Measuring children's progress with self regulation or their behaviour looks so much different than the measurements we use to understand improvements in literacy or mathematics. It may be one of the reasons that educators, even in the early years, often focus so heavily on some of the early academic skills.
We would truthfully argue that emotional intelligence, social connections and skills, and self regulation are not only as important as literacy and mathematics, but perhaps even more so.
Now...that doesn't mean we neglect instruction in those areas. There are so many ways to develop rich programming for young children in Kindergarten that both supports their development socially and intellectually.
All of this reflection and conversation brought us back to the idea of understanding emotions for young children. We come hardwired with some basic emotions (e.g., mad or sad), but there are many more that we work towards young children understanding. How do we do that? Often times the literature suggests prescribed programs where we show pictures or play Feelings Bingo.
Although these programs and activities definitely support some children in developing their understanding on a surface level, their understanding often becomes somewhat "rote" and doesn't transfer into the real life situations that they face.
When we approach the teaching of emotions in our classroom we do so in two ways. We will engage with rich stories and books that focus on emotions - and through that process we slow down, discuss the body cues, facial expressions, actions, reactions of the characters. Furthermore we make connections to ensure that we are understanding the vocabulary in more context than just the book.
But...more importantly, we engage with emotions during play and throughout our everyday interactions or routines. This is THE MOST genuine way to teach emotions, in the moment when it happens. Of course if it is an explosive emotion, we may need to wait until we are ready to engage but our goal is for children to understand emotions as they are happening, after they happen and to understand that for both adults and children our emotions change throughout the day.
If you can connect some of the literature to everyday experiences it makes emotions more tangible and real to understand. We have reached out to colleagues in webinars, online and face to face to share some of the books that they have used to teach or introduce emotions to their classroom and we wanted to share them below. Each book is linked with further information to purchase or learn more about it.