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Curriculum > Preschool > What We Teach > Social Development

Social Development

Girls smiling

Tools for Promoting Social Learning

The HighScope approach gives adults the tools they need to help children develop strong and positive relationships with adults and peers. Teachers learn how to create a positive climate in the classroom as a foundation for social learning. The social skills children develop in HighScope programs contribute to their readiness for school and their ability to meet a variety of challenges throughout their lives.

Nurturing Social Environment

Creating a warm and nurturing environment in preschool not only helps children form trusting relationships with others but also promotes learning in all areas. Surrounded by a positive and supportive classroom climate, children are likely to become engaged and motivated learners. Within this environment, activities and interactions are planned around the key developmental indicators (KDIs) in social and emotional development listed below.

KDIs in Social and Emotional Development

  1. Self-identity. Children have a positive self-identity.
  2. Sense of competence Children feel they are competent.
  3. Emotions. Children recognize, label, and regulate their feelings.
  4. Empathy. Children demonstrate empathy toward others.
  5. Community. Children participate in the community of the classroom.
  6. Building relationships. Children build relationships with other children and adults.
  7. Cooperative play. Children engage in cooperative play. 
  8. Moral development. Children develop an internal sense of right and wrong.
  9. Conflict resolution. Children resolve social conflicts.

Learning to Resolve Conflicts

Helping children manage frustrations and resolve social conflicts is an area of social learning that is often particularly important to teachers. Teachers find that HighScope's six-step conflict resolution process is especially useful. The six steps summarized below are used to help children settle disputes and conflicts. Children can often carry out this sequence on their own by program’s end.

Conflict resolution steps

  • Approach calmly, stopping any hurtful actions. Place yourself between the children, on their level; use a calm voice and gentle touch; remain neutral rather than take sides.
  • Acknowledge children's feelings. Say something simple such as “You look really upset;” let children know you need to hold any object in question.
  • Gather information. Ask “What's the problem?” Do not ask “why” questions as young children focus on that what the problem is rather than understanding the reasons behind it.
  • Restate the problem: “So the problem is...” Use and extend the children’s vocabulary, substituting neutral words for hurtful or judgmental ones (such as “stupid”) if needed.
  • Ask for solutions and choose one together. Ask “What can we do to solve this problem?” Encourage children to think of a solution but offer options if the children are unable to at first.
  • Be prepared to give follow-up support. Acknowledge children’s accomplishments, e.g., “You solved the problem!” Stay nearby in case anyone is not happy with the solution and the process needs repeating.

Adults respect children’s ideas for solving problems, even if the options they offer don’t seem fair to adults. What’s important is that children agree on the solution and see themselves as competent problem-solvers.



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