The Art of Teaching Social-Emotional Skills Through Storytelling and Lunch Routines

Updated on August 8, 2017
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Joanna Blackburn has 15 years of hands-on teaching and researching ways to help children learn. She writes articles to help other teachers


Building Character

As preschool teachers we have the ability to build character in young children. Building character comes through learning how to express one's emotions in a social setting. They learn this ability through intentional-play activities.

Remember with everything you read and learn ask yourself these questions:

What do you want the children in your care to learn?

Why is it important to you that they learn this?

How should they go about learning this?

Think about these questions as you read through this article.

Use what you believe will help your preschool classroom become what you want it to be.

Guiding is the Key

Building blocks for an accepting heart, starts with social-emotional skills in the early childhood years. At age two the most challenging skills start to emerge. Most teachers label these skills as bad behavior, or challenging behavior. This is not behavior, its emotions that need guiding in a social setting.

Teaching how to respond emotionally to situations they don't understand is very important at this age. It has lasting affects on the child's well-being.

We as teachers sometimes expect children to have control of their emotions all the time. Even though as adults we can't say we have control of our emotions all the time.

Don't give up

Even though the children in my class are only two, they have great abilities. They need a way to show it to the world. You will be surprised by what happens when you use the following two activities. A word of advice, don't give up. Give it a week. The first week is the testing period, the children will see if you are willing to keep doing it. Once they realize its the new routine, that is not going anywhere, your class will be different.

End of Week Observation Form

I use this method to keep track of what worked and what needs work.

End Of Week Observation

What worked?

What didn't work?

What did the children enjoy the most?

What kept the children their attention the longest?

I do this every single week and review them at the end of the month.

Social-Emotional Activity #1: Storytelling Wednesday


How I Do Storytelling Wednesday

On every Wednesday, I dress up for storytelling. I use many storytelling methods to teach all of the learning standards. I will go into these methods briefly in this article, because I want to focus on the props and how to use them.

The World of Eric Carle Activity set is one of the best props I had found in years. It only has large pictures of animals. I originally bought this thinking I would use it for coloring pages, but shortly after receiving it that idea changed. I will go into detail on how to use this awesome book.

Good Morning-Circle Time

We will start at the beginning of the the day and work through the morning routine. Use your daily schedule to set this up.

Step 1- Walk into the classroom in costume. The children don't care how it looks, just that you are dressed different. Announce "It's Story Telling Day. Everyone go get dressed up." Help each child put on dress up clothes. (if you don't have enough for the whole class, bring some hats, purses and ect. from home for the day.)

Step One

Step Two

Now go back to the World of Eric Carle Activity Set. This is a spiral top flip book. Very easy to use with one hand. Each page has one large animal on it.

To Use this book: Hold up the book and let the children name as many animals as they can. Then you can go back through and talk about what the animals eat. Later in the day you can find toys that match the animals. You can talk about where the animals live and how they walk.

I even looked up some sign language signs for the different animals and started using them with this book.

Get creative and use it or any book or prop to do the same with.

Use these methods throughout the day and you will complete your learning standards goals. Below is a table of the goals that was accomplished using this method.

Learning Standards for Storytelling

Learning Standard
Approaches to Learning
Explore relationships and the environment independently with purpose
Creative Expression
With guidance and support interact with materials that provide opportunities to develop and express individual ideas, feelings and interest
Language Arts
With guidance and support demonstrate the ability to express thoughts, feelings and needs clearly
Social Awareness
Begin to understand and act upon social cues.
Begin to demonstrate early scientific inquiry skills by questioning, exploring, problem solving, discovery and examining
With guidance and support develop interaction skills and begin to show independence

Other Storytelling Methods

I use all of the following throughout the day.

*Puppet Play [Any toy can become a puppet]

*Book Sharing [Naming and pointing to pictures in the book]

*Dialogical Reading [asking questions about what I'm reading or telling]

*Sign Language [simple animal signs]

*Dress Up

*Dancing Funny

*Book Handling [showing how to use books]

To learn more about each of these methods read my future articles.


Social-Emotional Activity #2: Lunch Routine

Are you ready? It's not about control, its about the children making good choices. After I explain this new way of doing lunch, I will tell you what learning standards you just used.

The most important thing to remember in not to tell them to sit down. Instead tell them "lunch is about to be served and those that are at the table will get their plates first." As you put down the plate remind them that their plate needs to be on the table when you come around with the food, or you will skip them. Keep saying this to the children.

Now lets start.

Those that are sitting down give them a empty plate and spoon.

After those sitting have their plates, start serving the food. Name each food as you put it on the plates. If the plate is not right side up and on the table, skip them. After you have made it around the table, look at those you skipped and see if their plate is right. If so give them some food. Then go to the next food item, and do the same thing. Repeat until all the food is handed out and every child has a plate of food.

Remember, don't fight with them about sitting down. They will come to the table on their own and be more willing to sit. Once they see you serving lunch, they will come to the table.

Do not give the milk cup until they are half way through with their lunch. They are still learning a new skill and spilling is going to happen. This keeps them from spilling it on their food or their neighbors food.

Your Turn

This is what makes this routine work, you must sit down at the table and eat what they are eating. Talk about the food you are eating and how good it is. Encourage the children to use their spoons. Some children will need help with this, sit by them and guide them on how to do it, by showing them with your spoon.

When they are halfway done with their lunch, give them their milk in a real cup, not a sippy cup. This is new to them, so do not fill their cups to full or they will spill it on them.

Clean-Up Time

Encourage the children to through their own plates away when they are done eating.

Let them help clean up from lunch. Give them paper towels to wipe the table and chairs with. They will feel so good about themselves and you just gave them a big boost in their self-esteem.

Learning Standards for Lunchtime Routines

Early Learning Standard
Approaches to Learning
To explore relationships and the environment independently with purpose
Language Arts
To demonstrate increasing ability to combine sounds and simple words to express meaning and to communicate
Begin to show an understanding of patterns in the environment
Social Awareness
Begin to understand and act upon social concepts
Physical Development
Develop small muscle strength and coordination of hands & fingers
Continue to learn and accept limits while developing an "I Can do it" attitude

© 2017 Joanna Blackburn


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