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Early years social skills - what explicit teaching is there in YR?

(21 Posts)
tricot39 Tue 29-Apr-14 21:56:29

My son is in YR and is 5 (January born). He effectively ignored other children until he started school when he began to show an interest and has improved a lot. However his social skills still aren't great. He is a real "left brainer" with good memory and logic skills which is good, but he struggles with imaginative play.

His teacher has said that he will "pass" all his early years framework targets except 2 of the social ones (not sure which) although he has made huge improvements in these areas since the start of the year.

I tried asking how we could help him but didn't get clear guidance, other than play dates (children with poor social skills have trouble getting play dates as they don't bond with other kids sufficiently to be invited or want to be invitees so this is not the easiest advice to act on).

So can anyone tell me what teaching is done on this in school so that I can supplement at home? If it is graded in some way then I am assuming that there must be guidance on what is required/how it is taught? i.e. there is explicit teaching for literacy and numeracy so what is the social skills equivalent?

I may be incorrectly beginning to suspect that there is very little explicit teaching in YR and that any skills in this area are developed by chance through imaginative opportunities in the classroom - which can simply be avoided by those who don't have affinity for such activities!

Can anyone help or point me towards some useful info?
Thanks in advance

ArabellaRockerfella Tue 29-Apr-14 22:16:14

There may well be some explicit teaching of play in a Reception class especially if there is extra adult support and especially for children identified as having difficulties in this area. This would involve an adult modelling pretend play e.g. shopping, making dinner, doctor's surgery etc I'm sure every Reception class has a home corner/imaginative play area which would change each term according to the topic. We've had a hairdresser's, a cafe, a space rocket, a jungle den, a police station, a travel agents, a bakers, a pizzeria .... the list is endless really.
Also I'm sure they will be teaching/modelling game playing skills; turn taking, playing fair, being a good loser etc.
Any decent Reception class teacher would be aware of children who avoid such activities and hand pick a group of playmates who might model imaginative play skills for them and guide the children who are not natural 'players'.
Things you can do at home to help is to actually get down to your child's level and play! Have a teddy bears picnic or a toys party, put on a show for an audience of teddies, get the play dough out and make a feast for a princess or create an magical monster, get out the dressing up box and pretend you are superheroes/kings & queens, animals etc, set up a dolls house and use the dolls to act out a scenario. There are so many possibilities, enjoy! xx

tricot39 Tue 29-Apr-14 22:47:03

Thanks for replying.

There is a home corner area in the classroom and we have had comments that he doesn't go in there, or if he does uses the objects in unusual ways. He was initially on a list of children who were struggling but has improved now so that he is not "of concern" but at the same time will not "pass" the social skills gradings. So I don't think there is explicit teaching for him separately or in a small group.

I have posted on MN before and had suggestions about picnics and plays before but he is not keen to engage. It is not easy to explain but as he doesn't have a natural affinity to that sort of play he doesn't interact in the way that other children do.

Modelling behaviour only works if your child is receptive - hence why I am interested in explicit teaching methods. Is something like "Incredible Flexible You" the only sort of thing we can look at? It seems really expensive and maybe not easy to do on our own at home?

MummaSmurf1 Tue 29-Apr-14 23:28:10

You could ask to speak to the SENCo at school who might point you in the direction of some support.
Please don't expect the school to teach the social skills by themselves, arranging play dates might be a challenge but your child will need you to model lots of socialising for them to learn the cues.

ArabellaRockerfella Wed 30-Apr-14 00:17:35

Some children are never receptive to imaginative play and social play especially if the child is very methodical/logical and solitary; in which case questions may be asked as to whether they are displaying ASD traits. We would use social stories to teach the child the correct and desirable responses in ways that will help them to build relationships. A Social Story describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format. If you think these might be useful to you then there are plenty of example when you do a web search and recommendations for books on Amazon. For some children we have put together a personal book, almost a manual to help them make sense of play and how their peers are interacting.

BackforGood Wed 30-Apr-14 00:32:28

It doesn't necessarily have to be a child coming to play at your house - my dc, at 5, were mixing with other children at swimming lessons, and at Church, others do at dancing or football or martial arts or whatever your ds is likely to enjoy.

mrz Wed 30-Apr-14 07:03:11

There are just 3 Personal, Social and Emotional Development ELGs (this is considered a Prime learning area) and I would be surprised if the school aren't targeting activities to help your son achieve as they are considered so important.

You must understand these are life skills and not something you can teach in the way you seem to imagine.

The fact that a child isn't receptive and learning from example is a barrier to future learning. The Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) identified dispositions and attitudes as a vital early indicator of success.

Prime areas of learning
Personal, social and emotional development involves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.

ELG 06
Self-confidence and self-awareness:
Children are confident to try new activities,
and to say why they like some activities more than others. They are confident to speak in a familiar group, will talk about their ideas, and will choose the resources they need for their chosen activities. They say when they do or don’t need help.

Explanatory note:
The child makes choices within their environment and expresses their
preferences. The child tries new things, explores resources and tools, and shares their experiences
with others including adults, peers or within a group. The child plays independently expressing their
ideas and innovations and asks for support when needed.

ELG 07
Managing feelings and behaviour:
Children talk about how they and others show feelings, talk about their own and others’ behaviour, and its consequences, and know that some behaviour is unacceptable. They work as part of a group or class, and understand and follow rules. They adjust their behaviour to different
situations, and take changes of routine in their stride.

