Promoting Social Skills

Students’ interactions with their peers are important not only in their development of positive relationships, but also in their emerging attitudes toward school. A student who frequently gets in arguments with their classmates, for example, is less likely to look forward to going to school than a student who has mostly positive experiences with their peers. This week, we focus on the role that teachers can play in encouraging positive peer interactions by 1) supporting friendship skills, and 2) promoting problem-solving.

Supporting Friendship Skills

Children cannot develop positive peer relationships unless they have a basic understanding of the skills needed to relate to others. These include taking turns, waiting patiently, sharing, listening to others, and being flexible (among many others!).

One way to introduce and promote social skill development is through the use of the “Super Friend” visual cue. Using the concept and story of a superhero, students are taught the characteristics (i.e., social skills) of what it means to be a “Super Friend.” This strategy not only provides a fun and concrete introduction to friendship skills, but also serves as a quick and easy way to cue students of these behaviors when they need a reminder throughout the day. For ideas on how to integrate “Super Friend” throughout your classroom, see the Introduction to Super Friend Activity Guide.

Promoting Problem-Solving

Kindergartners are in the early stages of developing their ability to control their emotions and behaviors. So no matter how many “Super Friends” you have in your class, there are bound be some peer challenges. In addition to supporting friendship skills, it is important to help students recognize what to do when running into problems with peers.

One way to help guide students through peer conflict is by using the “Solution Kit” – a variety of problem-solving strategies in the form of visual cues. Similar to “Super Friend,” these visuals can serve as a tangible, quick, and easy way to remind students of different strategies for solving problems in-the-moment when they need them most. For ideas on how to integrate the “Solution Kit” throughout your classroom, see the Introduction to the “Solution Kit” Activity Guide.

When it comes to preparing your students for future success, social skills are as important to focus on developing as academic skills. Cooperating with others and managing disagreements are critical skills for working in groups and maintaining safe and positive school communities, and taking the time to work on these skills with your students will provide benefits now and for years to come!

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.

Geometry: Shape Recognition and Properties

Recognizing shapes and their properties is an essential skill we use daily in our lives. In kindergarten, learning this skill is not just about identifying shapes in an isolated way, but really seeing how they connect to the physical world we live in.

Source: iStock/Jnovack7

For example, during an outside walk, students can find triangle shapes on the playground, rectangular-shaped windows on a building, and circular utility access holes.

Recognizing shapes helps children describe and organize the world around them, which is an important skill they’ll use later on in other content areas such as biology, chemistry, engineering, and so many more.


Shape recognition is all about being able to distinguish between different shapes, and associate shapes with their names. For example, when a teacher shows a student a group of shapes and asks, “which one is a hexagon”? if the student can point to the hexagon, we can gather that she recognizes that shape.

As students become more experienced at recognizing different shapes, they will begin to pay attention to, and eventually be able to identify, a shape’s properties. As you know, shape properties are the key mathematical characteristics of a shape—the number of sides, length of sides, number of angles, and size of angles. For example, the properties of a square are that it has four sides that are all the same length and that it has four right angles. No other shape has that combination of attributes.

When students start to identify shapes by attributes rather than their general appearance, it signals a big shift in their thinking. They are moving from visual reasoning – where they focus on a shape’s overall appearance, to analytic reasoning, where they’re able to see similarities between different examples of a shape. Five-year-olds have typically made this shift, and understand that shapes have sides and angles and that the number of each of these is what defines a shape. For example, if you ask a kindergartner how they know that a shape is a triangle, most will be able to tell you, “because it has three sides and three angles.”


Provide opportunities for students to compose and decompose shapes.

Composing shapes is about exploring how shapes can be fit together to create larger shapes.  Decomposing shapes is about exploring how larger shapes can be split apart into smaller shapes. Students’ understanding of how to compose and decompose shapes draws on their understanding of characteristics of shapes and how shapes are related to one another. It also provides the foundation for understanding that three dimensional shapes are composed of two dimensional shapes. Allowing children opportunities to practice composing and decomposing shapes leads to the development of this important skill.

