Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Language Spotlight Series: The Importance of Bilingualism in Early Childhood Education

Parents often seek advice from pediatricians and early education professionals on what their children should be learning. By now it’s pretty much common knowledge that reading to young ones is a fundamental tool, as is having frequent conversations with them. These key components teach children the basics for language and communication foundations that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We know this, right?

If communication and language development is such a critical part of a learning foundation, then many have considered expanding that learning base by adding additional languages. Bilingual education – the act of learning two or more languages simultaneously – is growing in popularity across the globe in recent decades because of this theory.

Considering the fact that 21 percent of young children are already immersed in a second language at home (Hanen.org), it’s easy to understand why multiple languages are being introduced earlier and earlier in schools. In addition, a growing number of the general population speak a language other than English, so learning to be bilingual is becoming more of the “norm” today than ever before.

While some have been hesitant to add a second language to their young child’s educational repertoire, others are discovering how highly beneficial it can be. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Learning more than one language is an asset to individuals, families, and our entire society.” In fact, many researchers are encouraging parents to consider adding a bilingual approach to their child’s education for numerous reasons.

When it comes to considering a second language, one misconception is that it may confuse a growing child during the early education stage. It’s easy to understand the basis for these concerns, but researchers have now been able to prove they’re not only incorrect, but the exact opposite is true: bilingual children learn better and faster than other children. (The Hanen Centre)

“Bilingual children are better able to focus their attention on relevant information and ignore distractions” – Hanen.org.

The U.S. Department of Education notes several key benefits to teaching children multiple languages during early childhood. To understand the benefits easier, they broke them down into four basic categories: Cognitive Development, Social-Emotional Development, Learning, and Long-Term Success – all of which, contain major benefits for bilingual children.

Cognitive Development

Perhaps the greatest (and most immediate) benefit parents can witness in children learning a second language involves cognitive development. In fact, the Department of Education states children who begin learning second languages before the age of six will “have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems; developing strong thinking skills; using logic; focusing, remembering, and making decisions; thinking about language; and learning other languages.”

According to their research, becoming bilingual serves as a means to sharpen (not confuse) young minds. Essentially, it helps children form a basis for processing more complex tasks and learning processes throughout the rest of their life. Bilingualism builds a solid (and organized) foundation of cognitive development when introduced during early childhood education.

Social-Emotional Development

Since over one-fifth of the population in the United States consists of multilingual families already, broadening this language experience during school hours only serves to enrich family and community ties. By enveloping the multilingual and multicultural approach outside of family doors, communities grow tighter bonds and understanding with one another.

“Being bilingual supports children in maintaining strong ties with their family, culture, and community. Bilingual children are also able to make new friends and create strong relationships using their second language,” according to the U.S. Department of Education. By bridging the communication gap between languages, bilingual children are able to understand and connect with more individuals, building even stronger friendships within their schools and communities.

In addition to building community relations, research has also shown that bilingual children learn better focus and self-control at critical developmental stages. This crucial skill plays out with overall improved communication experiences with others and again, allows them to build better relationships than students who learn a single language.

Bilingualism and Learning

For most parents, one of the biggest concerns during the early education phase is kindergarten readiness. There is a lot of question surrounding how to help children be prepared to not only attend kindergarten but excel in it.

One of the best ways you can ensure your child will get the most out of their early childhood experiences is to introduce a second language early on, research shows. In fact, the benefits of bilingualism on the learning process of children are something they will carry with them for the rest of their life.

“Because they are able to switch between languages, they develop more flexible approaches to thinking through problems,” explains the Department of Education. This translates to being able to focus on key elements more easily. It essentially helps children learn how to intake only the important facts while weeding out the information that is otherwise irrelevant. By doing this, it allows children to fine-tune their learning abilities for everything else to come. It’s not difficult to imagine how this skill will be critical to have throughout their lives.

Long-Term Success

If you want to grasp the kind of impact a bilingual education will have on your child, look at current demographics. According to statistics, 50-65 percent of all adults across the globe now speak a language other than English. By those statistics alone, those who speak only English are already in the minority.

