20 May 2004
Social skills added to three Rs for schoolchildren
Children are learning how to handle their feelings alongside their maths and English lessons as part of a major research project into social relationships at school.
The Children's Social Behaviour project (CSB), a University of Sussex-led study sponsored by Brighton and Hove Council, has resulted in an 'emotional literacy' curriculum - a learning programme to enable children to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others - directed at children at Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum. It will be presented to educational psychologists and other practitioners at a one-day conference at the University of Sussex tomorrow (May 21).
The purpose of the study, which involves children from seven primary schools in Brighton and Hove, is to develop ways of identifying and supporting children with social interaction problems before their behaviour starts to impact on others and their schoolwork.
The resulting emotional literacy curriculum, developed by Brighton and Hove educational psychologist Bob Daines, features 40 short, hypothetical, illustrated stories about everyday life, which can be woven into literacy, art, drama and even PE classes. Five themes are explored: words for feelings, mixed feelings, hurt feelings, displaying feelings and changing feelings. The curriculum also focuses on interaction between children as they discuss and explore the issues raised. Teachers have already reported that these activities were often the first time when children in the class listened to and showed interest in each others' opinions.
The research team, led by Sussex developmental psychologist Dr Robin Banerjee, has been following 330 children aged five to ten over three years of primary school since 2002 to see how problems in peer relations and social interaction develop. Researchers will continue with the study until the end of the next school year.
Fun tasks and interactive computer games were used to determine children's thoughts and feelings about everyday social situations, as well as to ascertain how children rated each other and themselves in terms of social behaviour and popularity. Results reveal that children who were generally rejected by their peers were viewed as disruptive and aggressive by their classmates and displayed distinctive ways of thinking and feeling about social situations. Negative thinking patterns were also associated with feelings of loneliness, anxiety and low self-esteem.
Dr Banerjee says: "This project has given researchers and educational psychologists a valuable opportunity to work together to develop effective strategies for supporting children's social and emotional development. We are currently exploring ways of feeding our work into the relevant national programmes coordinated by the Department for Education and Skills."
Notes for editors
The research project findings and guidelines on use of the curriculum will be presented at the Emotional Literacy Conference at the University of Sussex on Friday, May 21.
More information can be found at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/robinb/csb, where information and registration forms can also be downloaded.
University of Sussex Press Office contacts: Jacqui Bealing or Maggie Clune, Tel. 01273 678888, J.A.Bealing@sussex.ac.uk or M.T.Clune@sussex.ac.uk.
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