One of the most important areas of development is a child’s social and emotional growth. Our job as educators is to give children the tools to successfully continue to grow in our social world. Our school uses a social thinking curriculum called “The Incredible Flexible You”. This curriculum helps children develop the skills they need to be flexible social thinkers and social problem solvers. Through the use of lesson plans, activities, and story books, the children will learn about their social mind and the social expectations we all have. They will also learn about their own thinking (and that of others) to help them make better decisions when in the midst of play and interactions with their peers.
There are five main concepts that children will learn through Social Thinking.
THINKING THOUGHTS AND FEELING FEELINGS
Children are familiar with their body parts that they can see and know that each part has a job. For example with our hands we can touch and clap, with our feet we can hop and run. But body parts that we cannot see are difficult abstract concepts that we try to explain. Our brain is our thought maker. To help us talk about our thoughts we use words like think and know. Our heart is our feelings keeper. To help us talk about our feelings we use words like happy, sad, angry or scared. We help children understand this concept by labelling and saying, “You’re having a thought” For example, “You are having a thought when you are choosing to build with blocks”.
THE GROUP PLAN
The group plan helps children know what is expected when they think about and do when they are part of a group. When everyone is following the plan they are thinking about each other. This in turn makes everyone feel calm and comfortable. You can talk about “the plan” and what you are thinking. For example, “The plan is to take a bath and then put pajamas on” or “Our plan is to go to the grocery store”. Also talking aloud about what each person can do or say so as everyone can share the same idea. For instance, “I am putting on my coat because we are going to the grocery store.”
THINKING WITH YOUR EYES
We use our eyes to gather information about what other people are thinking, feeling, what is happening around us, and what might be someone else’s plan. We use our eyes too expressively to show others that we are thinking about them. This in turn gives children a purpose for observing others and the environment. It is more than just looking at something it is thinking.
BODY IN THE GROUP
While we often realize the importance of verbal language and what to say in a conversation, it is also important to understand that physical proximity is also a key ingredient to successful social interactions. Keeping your body in the group means maintaining a comfortable physical presence around others…not too close and not too far away. When your body is in the group it sends the message that you are interested in others, if it is not in the group you send the message that you are not thinking of others. For example, “It’s time for dinner. Everyone in the family has their body in the group, sitting together, we can start eating.” And also, “When you leave the table, your body is out of the group, so it makes me think that you are finished eating.”
WHOLE BODY LISTENING
We show that we are listening when your eyes, ears, mouth, hands, arms, legs and feet are calm and quiet. When your body is calm it helps you pay attention to what people are doing around you and it shows others that you are thinking about them. You can point out times when your child is or is not doing whole body listening. For example, when getting ready for a bedtime story, “It’s time to listen with your whole body. Your hands are resting on your lap; your eyes are looking at the pictures…”
I hope that this brief explanation helps you understand some of our work that we use in our classrooms and gives you the script so that your child can hear the same language. Below is a link to an article from the New York Times which discusses the importance of Social Thinking.
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Happy New Year!