Tangram puzzles provide a great opportunity for students to practice putting shapes together to create a picture. This requires students to rotate, combine, and change shapes, to complete the puzzles.

Source: iStock/anaken2012

In this video, an instructor shows how to make tangram puzzles from paper. Another fun way to incorporate tangram puzzles into daily routines is to cut up sandwiches during snack or lunch time into tangram puzzle pieces (encourage parents to try this activity with their children at home)! Click here to access instructions and fun tips for creating sandwich tangram puzzles. Finally, PBS Learning Media© has a fun interactive and free game, Cyberchase that digitally explores the features of the tangram. Click here to access the online game Cyberchase.

Click here to access our comprehensive guide focused on the geometry skill of Shape Recognition and Properties. In this document, you can find many more strategies and activities to support your students’ geometry skills.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

Shared Reading: A Powerful Practice to Support Literacy

We know the importance of providing our students with a strong diet of literacy fundamentals: phonological awareness, alphabet/sound knowledge, concepts about print, and concept of word in text. A challenge we sometimes face, however, is that students show skills in these areas during isolated activities, but we don’t see them making the leap to using those skills in the context of more naturalistic reading situations. In fact, many of our students need intentional and explicit support in taking what they know and applying it in the context of reading. One technique to foster connections is Shared Reading.

Source: iStock/FatCamera

What is Shared Reading?

Shared reading is a process of actively involving students in naturalistic reading opportunities such as storybooks, charts, big books, diagrams, morning message, etc. We are going to focus on a particular approach in which you:

  • Read and reread an enlarged text, such as a big book or chart.
  • Focus on particular skills within an overall text.

Why should I do Shared Reading?

To offer students explicit support in building a bridge between what they know and how to use what they know. 

How do I do Shared Reading?

  • Day 1: Introduce and read the text, pointing to the words. Engage students with the book’s story and content.
  • Days 2 and 3: Reread the text together and use it to focus on particular skills.
  • To see an example of a teacher implementing Shared Reading, click here.

What kind of text should I use for Shared Reading?

  • Books with interesting, enlarged print, such as print in various sizes and colors, or print within pictures
  • Patterned, predictable, or otherwise easily memorized text
  • Big books, charts, sentence strips on a pocket chart, or a refrain from read aloud or a song 

How do I choose a particular text for Shared Reading?

  • Different texts lend themselves to different goals, so first, consider your instructional goals (e.g., if students need practice applying knowledge of particular letters/sounds, choose a text that contains those letters as beginning sounds).

What are the best instructional goals to have during the Shared Reading?

  • It depends on what your students need! Shared reading is best done as a supplement to a systematic literacy curriculum because you know what you have already taught. This knowledge allows you to observe areas in which students are not yet consistently using what you have taught them, so you can tailor the shared reading experience to their learning needs.
  • Click here for some examples of what you might observe and how you might enact instruction.

What else should I think about for Shared Reading?

Planning and Organization:

  • Use the same text with the whole class, then the following week, use it with small groups.

    Source: iStock/monkeybusinessimages
  • Use personal readers (individual notebooks) for text-only copies.
  • Use the same materials in workstations/centers after using them in shared reading.
  • Connect what students already know to what they need to learn.
  • With your teammates, create a list of available texts and a chart with text features (e.g., particular beginning consonants, multi-syllabic words, rhyming words) to use in planning future shared reading lessons.

During Instruction:

  • Model your thinking with explicit language. For example, for the word “fast,” you might say, “I see an F at the beginning of that word. F says /fff/. Oh, I know, that word is ‘fast.’ Let me read up to it to double-check.” Then reread the text as you point to the words until you get to the word “fast.” Then you might say, “Yes, that is ‘fast.’ Fast starts with /fff/. I see F at the beginning, and I said that word when I pointed to it.”
  • Repeat your focus on a specific skill 3-5 times during reading.
  • Allow students to speak up. Let students point to the text while you comment. Or, ask students questions. A balance of literal questions (e.g., “What does this word start with?”) and higher-level questions (e.g., “How did you know that word was ‘lion?’”) is important.
  • Give students specific praise. Saying something like, “Yes, you knew that L says /l/ and lion starts with /l/ and that’s how you knew the word was lion.” Have students check that they are correct by reciting the text while pointing to the word in question.

