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Preschool is a fun and challenging time for young kids. Three and four year olds are learning how to play, communicate, and follow rules. They may also be experts at fighting, getting into trouble, and pushing each other's buttons. Part of the fun (and difficulty) of teaching this age group has a lot to do with their development in social skills and self-awareness.
Self-awareness is understanding your own feelings and actions and how they affect yourself and other people. Private self-awareness is when a child understands something about themselves that other people don't know. Public self-awareness is when a child understands how other people view them.
Self-awareness affects all areas in a child's life, including communication, learning, and social interactions. The following are signs that a child lacks self-awareness:
It is easy to see that these symptoms could keep children with self-awareness problems from making friends and doing well in school. It is important that teachers learn to recognize when a lack of self-awareness is causing problems for a student. They should then follow up with appropriate activities for teaching and practicing self-awareness skills.
The following sections include suggestions for teaching preschoolers basic self-awareness skills. These activities may need to be adapted based on the level of cooperation and understanding of your students. The purposes of these activities are:
To help students begin recognizing similarities and differences in the people around them, create activities where they can learn 'same vs. different'. Choose an item in your room (like a toy car), and set it on a table where everyone can see. Ask them what color it is (let's say it's blue). Fill a bag of different items that are a variety of colors. Have students take turns pulling something out of the bag and telling the class if it's the same color or a different color from the toy car.
You could also make 'same vs. different' part of morning circle time. Point out the similarities and differences in what the kids are wearing each morning. Everyone will be wearing shoes, but some might have sandals and others have sneakers. Explain to the kids that it's ok to be different from each other and that having differences is what makes the class a fun place to be.
Preschool teachers often implement a class chore chart where students rotate through different jobs. Some of these jobs could include picking garbage up off the floor, wiping off the white board, feeding the class fish, or passing out papers. As students complete these jobs, teachers can give them specific verbal praise to let them know they did well. For example, after Jimmy pick up the garbage his teacher might say, 'I love how you picked up all that garbage! You are awesome!' Over time, Jimmy will see that when he helps others it makes them happy, and it makes him feel good about himself, too.
Some children may need more than praise as a reward. If this is the case, teachers could create a reward chart where students get a sticker for doing their jobs well. The added visual of a sticker chart reinforces good behavior.
Young children may have a hard time applying skills that they're learning to actual situations. Teachers can facilitate role play scenarios to practice skills like sharing, resolving a fight, or saying sorry. With three and four year olds, the teacher will need to take a leading role in order to show examples of good behavior. A role play scenario may look something like this:
Ms. Hank is playing blocks side by side with Tom, a student in her class. She takes a block off of his tower and it falls apart.
Ms. Hank: 'How did it make you feel when I knocked your tower over?'
Ms. Hank: 'Yes. When someone ruins something that we worked hard on, it makes us feel sad. I also feel sad because I ruined your tower. When this happens, I should say, 'I'm so sorry I messed up your tower, Tom. Can I help you fix it?'
Ms. Hank would then review what happened with the class and have other students come up to practice the same scenario. Then, when something like this inevitably happens during play time, she can intervene with a reminder about how this should be handled.
Teachers should be an example of appropriate behavior in the classroom. When a teacher gets frustrated with herself or a student, she might use a technique called self-talk. Self-talk is when you talk through what you are feeling and how you should respond. Teachers should do this out loud so students can hear them.
For example, let's say the class is headed outside to do sidewalk chalk. Mr. Max drops the box of chalk on the cement, and it all breaks into pieces. His self-talk might go something like this: 'Oh man! I dropped the chalk! I feel bad that the sticks are all in pieces now… oh well. The pieces will still draw, and now we have enough pieces for everyone!' Students will observe how you handled a situation without getting mad. This may help them regulate their own feelings in the future.
Self awareness is the ability to understand your own feelings and actions and how they affect others. Preschoolers often need support in developing self-awareness skills. Teachers can let students be class helpers, use activities like role playing and games to teach similarities and differences, and self-talk out loud to help kids begin to build awareness of who they are and what makes them special.
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Back To CourseResources for Teachers
8 chapters | 230 lessons
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