The Evidence Portal

Cultivating social-emotional skills

Flexible activity

This is the activity of developing social-emotional, or pro-social, skills such as empathy, reciprocal social interaction, social problem solving and emotional recognition.

How can it be implemented?

Social-emotional skills can be taught in the classroom using a blend of instruction, role playing and activity-based interventions.

Who is the target group?

This flexible activity’s target group is students transitioning to kindergarten.

What programs conduct this activity?

Kids in Transition to School (KITS): In this program, prosocial skills are taught using a blend of instruction (e.g., teachers define ‘sharing’, provide verbal examples, and ask the children for examples), role-playing (e.g., teachers model sharing and not sharing in a series of skits, and children are asked to differentiate between the two), and activity-based intervention (e.g., children must share materials to complete an art project). Children receive feedback and guided practice in using the target skills.

Second Step Early Learning (SSEL): This program integrates activities and instruction in emotion recognition, empathy and social problem solving with self-regulation techniques such as self-talk and learning to calm down.

The Incredible Years Teacher and Child Training Program (IY): This program is designed to promote children’s social competencies through engagement in classroom activities, anger control and emotional literacy.

What else should I consider?

The development of these skills takes place in many settings other than the classroom. The home environment plays a vital role in the development of social-emotional skills. Different parents and extended family can provide different role-models for children as they learn empathy, compassion, healthy social interactions and emotional recognition.

Further resources

  • Upshur, C. C., Wenz-Gross, M., Rhoads, C., Heyman, M., Yoo, Y. And Sawosik, G. 2019.  A randomized efficacy trial of the second step early learning (SSEL) curriculum. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 62, 145-159.
  • Pears, K., Fisher, P., Kim, H., Bruce, J., Healey, C. and Yoerger, K. 2013.  Immediate Effects of a School Readiness Intervention for Children in Foster Care. Early Education and Development, 24, 771-791.
  • Pears, K. C., Kim, H. K. and Fisher, P. A. 2012. Effects of a school readiness intervention for children in foster care on oppositional and aggressive behaviors in kindergarten. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 2361-2366.
Last updated:

24 Feb 2023

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