Shared Reading is one way to share books with students across the kindergarten day as you focus on the identified needs of your students.

For further information:

To read more about Shared Reading, click here.

To watch a webinar, Integrating Emergent Literacy Instruction Using Shared Reading, login to your PALS Account (Resources tab, Webinar page, Recorded Webinars section).

Research Articles:

Button, K., & Johnson, M. (1997). The role of shared reading in developing effective early reading strategies. Reading Horizons, 37(4), 261-273.

Piasta, S.B., Justice, L.M., McGinty, A.S., & Kaderavek, J. (2012). Increasing young children’s contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child Development, 83, 810–820.

Zucker, T.A., Ward, A.E., & Justice, L.M. (2009). Print referencing during read-alouds: A technique for increasing emergent readers’ print knowledge. The Reading Teacher, 63(1), 62-72.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

Using Calm-Down Strategies

In a previous post, we discussed strategies for helping your students  1) identify and 2) measure their emotions using the Feelings Chart and the Feelings Thermometer. This week, we shift our focus to the third and final step – helping students 3) manage their emotions.

Source: iStock/Little Girl Posing

After recognizing what it is that they are feeling, students need to know what to do with these feelings. Have you ever tried to reason with one of your students after their drawing accidentally gets ruined? How about when they have just been told that there isn’t enough time to play their favorite game? Most likely, it didn’t go so well! Just like adults, it’s hard for children to control what they do and say when their emotions become too strong. Calm-Down Strategies refer to different ways for students to calm their bodies when they are feeling (or starting to feel) overwhelmed by an emotion. Read on to explore some example strategies.

Calm-Down Strategies

  • Help student slowly count to ten.
  • Work through some deep belly breathing:

Breathe in for 2 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, breathe out for 3-4 seconds, repeat.

  • Use the Turtle Technique:

Guide students through four calm-down steps alongside “Tucker Turtle.” Materials can be found here. (For a refresher, see Introduction to the Turtle Technique.)

  • Progressive muscle relaxation:

Talk student through tighten and release of different body parts one at a time (e.g., clench and release toes, then legs, then thighs, etc.).

  • Calm-down phrases:

Say aloud or repeat a phrase that provides comfort and reassurance (e.g., “I’m right here with you.”, “We’ll get through this together.”).

  • Mental imagery:

Ask student to picture and describe aloud a favorite place or memory.

  • Take a break:

Provide a “calm-down spot” where students can take a break and regroup, or give opportunity to take a quick walk.

  • Alternative activity:
Source: iStock/Nadezhda1906

Provide opportunity to draw, color, listen to music, read a book, etc.

  • Fidget toys:

For those who could benefit from sensory input, have items available to channel their energy into (e.g., play-dough, stress ball).

Remember! Calm-Down strategies aren’t just for when students are at their limit. In fact, it is just as important to use these strategies when you notice an emotion starting to build in order to prevent it from becoming too strong!

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Development of Patterning Skills

From a very young age, children tune in and look for patterns in their surroundings.  For example, a bedtime routine is a pattern of events children often recognize…bath, story time, and then bed. Another such pattern is when we eat…breakfast, lunch, and then dinner. As children begin to recognize such patterns, it allows them to make educated guesses, or hypotheses, about what comes next.

As you know, a pattern is a predictable sequence that results from correctly applying a rule. For example, if we look at the picture below, we see an AAB pattern:

Of course, there are many different types of patterns. The snacks above are an example of a repeating AAB pattern. But, there are other patterns, like increasing patterns, where the pattern “grows” (see image below of an increasing pattern that is growing by one block), or decreasing patterns (e.g., 50, 45, 40, 35. . .).