What does this mean for your child? Well, being in the language-minority will most certainly limit the opportunities available to your child as they reach adulthood. By limiting their ability to communicate on a multilingual basis, it is simultaneously limiting their qualifications for future successes.

“Globally, bilingual and biliterate adults have more job opportunities than monolingual adults. (They) have the opportunity to participate in the global community in more ways, get information from more places, and learn more about people from other cultures,” explains the Department of Education.

Overall, more and more researchers are proving that introducing additional languages at an early age has an immensely positive impact on children. In addition to an increase in their ability to focus, higher cognitive function, and improved social and cultural relations, bilingualism has also been linked to several other benefits. Some of which include staving off degenerative cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and a higher annual salary bracket as a result of superior career qualifications.

“Recent brain studies have shown that bilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing (Alzheimer’s)… On average, the disease is delayed by four years compared to monolinguals” – Michigan State University News.

This cognitive advantage (as well as the rest of them mentioned above) all boil down to the flexibility and focus that is generated when individuals are immersed in the bilingual world. When bilingual learning begins during the early education years, it has the added benefit of improving their learning potential in multifaceted ways. While adults will still see many of these benefits if picking up a second language later in life, research has shown children stand to benefit the most by becoming bilingual.

If you’re interested in incorporating bilingual learning into your child’s early educational experience, check out these Different Types of Preschool Bilingual Learning for more information.

Will Technology Ruin Your Child's Development?

Will Technology Ruin Your Child’s Development?

Whether it’s screen time or surfing the web, the majority of parents today have questioned the effects of technology on their children. Many have been left feeling rather confused with the immense amount of data on both sides of the debate. Is the internet going to melt the brains of our kiddos by destroying their ability to focus? Or is it going to open up endless possibilities and prepare them for an ultra-successful future?

Since technology led by the internet age is still, in essence, in its own childhood phase, we have limited resources for determining the full effect on developing minds. We don’t have the ability to examine historical patterns nor do we know how fast things will continue to expand. Nevertheless, there is plenty of data out there to help parents make a fully-educated decision.

The fact is, technology is empirically unavoidable today. There are technological devices and influences in virtually every aspect of our lives, and our children are no exception. Technology influences extend much further than video games and cell phones anymore. In fact, many classrooms are well-equipped with laptops, tablets, whiteboards and other devices to supplement their learning experience.

So how do we determine if these devices are helping – or hurting – the development of our children? According to the US National Library of Medicine’s National Institution of Health (NIH), technology has offered us a wide array of both productive and counter-productive outcomes in terms of the effects on developing minds.

In layman’s terms? Technology is both good and bad for our kids and basically, it’s up to us to weed them out. Before you get discouraged, there are methods that will help you sift through the digital drudge, as well as research to back up which methods are helpful and which ones are – well – not so much.

Technology Brain Food

As the NIH explains, if you think of technology’s effects on your child’s development in terms of “nutrition”, it can help you to gain a better perspective on how to sort it out. We know our children need well-balanced daily meals in order to grow physically healthy and strong, right? You wouldn’t feed your kiddos junk food and sweets every day and expect them to be fit as a fiddle. By the same token, technology is full of “nutritious” and “junk food” influences that will affect your child’s cognitive development.

The Junk Food

“Technology conditions the brain to pay attention to information very differently than reading,” says Dr. Jim Taylor, psychologist and professor at the University of San Francisco. According to his article in Psychology Today, the key to weeding out the “junk food” technology lies in monitoring methods that do not require a deep focus. What does this mean? In comparison with reading, surfing the internet for research is basically giving developing minds too much information too fast. In other words, it keeps kids from focusing on one specific concept. Doing so causes an undeveloped sense of understanding children could otherwise grasp from concentrating on a book.

Anything requiring little to no thought to complete (internet surfing, non-educational video games and television programs, etc.) will have a negative impact on the way brain connections are made. In fact, according to Taylor, influences such as the internet will adversely affect the way our children learn. These mediums bypass the need to focus and leave children “only able to focus fleetingly.”

The Vitamins and Minerals

On the flip side, there are many ways in which technology mediums have a profoundly positive impact on developing minds. These ways, which we’ll call the “vitamins and minerals” of technology, have the ability to improve overall development.

