How are you feeling?

Now that we are wrapping up our first full (ish?) week of school, we are beginning to see commonalities in our child scientists.  Communication skills at this age are branching out.  Attempts, missteps, and assumptions guide much of their experiments. Often the children become frustrated, sad, or confused based on some age-appropriate miscommunication.

For instance, we have children in our class who are exploring the different expressions their faces can make.  It can be exciting to see the reaction they can get from flashing a “grumpy” face at a friend for no apparent reason.  Other children are attempting to use their bodies or words to make another laugh, yet miss the cue given when their counterpart is frowning or returning an angry look.  All of the children are learning to “read” body language and expressions.  Hand in hand with this, they also are often unsure why another child is not simply picking up on the signals they are attempting to send.

Angry Eyes

Fostering this need, while building our new community, we have begun to look more closely at feelings and moods.  We asked the children to explain what a feeling is.

  • Something you have and get all the time
  • When your brain tells you not to do something and you do it
  • Something that you get and when you feel it, you feel it in your body
  • Not getting sad
  • Brains sometimes get mixed up with feelings
  • When you feel happy or sad; when you feel happy, it makes you feel happy; when you feel sad, it makes you feel sad
  • When anyone yells at you, it makes you run away, cry, and feel sad
  • Something inside your body and when you feel it, you get that feeling
  • When your brain wants to do something and play
  • Sometimes you get sad and mom and dad get sad and you talk to each other and watch TV together

This week, we’ve been talking about sad and angry.  We shared situations that lead us to feel both ways.  Next week we’ll add more to our repertoire and then we’ll practice identifying them as we see them on our friends, in pictures, and even on the faces of older children on the playground.  We will become facial expression detectives and see if we can’t make some headway with this confusing topic.

We will also be talking a lot about how we can (and should) speak our feelings, stating exactly what we need.  “You’re being mean!” is a common comment in Pre-k, as well as, “Stop it!”  While both of these comments adequately express frustration, annoyance, or anger, they fall short of informing the recipient of what the speaker actually needs or wants.  We are working on statements that define why you are upset.

“Stop putting blocks on my tower.”

“I want more cars.  You have lots of cars.”

“I was playing with that toy.  I want it back.”

Our next step is to model and practice collaborative problem-solving.  It looks a bit like this:

Mrs. Forst:  Terry, what do you want?

Terry:  I want that baby [doll].

Mrs. Forst:  Pat, what do you want?

Pat: I want that baby.

Mrs. Forst: Oh, so what is the problem?

Terry or Pat: We both want the baby.

Mrs. Forst: Hmmm…so the problem is that you both want the same baby.  How can we solve this problem?

The children involved take turns offering solutions.  For any solution, both or all parties must agree before play can continue.  I do not give solutions and try not to judge their ideas.  Their solutions are not always designed the way I would have done it, but that’s not the point.  We are practicing talking about our needs while coming to a mutual agreement about how to get those needs met.  This is not a skill I expect Pre-Kindergarteners to master and is one they will continue to practice throughout their lives.