Source: iStock/kunjiang

Key Skills and Concepts

  • Students need to understand that in patterns there is always an element that should come “next” and that this element can always be figured out through the pattern.
  • Students also need to understand that because they will always know what comes next, the pattern will keep going on indefinitely.

Strategies to Support Development of Patterns

Reading the elements of the pattern

This strategy is about having students look at and say each element, or individual part of a pattern, from one side to the other (usually from left to right, just like reading words; although, patterns can also be “read” from right to left). Doing this helps support their ability to duplicate, extend, and create patterns on their own, especially when they get stuck.

Examination of spatial relationships between patterns

Instead of reading each element of a pattern to determine what comes next, such as orange, red, blue, yellow, orange, red, blue, ?, our second strategy helps focus students on what the last element is, in this case, yellow. Then, you can ask a student to find another place in the pattern where that element exists (visually point to the blue dot), and ask a question like “What do you see “after” this blue dot.” This often helps students see that the next symbol would be a yellow dot.


Integrating Patterns throughout the Day

Patterns are an easy math skill to integrate throughout the day.

Attendance: During attendance, create a pattern when calling students’ names. For example, boy, girl, girl, boy, girl, girl, and so on. Ask students to identify the pattern.

Transitions: When students are lining up for outdoor time, use things such as the color of their shirts to create a pattern. For a challenge, do not finish the pattern, but rather ask your students to help you finish (or extend) the pattern with the remaining students.

Literacy: Growing patterns can be trickier than repeating patterns for students. There are many books that provide great examples of growing patterns, where new characters are introduced on each page. When reading these types of books, encourage students to identify the growing pattern—and, use a pictograph to help them track the pattern throughout the book. Click HERE to see several examples of teachers encouraging students to describe a growing pattern in their books, and using pictographs to help them visualize the growing pattern!

When students develop early patterning skills in your classroom, they’re on track to continue developing these important skills into adulthood.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

Modifying Activities and Environments

Source: iStock/demaerre

Have you noticed one or more of your students quickly losing interest when you begin a particular activity? Or maybe you’ve realized that there are certain activities or times of day when challenging behaviors seem to always occur. When you sense that student disengagement is becoming a pattern (whether for one student, several, or many) it may be a sign to shake things up!

Modifying activities and environments to meet the unique needs of your students can make a big difference in your classroom. By being intentional in how you plan activities, adapt tasks, and organize your classroom, you are creating a learning atmosphere that helps maximize engagement in learning and encourages persistence during new and challenging tasks! Below are a few tips to help guide your thinking around small changes that you can make to provide large benefits for your students.

Planning activities

Make sure your activities:

  • Incorporate students’ unique interests and strengths.
  • Incorporate movement! Do not expect students to sit still and quietly for more than 15 minutes at a time.
  • Give students choice whenever possible (see Guide to Allowing Choice).
Source: iStock/vgajic

Adapting tasks

If you notice a student losing interest in the task at hand, make sure that they are being challenged just enough!

  • Give more chances to get involved by using open-ended questions, offering choice, and providing opportunities for students to take the lead/act things out.
  • Be on the lookout for students who are struggling and may need extra support.
  • And, be on the lookout for students who are prone to finishing early or who feel that the activity is “too easy.”

Organizing the classroom

For those areas in the classroom where students tend to have trouble staying engaged or remembering the rules, here are some suggestions:

  • Add additional visual cues around the room to provide students with reminders of what is expected in particular areas (see Guide to Using Cues and Visuals).
  • Place or position furniture in a way that separates different activity centers to minimize distractions.
  • Provide flexible seating options or fidget materials for students who need a little more motion to stay engaged in certain tasks.

For more ideas, see Guide to Modifying Activities and Environments.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

Numeracy: Recognizing and Writing Numerals

Source: istock/petrzurek

A student’s early abilities to recognize numbers and understand what they represent very much depend on their exposure to these ideas at home and school. They develop gradually with increased practice connecting verbal and written symbols with each other and with concrete mathematical situations.