Perhaps the most important aspect to consider is to keep in mind that their futures will be filled with technology. This generation is one that will be engulfed in technology in pretty much every aspect of life, so including it from the beginning is giving them the tools they’ll need for a future filled with technological advancements. Think of digital learning tools as preparing your kids for their digital-filled futures.

According to the NIH, content is the most important thing to consider when filtering the vitamins from the junk food. Content, more than the type of device, is the key to finding what your children will benefit from the most. Ensuring whatever outlet they use (tablets, laptops, mobile phones, and yes, even video games), is used wisely, is the key to keeping their cognitive development healthy. Using nourishing content such as educational games, read-along programs, and digital media like interactive whiteboards to promote a learning experience is the difference between a nutritional digital experience and a junk food one.

The Best Historical Sites to Show Children in Hoboken

by Tori Galatro

Hoboken has a rich history. It contains stories about Lenni Lenape Native Americans, Dutch settlers, baseball, land and water transportation, immigration, diversity, and booms and busts of growth and development. There’s something that every age group will find interesting, including children. The City of Hoboken has put a strong emphasis on historical preservation, and a lot of resources are devoted to keeping these treasures intact and accessible to the public. Families have a lot to discover in Hoboken.

The Hoboken Historical Museum

The Hoboken Historical Museum is a great first stop on a historical tour of Hoboken. The museum has a strong emphasis on their children and family guests, featuring storytime, childrens’ nights at the museum, family fun days, holiday concerts, and summer and day camps. The museum is open six days a week and totally free for children. There are rotating exhibits as well as permanent ones, featuring everything from old photographs, to artifacts, to local art.

The Fire Department Museum

The Fire Department Museum is also owned by the Hoboken Historical Museum, and is also free for children. Open Saturday and Sundays from noon to five, children love looking at the old fire trucks and getting a chance to meet some of the firefighter veterans and their dogs. There’s a historical shiny red Ahrens Fox fire engine that children can sit in and ring a big brass bell. The Museum caters to young visitors, and offers storytime and other family-friendly activities.

The Historic Walking Tour

The nice thing about Hoboken history is that so much of it can be explored on foot, simply walking from place to place. This is ideal for children to let out some energy and explore whatever strikes them. You don’t need to worry about your children being noisy and running around when everything is outside!

A guide is available to The Historic Walking Tour on the Hoboken Historical Museum website, and you can adapt your own tour according to what you think your children will find most fun. The tour includes buildings, parks, and monuments.

Children will most likely find the visually stunning sites to be most interesting. This includes an old firehouse, steeples, buildings that look like castles, large brass monuments of historical figures, cathedrals, and the train station terminal. Elysian Park is a stop on the tour, where the first recorded baseball game was played. Daring children will want to peer into Sybil’s Cave, where a body was once found in the 1800s, and which inspired an Edgar Allen Poe story. But don’t fear. The entrance to the cave is completely safe for children. The tour also includes Castle Park, which is the highest point in Hoboken, and offers a breathtaking view of Manhattan. Children love to identify the distant buildings like the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building.

Hoboken has a great history of land and water transportation, so just pointing out the fire trucks, trains, and boats is enough to inspire many young children. There are also so many opportunities to point out historical landmarks while you’re out doing errands, or going on a walk, that aren’t so commonplace in many other cities in the U.S. It’s one of the things that makes Hoboken a great place to live.

The Long-Term Benefits of a Great Preschool

Traditionally, parents and even many educators have often thought of preschool as mainly a place to send kids to socialize, have fun, and get acclimated to a regular schedule. However, more and more research suggests that preschool actually has a profound effect on children’s intellectual and emotional development.

The Surprising Impact of Preschool

Here are some key findings on how preschool plays such an important role in children’s development.

