The foundation of the Social Development curriculum in the 4th and 5th grades is a program called
.(27) This curriculum teaches children to avoid violent interactions with their peers by becoming more competent at managing their emotions and using interpersonal skills such as taking another person’s perspective and controlling impulses. These skills and emotional competencies apply as well to learning about puberty and making decisions about sex as children grow. “Interventions that are effective in encouraging teenagers to postpone sexual intercourse help young people to develop the interpersonal skills they need to resist premature sexual involvement. Effective programs include a strong abstinence message, as well as information about contraception and safer sex. For interventions to be most effective, teenagers need to be exposed to these programs before initiating intercourse.”(28)
The first unit of
. It is important to remember that various cultures place different emphases on the relative importance of self as opposed to others, the individual vs. the collective. The dominant US culture (primarily Euro-American and Caucasian) values independence while Hispanic, Asian and some African-Americans have a cultural tradition which values the collective over the individual. This means there will probably be wide variation in the ease and speed with which children acquire empathy. In cultures where the collective is more valued, a strong foundation for empathy has already been acquired. The
curriculum suggests that empathy can be learned by focusing on three components: determining the emotional state of another person, assuming the role and perspective of another person, and responding emotionally to another person. Empathy is a key ingredient in developing pro-social behaviors and inter-personal problem-solving skills.(29)
The second unit ,
, teaches children to stop and think through a problem instead of reacting by doing the first thing that comes to mind. First, children learn to apply problem-solving steps to social situations, and then they learn behavioral skills such as apologizing or joining in an activity as ways of successfully avoiding or solving problems in the future.
The third unit,
, teaches children ways of managing stress, controlling their anger and channeling it into socially acceptable directions. This unit comes after they learn problem-solving so they will have a way to change the anger-causing situation once they have calmed down.
These social and emotional coping skills can clearly be applied to social interactions among children which arise or revolve around puberty, relationships, and growing up. Each
lesson recommends role-playing as a strategy for practicing new skills. Role play situations can easily and naturally include ones that relate to the changes of puberty which children are experiencing and studying, as well as to relationship issues with their peers, their parents, and other adults. “Transfer of training” is
’s phrase to describe the successful use of a newly learned skill outside of the classroom. This is the point during each
lesson where the teacher can specify possible situations , such as teasing someone who is particularly awkward, where the social skills carry over to real life.
The HBJ reading series for 4th and 5th grades contains many stories which are appropriate for reinforcing either the social skills or the puberty education the students are learning. There is a table in the bibliography which summarizes work done by 5th grade teachers at one middle school and the Social Development Facilitator to integrate some of the stories with particular
lessons. Reading about others who confront problems and successfully cope by using social and emotional skills is a powerful way for children to learn.
Chart Integrating The Components of This Unit
(figure available in print form)