In kindergarten, children are working on recognizing and writing numerals in three key ways:

      • Constructing mental images of numerals
      • Connecting a numeral with the quantity it represents, and
      • Writing numerals to intentionally convey meaning

A big part of recognizing and writing numerals is knowing what they look like. Many numerals look really similar (e.g., 6 and 9), so it’s helpful for students to construct mental images of them. For example, if we look at the number 3, we might describe it by saying it’s made up of two little curves. Or, for the number 8, we could say it looks like a snowman.

Once students are able to recognize a numeral and know its name, they can begin to connect it to the quantity it represents. For example, when a child sees a group of soccer balls (five of them), he’s able to connect the numeral 5 to them.

Finally, after students know what numerals look like, and understand that they each represent a certain quantity, they’ll begin to work on the third concept: Writing numerals to intentionally convey meaning. Play the video below to see a student writing a numeral to record the result of counting objects.


When students are first learning to write numbers, they might write some backwards, like 7 and 9, but, with support and repetition, they’ll eventually learn how to form all of the numerals correctly.

By the end of kindergarten, students have really progressed in their ability to recognize and write numbers! They are typically able to read, write, and represent numbers from 0 through 20 and associate those numerals with a quantity (VA K SOLs).

How can you support students to recognize and write numerals?

Provide multiple representations of numbers:

You can support a students’ ability to recognize numerals by providing multiple representations of a number. For a given quantity, provide the numeral and a set of objects or a set of images that corresponds to the quantity. When students can see these different representations, it highlights that numerals aren’t random symbols, but that they’re meaningful and represent different quantities.

Here are a two specific activities that you can do with students that involve providing multiple representations of numbers.

Source: UVA STEP

Activity 1: Number chart

      1. Create a number chart that includes: a) a pictorial representation of each number, b) the numeral, and c) the written number word.
      2. Create cards with different numbers of objects.
      3. Ask students to match the cards with the correct numbers on the number chart.
      4. For students who need more of a challenge, you can use larger numbers and cover the written number words, provide those on cards, and ask students to place the number words in the correct places on the number chart.

Activity 2: Play Hopscotch!

As spring and warmer weather approach, you can also incorporate recognizing numerals into a fun game of Hopscotch!

Source: iStock/Nadezhda1906
  1. Point out a numeral on a hopscotch board.
  2. Ask a student what numeral you are pointing to and have the student jump (or do another body movement) that many times.
  3. For some challenge, use the written number words instead of the numeral.

In our comprehensive guide focused on numerals, you can find many more strategies and activities to support your students’ numeracy skills.

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1

Where are they now?

More than half of the school year has gone by, and your students have been learning so much—how to connect letters to their corresponding sound, compare quantities, complete activities independently, and cooperate with peers. As we head into the second half of the school year, it is time to check-in to see how your students have progressed across the year. While we are going to focus specifically on students’ self-regulation and social skills, you will likely want to do the same for students’ math skills!

This week, we encourage you to revisit how you rated your students in self-regulation and socials skills on the CBRS from the Fall and ask yourself, “Where are they now?” Are there students who have made leaps and bounds in their skill development to share and take turns? Are some students still struggling to follow classroom rules?  By looking at how you rated your students in the fall and comparing to their skill development at this point in time, you can better individualize your instruction and provide extra scaffolding to students who need it. This way, you can make sure that all of your students are receiving the supports they need to be as successful as possible in school.

Self-Regulation and Social Skills Check-In

1. REFLECT by looking back at students’ self-regulation and social skills scores from the fall and thinking about where their skills are now. What have you observed and learned about your students? How have they grown in their social-emotional development? It may be particularly helpful to fill out the CBRS again and compare your current responses side-by-side to those from the fall. For a refresher on these skills, see the Self-Regulation and Social Skills overview guides.

