Teaching Social and Emotional Skills Through Shared Book Readings

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Shared reading is one of the most powerful and versatile tools in a teacher’s toolbox. This is because the way a teacher reads a book can make a huge difference in what students take away from the experience. For example, if a teacher, while reading, ‘peppers in’ 3-5 comments about the letters or words on the page, students learn more about letters, even while they continue to enjoy the narrative and story. Or, if a teacher pauses while reading to ask questions about the story and talks with children after the story to further extend the book, students’ vocabulary and language skills grow faster as a result of these interactions. In fact, using books in an interactive way creates a platform for teaching all types of different content.

Many books geared for kindergarten students provide rich opportunities for social and emotional learning when you emphasize to students how the characters in these stories have feelings just like them, and how they also face challenges with managing their emotions and behavior, getting along with others, and making friends!

Using the social and emotional content of stories to generate large- and small-group discussions is a fantastic way to help your students build the vocabulary and strategies they will need in order to understand, manage, and communicate their emotions as well as navigate social situations with peers and adults.

Here are two of our favorite books for teaching about emotions!

Interested in winning a copy to use in your classroom?
Read on to the end of this post to enter in our raffle!

In addition to the stories above, there are countless books, both fiction and non-fiction, from which social and emotional themes and discussions can be drawn.

Many basic strategies to support students’ higher-level thinking skills and language skills during reading can be focused specifically on social-emotional content within books. As you are reading with your students, try using the strategies below to focus on the ideas of perspective-taking, empathy, and social problem solving:

  1. Consider text-to life connections: What would you do if (a particular event in the story) happened to you?
  2. Help students go beyond the book or make inferences: How do you think (a character) felt when (an event) happened?
    • Once your students are able to identify the character’s feeling, see if they can predict what the character might do next based on how they are feeling!
  3. Have students engage in hypotheticals which build upon the book: Would you have treated (a character) the same way that the other characters in the book did?
    • Why or why not? What would you have done differently?
  4. Have students engage in ‘what if’ scenarios that extrapolate from the book: If you and (a character) were friends, what might you do to try and help her/him feel better?

Here are examples of questions that may help to spark a broader discussion about identifying feelings and the contexts in which they may be felt:

  • Can you think of a time you felt the way (a character) was feeling?
  • What does it look like when someone feels ______?
  • How does their face look?
  • How does their body look?
  • How does your body feel when you are feeling _______?
  • Where do you feel it in your body?

These discussion questions can easily be transformed into prompts for drawing and writing activities, as well as math and science activities! For example, you could:

  1. Encourage students to create their own feelings books based on feelings you discussed during your book reading! Each page can be dedicated to a particular emotion word, and students can draw people, events, or things that make them feel that emotion.
  2. Ask your students to make a prediction about how many individuals in the classroom are feeling one of four different emotions (e.g. calm, excited, sad, or angry). Then have students place sticky notes or color in squares on a graph to indicate the way they are feeling, and count up the number of students in each category. Have students explain their predictions, and discuss the outcome and students’ reasons for feeling the way they do.

Finally, remember to enter our raffle!! Lucky winners will be mailed a copy of one of the books mentioned in this post.
The deadline to enter is Tuesday, January 29th, 2019. Please click on the link below to fill out our entry form!



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

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