Teaching Social and Emotional Skills

Teaching Social and Emotional Skills

A person’s emotional world is governed by the limbic system. Academic learning processes like analysis take place in a person’s neocortex.

Research shows that the limbic system learns best through three processes:
(a) Motivation
(b) Extended Practice and
(c) Feedback

So let’s talk about what this means for the teaching of social and emotional skills to kids:

The standard academic sit and get approach isn’t going to be very helpful in helping kids learn social and emotional skills. Social and emotional skills have to be learned and ingrained in the neurotransmitters and neural pathways of the limbic system. Here are a few things to keep in mind when teaching social and emotional skills:

(1) Create Intrinsic Motivation: Make clear the benefits of learning a skill before you teach it. Social and emotional skills give kids more power by helping them overcome their automatic reactions, helping kids make friends, and helping them make a good first impression on new people. While motivation can be extrinsic (i.e. you can offer rewards) the best and most lasting motivation should be internal (learning for its own sake).
(2) Practice not Performance: Learning a new skill takes a lot of practice. All teaching should be followed by practice so that new skills can be learned in a safe environment before being tested when the child is under pressure. When people are under pressure they can only rely on habitually trained responses
(3) Feedback: People need feedback on their performance. The best way to give this is in the training or practice session itself, especially since many people (and especially kids with emotional and behavioral challenges) aren’t used to receiving feedback on their real-life performance.

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