2. IDENTIFY which students are still struggling to regulate their actions and emotions and/or interact with their peers and/or teachers.

3. OBSERVE the behavior of the students who you’ve identified. See Guide to Observing Children’s Behavior for tips and strategies on how to best make use of this time and how to use this information to be intentional moving forward.

4. PLAN what efforts you can take to help scaffold students’ individual needs. Consider revisiting the different self-regulation and social skills strategies and activities in the Recommended Resources section of your VKRP portal. Consult with your school team to get ideas and/or decide if a student needs additional assessment or support. See below for a few ideas and suggestions!

For a student who…

Is easily distracted and sidetracked…
– See Guide to Using Cues and Visuals for simple ways to redirect their attention
– See Guide to Modifying Activities and Environments for ideas on how to create an environment that reduces distractions

Is very active and/or has trouble controlling behavior…
– See Guide to Using Reinforcement for ways to support positive behavior
– See Guide to Using Cues and Visuals for simple ways to cue behavior
– See Guide to Playing Games for ways to practice behavior regulation

Struggles to follow directions…
– See Guide to Using Effective Commands for ways to encourage compliance
– See Guide to Allowing Choice for ideas on how to help them feel that they have a say

Has difficulty sharing and/or taking turns…
– See Guide to Supporting Friendship Skills for ways to promote use of prosocial skills
– See Guide to Promoting Problem-Solving for conflict resolution strategy ideas
– See Guide to Using Reinforcement for ways to support prosocial behavior

Is easily upset or overwhelmed…
– See Guide to Handling Emotions for ways to encourage emotion identification and regulation

Struggles to join-in activities with peers…
– See Guide to Peer Pairing for a way to encourage and facilitate positive peer interaction
– See Guide to Supporting Friendship Skills for ways to promote use of prosocial skills

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext.

Numeracy: Number Comparison and Ordering

A Closer Look…  

Source: Erikson Institute

Comparing numbers is a student’s skill to determine whether one number is more than, less than, or the same amount as another number. Or, whether the number of objects in a set has more, less, or the same as another.

Ordering numbers is a student’s skill to arrange a group of numbers from largest to smallest, or smallest to largest. To do this, a student first has to be able to compare amounts, so one part of this skill really builds on the other.

In order to compare and order amounts, children need to understand some key concepts:
1. Understanding language used to compare and order
2. Knowing how to use counting to compare and order numbers
3. Using “number after” knowledge

1. In order to make comparisons and order things, children have to be familiar with the language we use to do this. When a student sees two groups of objects, they need to know words like “more”, “less”, “larger”, “smaller”, “greater than”, and “less than”. When it comes to ordering numbers, students have to be familiar with what we call “ordinal words”, which is just a fancy way of saying words that represent position or rank in a sequential order, like “first”, “second”, and “third”.

2. To compare and order, students also need to use counting. Students need to understand that as we count higher the number words later in the sequence represent larger quantities. It sounds logical but without being able to count the objects in two groups and know that, for example, seven represents a greater quantity than five, we can’t successfully compare and determine which one has more or less.

3. To compare numbers more quickly and efficiently, students need to apply the third key concept, using “number after” knowledge. All this means is that a student can enter the counting sequence at any point and specify the next number instead of counting from one. So, when we ask a student “What comes after 8”, the student can immediately say “9”, instead of having to count from the beginning.

Students who understand these three concepts can efficiently answer the question, “Which is more, six or nine?” They know what more means, they know that 9 represents a greater quantity than 6, and they can do it quickly if they know nine comes after six in the counting sequence.

Supporting Students’ Comparing Skills

Some students will be able to compare groups of objects simply by subitizing, or quickly looking at each group, and knowing how many there are in them, and then use their knowledge of the number sequence to determine which group has more or less. Click here to see a video of a student with a solid understanding of number comparison. Notice in the first example, how he subitizes the number of blocks the teacher has, and quickly makes a set with the same number. Later, he is even able to tell the teacher how many more blocks she has than him.

