When I'm Happy

Su "Scuola dell’infanzia” di febbraio, Paola Traverso traduce e adatta un testo di Sandie Mourão sullo sviluppo dell’intelligenza emotiva attraverso parole e suoni di una seconda lingua. Condividiamo il testo originale, più alcune esperienze e spunti di lavoro per fare inglese in sezione. 

di Redazione GiuntiScuola · 25 gennaio 2016
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12 min read

L'accesso alle risorse di questa sezione è riservato ai seguenti profili

  • Video

    I’m the best!

  • Video

    The Very Busy Spider

  • L' Intelligenza Emotiva (IE) è composta da abilità e competenze che possono essere coltivate quando i bambini sanno comunicare come e perché loro stessi e gli altri provano determinati sentimenti. In questo articolo, Sandie Mourão , insegnante specializzata nell'insegnamento della lingua inglese, propone alcune attività con cui l'insegnante di inglese può promuovere e consolidare la capacità di comunicare dei bambini. Si tratta, in particolare, di:

    a. attività basate su istruzioni esplicite - si usano materiali per lavorare sui nomi delle emozioni, per produrre consapevolezza e migliore gestione delle stesse. Per esempio si consegnano picture cards delle emozioni ai bambini, chiedendo quale è il sentimento illustrato e facendo la traduzione in L2 delle risposte dei bambini. La stessa attività si può svolgere con un dado delle emozioni e con canzoncine dedicate come When I’m happy.

    b. attività basate su istruzioni implicite - si procede al racconto e al riconoscimento delle emozioni proprie e altrui attraverso il dialogo in L2 e la lettura di libri in lingua come Hug , I'm the Best , The very busy Spider .

    Emotional Intelligence and language learning - Sandie Mourão

    In this article I discuss the different ways early years language teachers can support the development of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in their classrooms .

    Emotional intelligence

    “Emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990, p. 189). In education programmes it is referred to as the social, emotional and behavioural skills , however, it’s not possible to teach EI in just one lesson, for it is a mixture of personality traits and a sense of self-worth, nurtured through interaction amongst peers and adults in an every day world (Mosley, 2005). This nurturing begins at home but school has a role in continuing to support children’s EI development.

    Skills and competencies

    The skills and competencies that make up EI can be divided into five different strands.
    Self-awareness - the ability to recognize and identify a feeling, knowing why we feel as we do and being able to communicate this.
    Managing one's emotions – the ability to control emotions and express and communicate them in a socially acceptable manner.

    1. Empathy – the ability to recognize, be sensitive to and communicate the understanding of emotions of others by understanding possible motives for certain feelings and behavior.
    2. Handling relationships – the ability to influence the emotions of others in a positive way, to handle conflict constructively and get along well with others.
    3. Self-motivation - the ability to keep working toward a goal in the belief that you can successfully reach your goals.

    You will note that many of the abilities described in the strands indicate that children should be able to communicate how and why they, or others, feel as they do. Naturally then, we should be helping children do this in English (L2) reinforcing the concepts they are learning in their own language (L1).

    Explicit instruction

    Explicit activities involve focused instruction using whatever materials you have prepared to specifically work with emotions. Explicit instruction will take into consideration the first and second strands, self-awareness and managing emotions, as we are giving children words in the L2 to communicate their emotions, words they probably already know and understand in their L1.
    The six basic emotions included in the early years tend to be the ones that can be expressed and understood from facial expressions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, calmness and surprise (sometimes disgust). Children as young as two years old can recognize happiness and sadness, but may still confuse fear and anger. These same children are very capable of showing empathy, and will spontaneously hug a friend who they recognize as feeling sad.

    Self-awareness and managing emotions

    Simple teacher led activities during circle time help children pick up emotion words and begin to talk about how they feel in the L2. Use emotion picture cards . Show the picture and ask if the children know what feeling the face is showing. If they answer in their L1 recast their answer into the L2. Have the children first imitate the emotion, copying the facial expression first then include how the whole body can show certain feelings. Finally get them to say the emotion word in a way that denotes the actual feeling it is labeling. These acts of imitation will reinforce the concept and help them remember this new word.
    Using picture cards play different games that encourage the use of the emotion words and which stimulate the children’s memories. Make a fun emotions dice, with different emotions on each face. These activities don’t need to take long, and can be repeated over a number of sessions. If the resources are left in a play corner devoted to the L2, children can play this simple game during free play activities for further reinforcement.

