Two Simple Ways to Support Social-Emotional Development

Developing the abilities to self-regulate and use prosocial skills are critical developmental tasks for kindergartners, but it is not always easy! As a teacher, you can play an important role in promoting these skills. Being intentional in how you direct and respond to students can go a long way in not only building these foundational social-emotional skills, but in fostering your relationship with students as well. The following two strategies are simple, yet extremely effective ways to cater your daily interactions with students to help shape and guide their behavior and development of social-emotional skills.

Catch Them Being Good!

While it is natural to pay more attention to students’ negative behaviors, be sure to acknowledge the positive behaviors your students display, too. In fact, child development experts recommend giving 5 positive statements for every 1 negative or constructive statement. Your students want your attention, and when they are acknowledged for doing something positive, they will be more likely to repeat this behavior in the future. (See Guide to Using Reinforcement.)

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Examples of Using Positive Reinforcement:

  • During small groups: “Emma and Kyle, you two make a great team! It makes me happy to see you two sharing and taking turns.”

  • During snack: “Wow, I love when my students wait so patiently for me to hand out their snacks. Thank you so much!”
Keep It Short and Sweet

Part of being a kindergarten teacher involves directing children’s behavior constantly throughout the school day. While this is unavoidable, it is important to recognize that the way you give instructions, commands, or directions can make a big difference in students’ likelihood of doing what you ask of them. Whenever possible, make sure your instructions are stated simply, clearly, positively, and assertively. (See Guide to Using Effective Commands.)

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Examples of Using Effective Commands:

  • Clearly: Say, “It’s time for recess! Everyone put on your coats and line up at the door.” Rather than, “Okay, time for recess!”

  • Positively: Say, “Please keep your hands to yourself, Charlie.” Rather than, “Charlie, stop hitting!”

  • Assertively: Say, “It’s time to clean up! Please put your toys in the bin.” Rather than, “Are you ready to clean up?” or “Can you put your toys in the bin?”

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