Early on, children are able to visually compare two groups of objects and determine which has more. But, this only works when the groups are small (e.g., 1 apple versus 2), or really different from each other (e.g., a pile with 1 toy truck and a pile with 10 toy trucks).

However, sometimes students will need to compare two groups that are more similar in size (e.g., a group of 7 and 8), or, groups that are both large (e.g., a group of 12 and 15).

One way to support students’ ability to compare is to encourage students to use matching – pairing one object from one group to one object in the other group until all the objects in one of the groups has been matched. Now students can see that the group with objects left over has more. As students’ skills grow, they will be able to tell you how many more or fewer one group has than another, as the student in the video did. These are students’ early addition and subtraction skills at work.

Click here for additional strategies to support students’ understanding of Comparing and Ordering numbers!

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext.

Understanding and Identifying Emotions

It’s a familiar scene in the kindergarten classroom – you’re working on writing by helping a student narrate his drawing when all of the sudden you hear, “GIVE IT BACK!” from across the room. You look up to see Ella, red-faced with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Moments like these – where emotions take center stage – happen often in the kindergarten classroom. Students are working hard to learn new skills while also needing to be more self-sufficient than ever before. What if there was a way that we could not only help students ‘get through’ these moments, but turn them into learning opportunities to promote social-emotional development? Below we describe two strategies that give you a framework for helping students manage their strong emotions and also help encourage children’s own understanding of emotions.

Click on this image to open a full-sized, printable version!

 Feelings Chart

Before children can manage their emotions, they must be able to identify what they are feeling. Encouraging students to connect their feelings to language helps them make sense of their experience.

  • What is a Feelings Chart? A Feelings Chart is a visual representation of different emotions, typically with pictures and/or text.
  • Why Should I Use It? Using a Feelings Chart is one way to help make the abstract concept of ‘emotion’ more concrete, hands-on, and meaningful for your students (not to mention fun!). In addition, the more that you incorporate emotion language throughout the day, the more familiar and comfortable students will become using it.
  • How Can I Use It? Display the Feelings Chart in a prominent classroom location so that you can easily reference it. There are lots of ways to use a Feelings Chart throughout the day. For example…
    • Have a “Feelings Check-In” at the same time every day (e.g., snack time, morning meeting), where you ask each student to identify what emotion they are feeling (and why). This helps them get into the practice of thinking about and reflecting on emotions.
    • As you observe students experiencing specific emotions throughout the day (positive and negative), pause and encourage them to identify what emotion they are feeling in-the-moment. Take it a step further by prompting them to also identify why they are feeling a certain emotion.
    • See Introduction to the Feelings Chart for a suggested activity to kick-off using the Feelings Chart in your classroom.

Feelings Thermometer

Click on this image to open a full-sized, printable version!

Once able to identify what emotion they are feeling, it is important for students to measure the intensity of their emotion. Recognizing when an emotion is starting to get “bigger” is key to 1) preventing that emotion from escalating further and 2) recognizing when it’s time to take a step back or calm-down.

  • What is a Feelings Thermometer? A Feelings Thermometer is another useful visual that uses a familiar analogy of a thermometer to represent different levels or “temperatures” (small, medium, big) of an emotional experience.
  • Why Should I Use It? Just like with the Feelings Chart, the Feelings Thermometer is one way to make the abstract concept of emotion more concrete and understandable for students. Children (and adults, too!) don’t always have the words or ability to describe the intensity of an emotional experience, and having this simple visual to reference can go a long way in promoting their emotional understanding.
  • How Can I Use It? Display the Feelings Thermometer near the Feelings Chart, and when appropriate, reference the two in conjunction with one another – after identifying an emotion, prompt students to measure the intensity of that emotion. Take it a step further by asking them how they can tell an emotion is at a certain level.

Learning the skills needed for emotional regulation is just as important as learning the skills needed for math and reading. When students are able to recognize, identify, and manage their feelings, they are better able to actively participate and engage in your classroom!

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.