The article describes experiences we had during an inquiry into emotions in the Transdisciplinary theme How we express ourselves. It includes some activities suggested by children that can really help to strengthen emotional intelligence.
No one would deny the fact that early education is critical for later success in life. Experiences that children get in early childhood forms the foundation for all future learning. Undoubtedly, it is extremely important to support children in their development as in the early-years children form perceptions of themselves and others.
In today’s society, children face situations that can have negative effects. It is emotional intelligence that can help solve problems effectively and establish positive relationships with others. Teachers support children in developing social-emotional competence because this connects to children’s emotional well-being and their ability to adapt to new environments and to form successful relationships throughout life. Children who are emotionally well adjusted do better at school, have increased confidence, have good relationships, take on and persist at challenging tasks and communicate well.
Developing emotional intelligence has key importance in preschool. Undoubtedly it helps to prevent behaviour difficulties in later life, establish positive relationships with others, solve problems effectively, and so on. At our preschool we support the development of emotional intelligence through the Transdisciplinary theme How we express ourselves. Our idea was to help understand what emotions are, recognize them, manage them properly, understand the causes of emotions, and handle challenging situations capably.
Some children said that an emotion is a ball of energy. Children suggested that they should depict emotions as splashes of different colours. “Every emotion has its own colour,” children said. They added, “We express emotions differently, so colours are also different.”
Other children said that emotion is a movement. The following activity was created by the children with the teacher:
All children made a circle. They took a notebook and a pencil. One by one they stood in the centre of the circle and made a movement. The rest of the children were drawing what they saw, trying to guess the emotion by the movement.
Mark A. Brackett believes that it is necessary for children to recognise and understand the causes and consequences of emotions. Pre-schoolers easily understand that emotions often precede actions, actions in their turn always lead to some result. We inquired into the interconnectedness of these three elements: emotion-action-result. Children, with great pleasure, discussed and made diafilms of their favourite books based on this idea and made some performances for their peers showing different results caused by different actions and emotions. Those activities contributed much to their understanding of the actions they take and their nature. Not only did they understand that emotions led to some results but also that they were responsible not only for the emotion itself but for the way they express it.
It should be taken into account that emotions impact children’s attention, memory, and learning, their ability to build relationships with others, their physical and mental health. A crucial point in developing emotional intelligence in the early-years is to distinguish between degrees of emotion. It is important for a child to understand that the sadness she feels when her best friend betrays her is deeper than sadness when her favourite cartoon ends. The level of happiness when you see your pet at home after long holidays is higher than the feeling of having your favourite breakfast. Awareness of different degrees helps children to articulate their emotions, to express emotions in a polite, conscious way, to show empathy. Identifying the degree of emotion ensures balance and gives food for thought and analysis. It is impossible to control emotions, but you can control the way you express them. The Emotion Thermometer created by our pre-schoolers is an effective way for them to think over their emotions. Isn’t it great to use that thermometer when you need deep understanding of what you feel right now or reflect upon your feelings and emotions?
Children’s self-efficacy contributed much to the learning process. The children amazed us by their involvement, creativity, responsibility and initiative. Peer friendship got stronger, and relationships with adults became full of understanding. Children definitely became more responsible, and overall collaboration in the classroom became stronger. Every unit of inquiry is unique and lasts in the memory for a long time having beneficial influence not only on children but also on teachers. As a teacher, I can definitely say that my understanding of the children’s inner world expanded. All the activities for developing emotional intelligence were also done by me too. I felt the strength of collaborating and communicating with children. There is sure to be magic – it’s up to us to channel it with our magic wand!
- Brackett, M. A., & Katulak, N. (in press). The emotionally intelligent classroom: Skill-based training for teachers and students. In J. Ciarrochi &J.D.Mayer(Eds.),Improving emotional intelligence: A practitioner’s guide. New York: Psychology Press/Taylor & Francis.
- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004.
- Rivers, S. E., Brackett, M. A., Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (in press). Measuring emotional intelligence using ability-based assessment. In G. Matthews, M. Zeidner, & R. D. Roberts (Eds.), The science of emotional intelligence. New York: Oxford University Press.