    If you know any songs or rhymes you can sing or say these with your group during circle time. The When I’m happy song can be downloaded from my website . The melody is an unusual one, played on a sitar, and it cleverly evokes the different emotions. The lyrics are simple and it’s really popular with pre-school children:

    When I’m happy
    When I’m happy, 
I jump!
    When I’m sad, 
I cry!
    When I’m scared, 
I shake!
    When I’m angry, 
I count to 10.
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
    When I’m calm, I’m happy again.

    Through singing this song we are not only reinforcing ways to show emotions but also showing children how they can be controlled. When anger appears in the classroom encourage the child, or children, to count to ten slowly and take a deep breath, just as they do in the song. Helping children to manage their emotions contributes to developing the second EI strand.

    Implicit instruction

    As children become familiar with the emotion words more implicit activities take over, which will incorporate skills that promote development in the other EI strands. There will be less overall focus upon the actual language of emotion, instead we begin to use the newly learned words to question and describe emotions on a daily basis, for a real purpose.
    You can begin by commenting on your own, the class puppet’s and individual children’s feelings : “Hey! Julio, you are happy today. You are smiling!” or “Oh dear Ana. You are sad today, you are very quiet.” Gradually children will pick up on the language you are using and begin using it to describe themselves and others around them.
    Using picturebook stories is also a good way for children to put their developing knowledge about emotions to use. Picturebooks help children see and hear how others show and deal with emotional situations and how they manage challenges. By identifying emotions in others and seeing how others resolve problems children learn strategies of their own. Through the pictures in picturebooks children are afforded these opportunities, especially when accompanied by talk with others.

    • Empathy

    Hug by Jez Alborough is for very small children. It contains just three words, “hug”, “mummy” and “Bobo” and a lot of wonderful illustrations that show very clearly how a lost baby gorilla is feeling as he searches for, and eventually finds, his mummy. The word, “hug” can be said in a number of different ways as the picturebook progresses: sadly, desperately, eagerly and thankfully. The illustrations show how little Bobo gets more and more desperate and how the other animals in the jungle help him to find his mummy. As you read and show the picturebook, you can ask the children how they think Bobo is feeling as he looks for his mummy, help them tell you how they know this (from his body stance, from his facial expressions etc).

    • Handling relationships

    A picturebook for 5-year olds, I'm the Best by Lucy Cousins, is about Dog, who thinks he's the best. Dog has four friends who he loves. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop him telling them he can do things better than they can. It turns out that they teach him a lesson, in a kind way, and he realises that it's important for everyone to have that 'I'm the best' feeling! The illustrations show how each character feels, so after sharing this picturebook it is important to go back to particular illustrations and ask the children what they think the characters are feeling and how they know this. Talk about the way Dog behaved and ask what the children think about his behaviour. A nice follow up activity is for children to tell everyone what they are good at. You could create an “I’m the best!” display with children’s drawings and photos. Don’t forget to ensure that children are encouraged to feel proud of what they are best at, no matter what it is.

    • Self-motivation

    The very busy Spider by Eric Carle is a picturebook which shows persistence in reaching goals. A tiny spider is blown onto a farmyard fence, where she begins to make her web. All day long the animals ask her to come and play, but she keeps going determined to finish her task. At the end of the day she has a beautiful web, catches a fly and goes to sleep. Don’t forget to talk to them about how the spider managed to complete her web and the importance of not being distracted and not giving up.

    Concluding thoughts

    Many of the activities we use in our early years classrooms can naturally incorporate an EI slant, but are we taking advantage of them? Once children know emotion words in the L2 we should be encouraging them to use these words daily, supporting development in the different EI strands. Simple songs and games, verbalising concern for others as well as discussion around picturebook illustrations can easily be incorporated into circle time and successfully support the development of children’s emotional intelligence.


    Picturebooks cited

    Web links

    Leggi l'adattamento in Italiano di Paola Traverso
    su "Scuola dell'infanzia", 6, 2016 (riservato agli abbonati)

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