Parents, teachers, and students alike agree that social-emotional learning (SEL) should be an essential part of classroom curriculum. But how early should this kind of instruction begin in order for it to be most effective? A study by Greenberg et. al. concludes that comprehensive social-emotional learning curriculum should be implemented from preschool through high school for best results.
Students mature emotionally and socially throughout their school years, and each age brings with it different expectations. Integrating effective SEL curriculum from a young age prepares students to successfully adapt to the unique challenges of each new school year. It also helps them optimize their learning in every grade, minimizing the distractions from their classmates and themselves.
Teaching SEL in Preschool Improves Class Management
Research shows that teaching SEL in preschool classes improves the overall efficacy of the class. Students who learn how to manage their emotions from preschool teachers tend to be less prone to engage in disruptive behaviors. Teachers who are well-versed in their own social and emotional wellbeing also manage such outbursts more effectively. This practice improves student-teacher relationships, which are vital to creating a positive learning environment.
Teaching SEL in Preschool Sets the Foundation for All of Education
Mindfulness positively influences students’ academic achievement at every stage of their education, and preschool is no exception. In fact, students who learn emotional self-control, empathy, and goal-setting from a young age are more equipped to learn for the rest of their education. The foundational skills learned in preschool—following directions, taking turns, sharing, and listening to the teacher—are foundational to later development. As mentioned earlier, SEL improves student-teacher relationships, which has a direct influence on student engagement in the classroom.
Teaching SEL in Preschool Helps Disadvantaged Students
Students who come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds tend to start school behind in both cognitive and social-emotional development. Research shows that teaching SEL from preschool onward helps to level the playing field for these disadvantaged students. It not only helps their social-emotional development, it positively affects their academic performance. The earlier these imbalances are addressed, the more equal education will become for everyone, which is why starting SEL curriculum in preschools is vital to overall student success.
Teaching SEL in Preschool Has Long-Term Effects
It is never too early to start focusing on children’s social-emotional development. Those who learned these skills early on in their education benefit from it as adults. They tend to have better physical and mental health, build better interpersonal relationships, achieve higher levels of education, find good jobs, and participate in public life. These long-term effects show that SEL is not a mere add-on to early childhood education, it should be a core component of any preschool curriculum.
Teaching SEL in K-12
Effective SEL programming begins in preschool, but it does not end there. By incorporating SEL curriculum into the entire K-12 education, students receive continual support for their emotional and social development at each new age. Consistent programming helps reinforce the importance of the key SEL skills and also prepares students to continue using them well into adulthood.