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November 29, 2022

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The building blocks of ECE: A child’s social-emotional development

The Early Childhood Program at Shanghai Community International School immerses children in an atmosphere of wonder and growth.

In one of the four areas taught in early childhood education, social-emotional development is where children learn the values and behaviors accepted by society, while also becoming competent and confident to succeed in school and life. Julie Nicol, kindergarten teacher at SCIS Hongqiao ECE, tells us more about the importance and value of social-emotional development at the ECE.

What is social-emotional in child development?

When we look at the Primary Years Program and the Approaches to Learning, there are three main things that address social-emotional learning: social skills, communication skills and self-management skills. I like to look at those three as the development of children. When we look at social skills, it’s how we interact with people, how to share and take turns, how to identify our emotions, how to identify the emotions of other people, and these are taught skills we teach children to learn and to strengthen.

What social-emotional skills do the children learn throughout the ECE?

One of the curriculums we use at the ECE is called Teaching Strategies Gold, and that’s what we use to monitor progress in nursery, preschool and pre-kindergarten. In terms of social-emotional development, it includes regulating emotions and behaviors, establishing and sustaining positive relationships, and participating cooperatively and constructively in groups. Because it is a spectrum of development, students work on deepening each of those skills in different ways as they age. For example, nursery students may respond to others’ expressions of wants, while in pre-school they may begin taking turns. Once in pre-kindergarten, they might begin initiating sharing of materials, and in kindergarten, they move into cooperative group play.

How do teachers help children who struggle in developing these social-emotional skills?

One thing that ECE teachers love here is “Play Plans” — simply, plans for play. This is helpful for children who struggle with forming long friendships overtime.

A Play Plan can be beneficial in this situation by giving more structure in the day such as selecting one classmate to play for 10 minutes and switching to another classmate. It’s a visual plan to help give the child guidance and focus on improving that specific skill.

We also use a program called “Second Step,” which is a great tier-1 resource that we use for everybody but can also be applied to students that might need a little support in identifying emotions and solving problems. If there is a conflict of any kind, they can use the skills learned in Second Step by using small groups to work together on a certain skill such as sharing or taking turns.

How can parents help their child’s social-emotional development outside of school?

One thing we often talk about during parent-teacher conferences is the chance of their child socializing with other children outside of school. It can be going to the compound playground, hanging out with other children of different ages, or setting up playdates with other children. These social settings will give children the opportunity to practice these social-emotional skills more. Anytime we see a child struggling to interact with other students, not sure how to join games, or some social-regulation struggles, we often ask parents “how often are they with other children outside of school?” If they are mostly spending their time with adults, they aren’t getting as much as a chance to practice these skills and to put them into place.


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