Students learn to identify emotions
Three- and 4-year-olds may be small, but they have some big emotions.
“Being able to identify and express feelings does not come naturally to preschoolers,” said Arlington ISD early childhood director Dr. Jackeline Orsini. “These abilities need to be developed and practiced. Many preschoolers don’t have the vocabulary to express their feelings and deal with their emotions.”
That’s why the Arlington ISD’s pre-K teachers are very intentional in helping their students learn to understand, communicate and handle those emotions. Developing a strong social and emotional foundation is imperative for future success in school and life. It allows them to collaborate and play more effectively with other kids and learn better at school.
“Helping children identify and label their emotions is an important first step in pre-K,” Orsini said. “In our early childhood program, we help our little ones to understand and manage their feelings and to regulate their own responses to strong emotions. We help them to become problem solvers, leaders and students with a sense of an ‘I can do it!’ attitude.”
Teachers use behavior management strategies and classroom structures to turn everyday situations into learning opportunities. Some of the tools that district pre-K teachers use come from Conscious Discipline, a resource that offers a model and methods to equip teachers to integrate social-emotional learning, discipline and self-regulation.
“The biggest thing in Conscious Discipline is changing how we talk about emotion,” said 11th-year pre-K teacher Serena Webb at Bryant Elementary School. “The coping mechanisms and regulation methods are designed to help manage emotions, and it’s amazing to see the kids’ progress throughout the year. It’s fun to watch a 4-year-old identify emotions and problem solve by themselves or with classmates.”
Webb said it all starts with them.
“As teachers, we have to be able to successfully control our emotions in the classroom, so the children know what that looks like on a daily basis.”
In addition to modeling self-control themselves, the teachers help the class develop a set of class promises at the beginning of the year that everyone must agree to follow. Every student, teacher and teaching assistant must sign it. The contract is a symbol of commitment from everyone in the classroom to one another.
But it’s not just about having rules. The teachers also have tangible, proven methods to help students learn to identify emotions and develop self-control. One way is with feeling buddies. The buddies are plush dolls who express various emotions, so students can point out the doll that most represents the way they are feeling in the moment. Whether it’s scared, nervous, happy or sad, kids learn to associate their feelings with the dolls’ expressions and better understand and communicate what they are feeling.
Another method is the “Safe Place,” an area of the classroom where kids can go to be alone for a while. It’s a small area where students can relax, receive positive affirmations and calm themselves down. This is not to be confused with time-out, an outdated punishment for bad behavior. Think of it like a quick, peaceful getaway, but the kids remain in the classroom.
All of the methods and resources are woven and integrated into a unified curriculum that help 3- and 4-year-olds develop a strong, well-rounded foundation.
“Through purposeful play-based learning, books, a positive and caring environment, dramatic play, STEM activities, learning centers and much more, kids learn how to share, communicate their feelings, show empathy, become good listeners and self-regulate their emotions,” Orsini said. “These are skills that will contribute to their overall success in life.”
It’s not too late to enroll your little learner in the Arlington ISD’s pre-K program. With loving teachers and a fun, play-based curriculum that prepares your child for a lifelong journey of learning, you’ll know your child is in good hands.
If you’re ready to give your little one the opportunity to explore and thrive, head to aisd.net/prek to enroll today.