What is social thinking and what does this have to do with our curriculum at CESJDS? According to the Wikipedia definition, social thinking is what individuals do when interacting with other people--namely, they think about them.
For many students, social thinking is an intuitive process that considers the points of view, emotions and intentions of others. Many children acquire social skills by osmosis and intuitively learn to focus on people, their bodies and their social interactions. For other students, social thinking is not necessarily intuitive and needs to be explicitly taught. For students in all of our classrooms, tools that both teach and enhance children's abilities to process and respond to social information at a young age benefits everyone in our school community. We are excited that a priority in our school's new Strategic Plan is to train faculty in Social Thinking. Our Lower School faculty is committed to building student skills in active problem solving and weaving this into our academic curriculum.
During a recent professional day, the Lower School faculty participated in a full-day training on the social thinking method. At CESJDS, explicit teaching in social thinking begins with our youngest students. The Gurim class has been learning about social thinking this year during our havruta (social) time. It is important in the early childhood classroom to teach children that before they can think about the thoughts and feeling of others, they first must learn how their own thoughts work. Through explicit teaching, modeling, and practice, the Gurim class has been learning that they all have special powers. At the start of the school year, we posed the question to Gurim, "Have you ever considered that your thoughts may be different than others?" Can you imagine how the children felt when we told them about their powers? The special power was their own thoughts; we can think about anything, and anything we think comes from the power of thought.
In addition to teaching our students through our havruta time, we have created a safe space where a child can come to a teacher to get support for when they are having a tough time. We have built a "peace place" in the classroom where a teacher can join the child and go through the zones of regulation which is how we learn to control our feelings now and in the future. We ask the child to draw on a laminated face that is labeled "Sometimes I feel..." We use strategies that enable a child to talk about feelings, and have created a "calm down box" filled with breathing exercises and a calm thinking jar.
In addition, the Gurim class is learning about the Group Plan which is another social thinking concept. How we act in a group, or "we think" may differ than our individual behaviors, or "me think." What does it take for kids to cooperate as a group? Throughout the day, the Gurim class is learning how to read others in the group and recognize what the expected and unexpected behaviors should be. In a group, there is a plan and we all have jobs to figure out this plan. The Gurim students are learning how to understand their role and how to socially attend, interpret, and problem solve in order to figure out expected behaviors. Throughout each week, Gurim students are learning the Social Thinking method which over time, helps students to develop their social competencies.
The CESJDS staff is excited to continue our work on incorporating social thinking vocabulary and problem solving strategies into our classrooms. Social thinking supports perspective taking, self-awareness, and problem solving in social and academic situations. Beginning to develop an awareness of these areas and skills begins as soon as students enter our youngest classrooms!
Eve was an integral part of the team that developed the structure and curriculum for Gurim Junior Kindergarten, now in its third year at CESJDS, and is currently the program's director and general students teacher. With a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and a concentration in special education, training in the Phono-Graphix ® reading technique, K-Reading KickStart Orton Gillingham approach, Handwriting without Tears ® and Lindamood-Bell ® Learning Process, Eve's guiding philosophy is to create an environment that offers differentiated instruction designed to help students learn.