Emotional Development in the Classroom
By Nicole Gaffney
Chapter 8: Emotional Development
Emotional development, like any other form of a child’s growth, affects a student’s academic achievement. There are many students who are successful at reading other’s emotions and regulating their own. However, there are children who lack this ‘skill’ we call emotional competence. Classroom behavior and a child’s thought are both effected by emotion (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). According to Education.com, “If a child’s academic tasks are interrupted by problems with peers, following directions, or controlling negative emotions, the child will have trouble learning to read or staying on task in other educational activities.” (Odle, 2013) However, effective teachers can promote children’s emotional competence, which can lead to greater school achievement (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
When young children do not know how to identify emotions, handle disappointment and anger, or develop relationships with peers, a teacher’s best response is to teach (Fox & Lentini, 2006). According to our book, teachers can help children learn about their emotions through victim-centered discipline. (Bergin & Bergin, 2012) When we teach children how their behavior might affect others, we can help them develop empathy. An example of this would be if a child reacted to another student by hitting him in anger. The teacher would point out that the victim feels sad and hurt because the child hit him or her. This can be a powerful teaching strategy. However, what can a teacher do to help children with these skills before the problem behavior occurs?
Emphasis on teaching social skills is just one component of multiple strategies to support a child at risk for challenging behavior (Fox & Lentini, 2006) Just like any other skill, teachers use many strategies to educate children. We can do the same with social and emotional skills. According to Lise Fox and Rochelle Harper Lentini (2006), social skills that teachers can explicitly teach are:
- Identifying feelings in oneself and others
- Controlling anger and impulses
- Problem solving
- Suggesting play themes and activities to peers
- Sharing toys and other materials
- Taking turns
- Helping adults and peers
- Giving compliments
- Understanding how and when to apologize
- Expressing empathy with others’ feelings
- Learning how to recognizing anger in oneself and others
- Learning how to calm down
- Understanding appropriate ways to express anger
It is important that we teach our students these skills no matter what age or grade we teach. Hamburg (1992) observed that many students have been exposed to attitudes and behaviors that are actually just the opposite of those listed above. Some children are not getting the instruction at home that they need at home before starting school. Over the past few decades, children’s families have changed and evolved and now include non-biological parents and siblings. Because of our changing society, contemporary students may lack basic social, and emotional skills and capabilities previously taken for granted (Hamburg 1992).
One way to teach these social and emotional skills is by following the “Stages of Learning” (Fox & Lentini, 2006): skill acquisition, fluency and maintenance/generalization. When we introduce a new skill, we explain the skill and demonstrate it. Many times, modeling the appropriate and undesirable behavior would be effective. We could also use children’s literature, incidental teaching and games to teach these new skills. Next, teachers would provide practice time. This can be done with small groups and partners. During this time, teachers would walk around giving positive feedback. After skill acquisition, we build fluency by allowing time for more practice over the course of a few days. Then, to ensure maintenance and generalization of a new skill, after introducing the skill and providing practice opportunities, teachers can offer repeated opportunities to practice the skill in familiar and new situations. (Fox & Lentini, 2006)
In addition to the direct instruction we give to our students. Teachers can also make an imperative difference by using emotion contagion and social referencing to help students understand the appropriate ways to regulate their emotions (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Teachers set the tone for the environment, and by being a positive influence and stable emotional aspect in a child’s life; we can change a child’s educational experience by influencing their feelings and thoughts.
Bergin, C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2012). Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Fox, L., & Lentini, R.H. (2006). You Got It! Teaching Social and Emotional Skills. Young Children, 61, 1-7. http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200611/BTJFoxLentini.pdf
Hamburg, D. A. (1992). Today’s Children: Creating a Future for a Generation in Crisis. New York, NY: Times Books.
Odle, Teresa. (2013). Emotional Development. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/emotional-development/#D
- Which specific social and emotional skills do you teach in your classroom? How does this affect your classroom’s behavior or academic problems?
- In what ways do you promote positive emotions in your classroom? How do you react to unwanted behaviors or negative situations?
- How do you deal with the lack of social and emotional skills taught by parents? Do you communicate with parents about these skills and the importance of them?
- Is there a particular student whom you can remember that was affected by their lack of emotional regulation? How did this impact their learning and peer acceptance?
- What would you do if one of your students were constantly disrupting the class by having an emotional outburst? Would you seek another resource?