ages and phases is important so that your expectations match children’s needs. This allows you to promote developmentally appropriate peer interactions. At any age, you can encourage, facilitate, and model:
You can also provide words to help children communicate and reinforce positive behaviors.
Let’s see what this might look like in classrooms.
The teacher in this infant classroom facilitates joint play and sharing as two children roll a ball to each other. Watch what happens when she walks away!
These toddlers are practicing social skills as part of a song and movement activity as their teacher models and encourages respect, kindness, and positive relationships. The hug at the end is priceless!
This pre-K teacher takes advantage of a teachable moment to encourage a child to connect with her peers (“Maybe you can have the cake for the party....We could bring it to the party. Go deliver your cake.”). She gives her words to initiate the connection (“Ask whose birthday it is!”) and reinforces what she did well (“What nice manners!”). Notice the exuberant response from the child’s friends!
Learning social behaviors and understanding how to interact with peers is essential for children, especially in school. After watching the examples above think about how you encourage peer relationships in classrooms and what new strategies you can use from the videos.
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.