  • According to author and journalist Suzanne Bouffard, preschool may be the most important educational experience of a child’s life. In her book, The Most Important Year, preschool is when children learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In addition to getting introduced to some key academic areas such as reading and math, kids learn social skills such as sharing and cooperating.
  • One of the best-known studies of the long-term advantages of preschool is the Perry Preschool Study, which followed children from the age of 3 all the way to age 40. It turned out that those who participated in a quality preschool program were more likely to graduate high school, hold jobs and had higher earnings than those who didn’t attend the program.
  • Pew Charitable Trusts report that children who attend quality pre-K programs are less likely to be held back a grade and more likely to graduate from high school. Their research also points to the problem of kids getting left behind due to a poor start. Once a child is held back, it’s hard for him or her to catch up. Attending preschool reduces the risks of children getting stuck in such a downward spiral.
  • There’s even evidence that preschools can help to reduce crime. A study conducted in Chicago public schools found that kids who participated in a preschool program were less likely to commit crimes later in life.

There’s little doubt that preschool can make a substantial difference in children’s lives and that the benefits continue all the way into adulthood.

Choosing the Right Preschool

Quite a bit of the research on the benefits of attending preschool specifies that the program must be of a certain quality. The Perry Preschool Study, for example, looked at children who attended a “high-quality preschool program.” The Pew Charitable Trusts research makes a similar qualification, saying “high-quality pre-k increases a child’s chances of succeeding in school and in life.” Thus, the advantages of these programs aren’t necessarily gained by sending kids to any preschool. But how do you evaluate the quality and choose the right one? There are several criteria you can apply.

  • Be clear about what you want from the preschool. Some parents are mainly interested in providing their children with a social experience. Others want them to get a solid head start on reading and academic subjects. When looking at preschools, make sure you select one that matches your needs.
  • Recommendations. Ask other parents whose children attend or have attended a preschool and whether they’d recommend it. When researching preschools, see if they publish any testimonials.
  • Consider the school’s approach or educational philosophy. Some schools are faith-based. Others follow a system such as Waldorf or Montessori. Research the alternatives and find a school whose approach is in alignment with your ideas.
  • Visit the school. It’s always best to visit a school in person. Call a preschool that you’re considering and make an appointment to visit. You can also see if they have any special events where you can meet some of the staff and teachers.

Sending your child to the right preschool can be one of the most important decisions you can make as a parent. Children are ready to absorb all kinds of knowledge and life skills that can be fostered in a preschool environment. Before choosing a preschool, however, make sure you do plenty of research so you find one that’s the ideal match for you and your child.

Tessa International School is a top preschool in Hoboken, NJ, and considers its program to be as high-quality and enriching as they come for young children who deserve the best start. Tessa prepares children to become leaders of the 21st century. For more information, contact us.

Bilingualism Can Help Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

If you’re a parent who has a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), then you’re familiar with how tough it can be for some children to unconsciously shift their attention between tasks. Shifting attention from one task to another is known as task switching or set-shifting and is an executive function that involves specific parts of the brain, like the prefrontal cortex. This brain structure also plays a role in the development of ASD. Recent research suggests that learning a second language may boost cognitive flexibility in areas like this and benefit those with ASD.

What is the Prefrontal Cortex?

The prefrontal cortex is part of the cortex that covers the front part of the frontal lobe. This is an area in the brain that helps you shift your focus and attention, unconsciously, and is also a brain structure that’s involved in ASD’s development. Automatically switching from one task to another without breaking concentration or re-focusing on the new task can be a tad difficult for some children with ASD. New research recently published in Child Development reports that being bilingual may possibly help children with ASD improve their ability to do just that—unconsciously shift their attention between tasks.

Being Bilingual May Increase Cognitive Flexibility

Being bilingual, and having the ability to switch between languages, may help increase cognitive flexibility, especially in children or adults with ASD. Over the past decade scholars and researchers have significantly debated whether having the ability to speak two languages improves executive functions. In fact, the term “bilingual advantage” was eventually coined because so many within the field believed that being bilingual clearly improved the executive system. With advances in technology, brain imaging studies have plainly demonstrated that bilinguals suppress their desire to use certain words from one language, in order to use words and grammar from another. In other words, speaking two languages is a workout for your brain.

Speaking Two Languages May Train the Brain Differently

Bilinguals learn a range of social tasks, such as verbal or non-verbal communication and how to read people. Some researchers think that bilingualism may even enhance some executive functions, like conflict resolution and working in a group, because switching between two languages helps the speaker see the world in different contexts.

Being Bilingual May Help Build Brain Muscle

It seems research is suggesting that speaking two languages may help flex some brain muscles and enable the brain to switch focus from one task to another without even breaking a sweat! So you can imagine, then, why so many within the field are focusing on these new research findings and why they desire to repeat studies with a larger sample size: it has huge implications for those with ASD.

Bilingualism May Even Offer Brain Protection  

Another benefit of being bilingual is that it may help protect the brain from dementia, stroke and brain injury. The thought process is similar: bilingualism boosts cognitive reserve. When executive function begins to decline, like in dementia, being bilingual seems to offer some cognitive protection by keeping parts of the brain fit. In other words, these brain structures may not age as quickly in people who are bilingual because these areas of the brain are more resilient. Whether you have ASD or not, it seems learning a second language can benefit your overall brain health. Just like briskly walking thirty minutes every day helps your heart to stay healthy, being bilingual is a way to stay cognitively fit.  

Being Bilingual Offers Those with ASD an Advantage

It’s evident that current findings may affect families when making educational decisions for their child with ASD. This research is only the beginning; hopefully, families who have a child with ASD will see more rigorous studies from scholars and scientists in the future.

 

How Bilingualism Supports Math Skills in Children

For many students, speaking two languages is a way of life. Navigating the world as a bilingual student provides many rich benefits for learning. Yet while being bilingual has been shown to increase students’ language skills, parents often wonder whether navigating two languages also has an effect on their child’s ability to learn math.

When PBS explored the issue, they found that bilingual students not only solved word problems, but all types of math problems, in a unique way. Unlike students who only spoke a single language, bilingual students were using the visual and spatial parts of their brain while solving the problems. Scientists are still theorizing as to why this is the case. One theory is that students are visualizing the elements of the problems in their heads (in other words, they’re actually creating pictures to represent multiplying apples or two trains leaving a station at different speeds).

As the New York Times reported, bilingual students also have a host of advantages in education, including the ability to focus on demanding tasks and solve difficult kinds of puzzles. By using dynamic language practices (in other words focusing on the all the linguistic strengths of bilingual students), teachers can help students take full advantage of their bilingual strengths. A 2011 study showed that allowing bilingual students to use both languages to discuss and solve problems increased the mathematical productivity of students. The flexibility bilingual students show in switching between languages also grants them an increase in creativity and problem solving that can enhance their math education.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that students, especially bilingual students, have been shown to be ever adaptive to new surroundings. While bilingual students may initially find it easier or faster to solve problems using their first language, research from the University of Texas at San Antonio found that while students tended to solve arithmetic problems in the language they first learned them in, they were more likely to solve word problems in the language they use regularly. Such research indicates that bilingual students may be more adaptable in solving math problems than first believed.

Bilingual students are uniquely prepared to meet the challenges of mathematics head on when supported by strong teachers and parents.

At Tessa International School, we may have a focus on bilingual education, but we also teach the whole child. We believe that each aspect of learning is connected. To find out more, visit our website or learn about our Summer Camp.

Is Your Child Ready for Preschool?

by Tori Galatro

The typical age children enter preschool is 3 or 4 years old to prepare them for kindergarten at age 5. Many parents worry that their child may not have reached the appropriate developmental milestones for preschool, and don’t know when the right moment is. Deciding on the readiness of your child for preschool is not an exact science. No child enters preschool perfectly developed in all areas, and they shouldn’t be. Preschool should challenge them and help them to develop skills they don’t already have. So if they don’t check all of the skill boxes, don’t panic, and you don’t necessarily need to wait either.

However, there will be certain elements your child will have to deal with in preschool. They will be separated from you for multiple hours, asked to follow a routine, and follow simple instructions. In some cases, they may be expected to be potty trained. If they feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or alienated by these demands, that won’t help them to develop those skills any faster. Feeling calm and confident is important to social and emotional development, which helps with every other life skill. If your child is excited to be at preschool, and feels positively about the environment, they are more likely to learn and develop in that environment. It’s totally normal for children to experience separation anxiety and feel overwhelmed or upset, but preschool should not feel consistently scary and negative for long periods of time.

Pay attention to your child’s development and wait for the moment where they reach the happy medium, where the demands of preschool are fun and challenging at the same time. If you’re not sure if they are ready, remember that you can always start helping them to develop these skills at home. They can also begin by going part-time, and increase to full-time at a later date.

Potty Training

Some preschools don’t require that children be potty trained, while others are very strict about it. Either way, it’s a great skill to focus on with your child at home to help them learn other important skills like communicating their needs, personal hygiene, and using self control. Make sure your child understands that hand washing is part of the same activity, no matter where they are or who they’re with.

Concentration, Independence, & Communication

Unlike potty training, these “soft” skills will help your child to participate in activities, have their needs met, and learn from the lessons being taught to them. Help your child to practice doing designated activities for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, do simple chores by themselves, and express themselves verbally, even if they aren’t using complete sentences. Get them to be around other children, even if they aren’t directly interacting yet.

Emotional Coping

Most children need to be eased into being away from their parents for an extended period of time. Few children can be expected to adapt to this right away without a little practice first. Leaving your child with a babysitter of family member is also great practice for you if you’re feeling just as apprehensive as them about the separation.

Energy Levels

Preschool requires some serious energy and the ability to follow a routine. If your child is taking long mid-morning naps and isn’t used to a schedule, a great way to get them ready for preschool is to mimic the routine of preschool at home. Also, making sure they get good quality sleep at night starting at a reasonable hour in the evening, and exercise during the day, will help them stay energized and healthy overall.

The quality of the preschool you choose is just as important to their development as the age they start. At home and at school, your child will learn and grow best if the people around them are showing them care and attention, listening to them, and paying attention to their needs. Again, don’t worry too much that their age match the exact average for their class.

It’s always possible that they could skip a grade later if they are placed in the correct developmental age group now. And remember that if you’re concerned about your child’s development in any way, you should always talk to their doctor. Addressing concerns about their development now, even if that means holding them back, will help them in the future.

 

At Tessa International School, a nurturing, caring and challenging environment is who we are. Potty training is not required for the younger ages. We’re committed to creating a partnership between home and school environments. To find out more, feel free to contact us at 201 755 5585.

3 Hands-On Pre-Reading Activities for Preschoolers

By Tori Galatro

Your child can get a head start on reading if they learn to recognize letters and sounds at an early age. There are plenty of apps and TV shows that can help your child learn their letters, but hands-on activities are just as great for a number of reasons. For one, they can help your child to develop fine motor skills beyond tapping a screen. Hands-on activities can also help with memorization by providing spatial and physical interaction. Most importantly, hands-on activities tend to be more social, and involve contact with parents and other children. This social emotional contact is essential for learning and developing other crucial skills, as well as helping to create meaningful memories associated with their pre-reading skills. The following three pre-reading hands-on activities are easy to set up, easy to clean up, safe, cheap, and so much fun for young children.

Activity #1: Make an Alphabet Book

This idea comes from the mommy blog Teach Mama. Sick of throwing away those ads you get in the mail from the grocery store? Put them to good use by making an alphabet book! Gather 26 pages of colored construction paper and write one letter at the top of each with marker. Write both capital and lowercase. Even if your child isn’t learning to read yet, they can start to recognize these symbols and learn that they have meaning. Then, go through the magazines and ads with you child and help them to look for items that begin with each letter. Help your child to cut or rip out each item as they go and paste it under the letter. When you’re done, you can help your child to bind the pages together into a book with yarn and a hole punch. Don’t worry if they don’t finish the book. They can add to it anytime the mail comes in and continue to build letter-sound associations.

Activity #2: Play the Alphabet Memory Game

This is another game that you can return to over and over. Take a pack of paper plates and write uppercase letters on half and the equivalent lowercase letters on the other half. Then, mix them up and spread them out on the ground face down. The object of the game is to match the upper with their lower case letters by remembering where each letter was. Each turn, your child turns two letters face up, try to remember them, and then turns them face down. If they get a match, those plates get removed from the board. This game can be challenging for anyone, so it can be played in a group of varying ages. You can join in too! You can try this game several different ways depending on your child’s level of development. They can match equivalent capital letters, match letters to words beginning with that letter, or even match letters to pictures of words beginning with that letter. They can even write or draw on the plates themselves for a whole other activity!

Activity #3: Learn with Alphabet Bingo

All you need for this game are a few printouts which can be found at the mommy blog Crazy Little Projects, available in both capital and lowercase letters. This game is great for any number of children. When you pick the letter, you can show it to them, or just call it out for an added challenge. Children can use candies to block off the letters as they go, or if you don’t want to spoil dinner, they can use cotton balls, coins, or anything you can think up. Since every board is different, younger children can even look at the older children’s boards for help, and it won’t be cheating. Children can use the skills they’ve learned, but everyone has an equal chance of winning.

Social Emotional Learning: Implementing Sociograms

Classrooms are fundamentally important for the intellectual and emotional development of children. What happens in the classroom has a lasting effect on the rest of a child’s life. Outside of the home, this is where children commonly learn values and behavior norms. To this end, preschools are incorporating the concept of Social Emotional Learning into their education.

Why is Social Emotional Learning important?

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) integrates various aspects of education and life skills into the school curriculum to help children grow in all aspects of their life. SEL involves coordinating several aspects of the child’s life together to create a dynamic education strategy; this strategy helps children succeed in school, in their careers, in their relationships, and in their lives.

Research shows Social Emotional Learning increases the achievement rate of an individual by 11 percentile points, as well as encourages positive habits and behaviors in a child. These behaviors include kindness, empathy, sharing, gratitude, and other positive traits. This education helps children grow up to be responsible adults who are comfortable with social interactions, reducing the risk of stress and depression in growing children.

There are 5 key skills that are taught through Social Emotional Learning:

  • Self-Awareness: SEL helps a child to understand her or his own emotions, judge his or her strengths and weaknesses and become self-aware of inner thoughts and the personal and societal consequences of their actions.
  • Self-management: It guides a child into independence as she or he takes control of emotions, behaviors, actions, and reactions.
  • Social Awareness: SEL also helps children become aware of other cultures and backgrounds, to understand them, and empathize with them.
  • Relationship Skills: It guides children into developing and maintaining healthy relationships and helps them act within social norms.
  • Responsible Decision Making: SEL teaches children to make responsible decisions for themselves, knowing the consequences of their thoughts, and actions for the community.

It is important for teachers to implement this kind of learning into their classrooms. SEL helps young children learn these valuable skills at an early age. This way, as adults, they are able to manage relationships, both social and professional, with ease. Teachers can implement these life lessons through sharing personal experiences, allowing the children to partake in daily social activities, teaching children about different cultures and social norms, helping them develop social skills, and creating a diverse social and cultural mix in the classroom where everyone interacts with each other. And this does not need to be stand-alone lessons. It can be incorporated into all learning.

Teachers can use the help of sociograms to map out social interactions and create a socially dynamic classroom, especially with older students.

How to construct a sociogram:

To begin, ask each student to write down the name of two other students with whom they would like to partner up with in a group activity.

Now, collect the names from all of your students and construct a flow-chart. Circling the different names in different sizes, you will be able to create a visual of the degree of popularity among students. Here’s an example of a completed sociogram.

You will be able to observe three distinct patterns on your sociogram:

  1. Isolates- These are students who have not been chosen by any other student in the classroom, or those who have been chosen only by other isolates. This could be a matter of concern for the teacher.
  2. Gender- Another division that is observable is a gender division. This can be very common among kids of a young age, yet teachers make take note to try and encourage greater unity across gender lines.
  3. Groups- This pattern involves a certain group or “clique” which has been formed, and could be a matter of concern in the classroom.

While sociograms won’t provide all the answers to social problems in the classroom, they are a useful guide and tool. By identifying the groups and patterns, teachers can concentrate their attention more specifically.

Sociograms can help a teacher identify the relationships between groups in their classroom. By using the data they have collected, teachers can implement SEL in a more organized fashion, tailored to the needs of their own, unique classroom.

If you have questions or concerns about Social Emotional Learning or implementing Sociograms, contact Tessa International School.

 

The Remarkable Advantages of Social Emotional Learning: A Case Study

Educational paradigms are currently undergoing a profound and fundamental change. As we learn more about how children’s brains develop, educators are increasingly shifting away from a narrow focus on content, punctuated by occasional standalone lessons on social and emotional development, and into a new mode of instruction in which these formerly separate realms are integrated into one holistic curriculum. A recent case study demonstrates the success of these principles put into action.