Explanatory note:
The child responds appropriately to experiences, communicating his or her
needs, views and feelings. The child is aware of the consequences of words and actions and adapts his or her behaviour accordingly. When playing as part of a group, the child takes turns and shares.
The child knows the expectations and routines of the setting, applies strategies to respond to changes of routine and offers explanations as to why these are necessary. The child is usually able to adjust his or her behaviour to reflect this understanding.

ELG 08
Making relationships:
Children play cooperatively, taking turns with others.
They take account of one another’s ideas about how to organise their
activity. They show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings, and form positive relationships with adults and other children.

Explanatory note:
The child plays co-operatively in a group, sharing and taking turns. When
playing together with others, the child usually responds in a friendly and kind way, listening to other children’s ideas and points of view. The child interacts positively with other children and adults.

tricot39 Wed 30-Apr-14 14:04:22

Thank you MrZ that is perfect.
It must be ELG 07 & 08 that are the trouble for him.

You must understand these are life skills and not something you can teach in the way you seem to imagine

I think that you have put your finger on it!

These things are graded using ELG but that many (most?) schools don't teach it so learning is incidental. As a strategy that would not be acceptable in academic areas like numeracy or phonics - why is that OK for social skills? Is it because it is difficult to teach? Or that there are a shortage of resources in schools? Or both?

We did have contact with the SENCO regards difficulties/ASD-traits early in YR but he has improved so much over the year that he is no longer "of concern". He has tendencies in the Asperger's direction but these seem to be so mild that he is not going to qualify for any special help. At parents evening the not achieving the grades was presented as a fait accompli which seemed odd to me.

Anyway I have been rooting around the internet and finally found this

It seems to fit us well. Average or above IQ with good communication skills. Interested but a bit clueless socially. Does anyone have any experience or thoughts on a system like this? Or can you suggest another resource which similarly "teaches"/breaks down social concepts for the unaware, but which is cheaper?!


tricot39 Wed 30-Apr-14 14:06:50

PS - What sort of percentage of pupils don't make these targets ELG 07 & 08?

Thanks for all the replies

tricot39 Wed 30-Apr-14 14:13:08

PPS - He learns by example no problem in other areas. He just does not have an affinity for social issues/understanding others' feelings, so can't pick up on the complex and unstated rules as easily as his peers. However he probably could "get it" if I could "teach" him some of the basic ground rules explicitly..... It is just difficult knowing how to split it up which is why the system above sounds appealing.

I suppose it is like dancing. There are basic steps which are not always obvious but which must be mastered before you can get on to a more free-form interpretation. We are just a bit stuck on the basics and can probably become competent, but are unlikely to excel like a "natural talent" - if you know what I mean!?

mrz Wed 30-Apr-14 17:35:04

These things are graded using ELG but that many (most?) schools don't teach it so learning is incidental.

That isn't what I said tricot ... I said they aren't taught in the way you seem to imagine ... but they are most definitely taught!

mrz Wed 30-Apr-14 17:41:14

Last year 24% of pupils didn't achieve those ELGs (491,080 children did achieve them)

tricot39 Wed 30-Apr-14 19:01:19

Can you explain how they are taught mrz?

mrz Wed 30-Apr-14 19:11:49

There would be a lot of modelling but alongside that the teacher would be explaining this is how we act in certain situations, these are the rules and routines in school and this is how we should behave

Circle time sessions - group of children working with an adult taking turns talking about feelings

Things like board games to encourage turn taking
My turn /your turn games
Activities that require cooperation to complete - could be something as simple as measuring - holding both ends of the tape measure - drawing around a partner etc

tricot39 Wed 30-Apr-14 19:35:16

Oh I am completely confused then! He understands right and wrong; rules etc and can be a bit too clever thinking about how to exploit the loopholes (which gets him into trouble at school bit might be a handy life skill at some point!) He can take turns with games and helps other kids in class if they are struggling. He can work cooperatively on structured activities like measuring or transporting. So he is half way there by the sound of it.

It is the soft stuff like cooperating in an imagination game or explaining his feelings that are more tricky. He lacks empathy too if i am honest. Any tips in those areas?

Thanks for your thoughts so far

mrz Wed 30-Apr-14 19:47:48

Social stories can work well

spanieleyes Wed 30-Apr-14 19:53:02

I'm not sure whether you can teach empathy, I know I struggled with my son who is definitely NOT empathetic! He eventually learnt what he was expected to say, but said it because he knew he had to rather than because he meant it. Even this took age and maturity, certainly well into secondary school!

mrz Wed 30-Apr-14 20:19:42

Usually by the age of two children are developing empathy naturally. They understand feelings of happiness, anger, sadness etc because they have experienced these emotions themselves. They may not be able to articulate these feelings but they can understand a sad face if they break a toy or anger if someone takes their toy etc ... parents and teachers need to channel this understanding.

tricot39 Wed 30-Apr-14 21:31:29

I think we will be in the same boat as you spanieleyes

He understands the emotions, he is just not that interested in them when they affect someone else!

We might as well give that Social Thinking programme that I linked to above a go. We have used ready-made social stories with some success but it would be good to help him with the "how" rather than just the "what".

If you are interested let me know and I will report back on our experiments.

erin99 Thu 01-May-14 15:08:14

Worth asking his teacher if there are similar 'left brained' children you could invite to play?

I'm reading 'how to talk so kids will listen...' at the moment and it has some interesting ideas on how you can model negotiating and empathy to your son, but of course you may already be doing all that.

tricot39 Thu 01-May-14 19:22:41

Thanks. I will see if i can preview that on amazon to.see if it might help. Good thought.

Reminded about social stories i dug out a ready-made story book which i bought ages ago by Cheri j. Meiners. The one we have is about sharing but there are some other fab ones and the illustrations are really lovely. I must get some more....

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