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The Importance of Social and Emotional Development in Students

As academics and testing become a larger part of children’s lives, social and emotional learning has been put on the back burner, and teachers are seeing the ill effects of this change in their classrooms, on playgrounds, and during specials or lunchtime. More and more, teachers are using class time to promote social and emotional development. Studies show that social competence helps a child gain more than academic competence. Children who are socially competent are better adjusted and able to accept diversity, change and new forms of learning.

5 Goals for Social Competence

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning found that there are five achievable social and emotional development goals for students.

  • Self-awareness: the ability to reflect on one’s own feelings and thoughts.
  • Self-control: the ability to control one’s thoughts and behavior.
  • Social awareness: the ability to empathize, recognize social cues and be adaptable.
  • Relationship skills: the ability to communicate, make friends, manage disagreements, recognize peer pressure and cooperate.
  • Responsible decision making: The ability to make healthy choices about one’s own behavior while weighing consequences for others.

Learning More About Social and Emotional Development

New research is constantly underway to determine how best to help kids succeed. One of the best ways to access this new information and grow as a teacher is to enroll in a master’s degree in special education program. The more you learn about how children acquire social and emotional skills, the more you can help your students. One of the more difficult aspects of teaching these skills is that they are not always measurable, so it is difficult to isolate data for districts when they request information about time spent teaching these skills.

Social and Emotional Development Apps

One interesting way to teach social and emotional development is with technology. Educators are finding that special education students tend to need the most practice in these skills, so using apps to improve social and emotional skills can be a helpful way to bring common language and skill development to both the classroom and the home. This helps parents smooth their children’s transitions between home and school. The following apps, selected by special education teacher Jayne Clare, have proven successful in the classroom and at home:

  • Breathe, Think, Do.
  • Touch and Learn — Emotions.
  • Avokiddo Emotions.
  • Emotionary.
  • GoNoodle.
  • IF … The Emotional IQ Game.
  • Stop, Breathe & Think.

Some may argue that using technology to support social and emotional needs is contradictory, but there is a school of thought that proposes that kids also need to learn to collaborate through technology. There are supportive online communities that can connect with children who feel like an outsiders; therefore, learning to balance face-to-face interactions with digital ones may help students succeed later as citizens. Social and emotional development skills may make the difference between students who simply learn classroom material and students who connect meaningfully to the outside world.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s Online MSE — Special Ed — Instructional Specialist K-12.


Edutopia: Social-Emotional Apps for Special Ed

The New York Times: Teaching Peace in Elementary School

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