CASEL, SEAD, and SEL

In order to understand the significance of the case study, we must first understand the principles of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has developed a coordinating framework to be utilized by educators, families, and communities to promote intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive competencies in students. To that end, CASEL has developed a framework of 5 Core Competencies.

  • self-awareness
  • self-management
  • social awareness
  • relationship skills
  • responsible decision-making

The Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD) works closely with educators, community leaders, families, employers, and partners like CASEL to fully integrate this approach into K-12 academic curriculum. The goal of SEAD is to compile and release a Report From the Nation, which will outline specific actions intended to usher in a new era of education. This model will support the full development of students, providing them with the skills and emotional maturity to excel not only in academics, but into adulthood.

Case Study: Capital City Public Charter School

SEAD’s first report in the series is a case study of a Washington, D.C. charter school. Capital City provides an innovative learning environment for its 1,000 K-12 students by being part of the Expeditionary Learning network, which emphasizes mastery of academics, production of high-quality work, and development of character.

In practice, this results in “learning expeditions”, such as when 3rd and 4th grade classes compared Washington’s temperate forests with tropical rainforests, incorporating trips to a local park and the National Zoo into the lesson plan. Another example is when 9th graders studied the ecology of local fish, with an emphasis on habitat preservation/restoration and the impact of human activity on fish populations.

This holistic and engaging approach to education makes Capital City fertile ground for the integration of Social Emotional Learning. SEAD’s case study demonstrates this by zeroing in on teacher Samantha Clark’s 6th grade math class. In this lesson, students have been learning geometric concepts by working, alone and in groups, on blueprints depicting their city. Clark calls a volunteer (Brandon) to the overhead projector to display a tightly scripted “peer critique” protocol for the feedback process.

  • First, Brandon describes exactly what he is working on and mentions problems he is having completing his portion of the project.
  • Next, Clark asks “clarifying questions” to fully understand Brandon’s concerns.
  • Then she provides specific feedback, leading with positive comments and following up with helpful guidance.
  • Brandon is then given a chance to respond before returning to his group to put into practice what they have just learned.

This process keeps students engaged, on task, and working together harmoniously. “I don’t see social and academic skills separately at all,” Clark says. “I don’t think first about designing a lesson and then think next about how to develop students’ social-emotional skills. It’s all one.”

To ensure high-quality instruction such as that provided by Clark, Capital City teachers are supported by instructional coaches, given dedicated time to create lesson plans, and frequently meet with other teachers across all grade levels to discuss overarching concerns and goals.

As a result, this charter school outpaces its overall district in growth of student proficiency (as measured by PARCC), and 100% of Capital City’s graduates go on to enroll in college. Despite these impressive achievements, head of school Karen Dresden is always striving to improve. “Our job is much broader than preparing kids for a test;” she says, “we’re preparing kids to do well in college, in careers, and in life. We want to make sure that they have all those skills.”

Other Examples

Also included in the case study are four other examples of successfully implemented SEL approaches.

  • San Francisco Unified School District – The pre-K – 12 math curriculum is taught using principles of “growth mindset,” in which students are taught to expect and embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. This approach focuses on enhancing conceptual thinking, problem-solving skills, and procedural fluency, avoiding the strict right/wrong binary that has led so many students to believe they are “bad” at math.
  • Facing History and Ourselves – This non-profit organization engages students in an examination of social justice issues throughout history with the goal of encouraging students to engage in and understand their role in an active democracy.
  • New Tech Network (NTN) – The NTN focuses on project-based learning, integrating content knowledge with critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and student responsibility.
  • Center for the Collaborative Classroom – This non-profit provides continuous learning for teachers to support the academic, ethical, and social development of children.

Integrating SEL into academic curriculum is clearly beneficial for not only students, but for teachers, parents, and communities as well. By utilizing these principles we can raise the next generation to be socially conscious problem solvers, effective communicators, and well-rounded humans, leading to a better future for all of us.

For more information on innovative approaches to learning, contact us!