Sunday, January 7, 2018

HOT TOPIC: Emotional and Social Development

My kids recently taught me how to download and use Bitmoji. 
Bitmoji is designed for you to create a virtual version of yourself that you can use to share a reaction (emotion) and to empathize with others during virtual communications, like text messages or email. I’ve been experimenting with it and like that it bridges the use of text (word only) formats and enhances communication. For example, in situations where I would usually add a smiley or sad face emoji, there is now an opportunity for more sophisticated interaction using words, facial expression, and body language together. This allows for a higher-order level of emotional literacy and a novel pathway to grow in and express our social competence. Emotional and social development matters, according to researchers (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015), beginning as early as kindergarten! It’s also quite a bit of fun!

Why focus on Emotional and Social Development?

Emotional Literacy Impact
Children who can identify and express their emotions are better able to manage strong emotions. Therefore, they often have better relationships with children in their classroom and have better social skills. These are important competencies in school.
Emotion Regulation Impact
When children regulate emotions, they can work in collaborative groups, play with other students, and engage in behaviors such as asking questions, offering ideas to a group, and investigating an idea that supports academic success and positive relationships. Learning to regulate one’s emotions involves learning skills over time that are essential for doing well in school and in relationships.

Did you know? 
Emotional and social development in kindergarten has a lasting impact for our students. According to a 20-year study (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015) conducted in Durham, Nashville, Seattle and central Pennsylvania, teacher-rated social competence was a significant indicator of both positive and negative future outcomes for children.

A few highlights from the study by Jones and colleagues, 2015:
For every one-point increase on the 5-point scale in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she was:
Twice as likely to attain a college degree in early adulthood;
54% more likely to earn a high school diploma; and
46% more likely to have a full-time job at the age of 25.

For every one-point decrease in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she had:
67% higher chance of having been arrested by early adulthood;
82% higher rate of recent marijuana usage; and
82% higher chance of being in or on a waiting list for public housing.

Three things to try in your classroom now!

 A Safe Place
Create a safe place in your classroom.
Notice that the teacher has activities and rules posted in this safe place.
Children will need opportunities to practice learning how to use a safe place. Teachers model and demonstrate how to use a safe place as an effective strategy for regulating emotions and supporting the development of social competence.

Calm Down Tools
A great example of a calm down tool is a calm down bottle. It can be homemade by adding glitter glue, warm water, and regular glitter to a bottle with a leak-proof lid. Then, students can use the calm down bottle as a hands-on strategy for regulating emotions by shaking up the bottle and watching the glitter settle to the bottom.
Children will require practice to learn to use a tool like this, and teachers can model and demonstrate in-the-moment and over time to promote successful use. To see a YouTube demonstration about how to make a calm down bottle, see the YouTube link provided.

Breathing or Counting Strategies
A simple way to help students regulate emotions is to teach them to count slowly to five and/or
take deep breaths. They will need practice to use this strategy when they are faced with a need to regulate their emotions. Teachers can model in-the-moment and scaffold the use of these strategies in an ongoing way. It is helpful to provide prompts as you demonstrate, “Let’s count like we’re in slow motion together” or “Let’s take a big breath together.”

Additional resources from the NCDPI Office of Early Learning:
Emotional Literacy Quick Guide
Emotion Regulation Quick Guide

Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., & Crowley, M. (2015). Early social-emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American Journal of Public Health, 105(11), p 283-290. Retrieved November 17, 2017:

Join the #NCAEEchat on Thursday, January 11th from 8:00-9:00 on Twitter as we discuss Emotional and Social Development. 

About the Author:
Dr. Cindy Dewey serves on the Board of Directors for NCAEE as the NCDPI At-Large Director. At NCDPI, Cindy serves as an education consultant in the Office of Early Learning on the K-3 Formative Assessment Team. Cindy’s teaching experiences span several states and include elementary, middle, high school, and university levels. This is Cindy’s fifth year serving NCAEE.

This is the second blog post on this topic by Dr. Dewey, click here for the first blog: