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Kotahitanga: Getting on Together. year: 1-3, key area of learning: Mental Health

Introduction

This is the online version of the book Kotahitanga: Getting on Together, one of The Curriculum in Action series. It supports the implementation of Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum by providing teachers with ideas for planning units of work to meet the identified learning needs of students. Kotahitanga: Getting On Together suggests ways in which teachers can enhance students' social skills in the context of the Mental Health key area of learning. Teachers are not expected to implement all the suggested activities but can select those that are relevant to their own students' needs and their own abilities to create units of learning. Teachers could use all or parts of this resource over a two- or three-year cycle and may also select activities from other resources.

Why provide opportunities for learning social skills?

Social skills are part of the New Zealand Curriculum. Learning social skills is important because competence in these skills is essential for building good relationships with peers and for academic success. It has been found that children who have acquired basic social competence by the time they are eight years old are much less at risk of later social and psychological maladjustment (Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey, 1995). Teachers need to put social skills programmes into place to encourage positive interactions and to help provide "a safe physical and emotional environment for students", as required by National Administration Guideline 5 (i).

The years between ages five and eight are believed to be critical years in the development of effective social skills. Children of this age are beginning to acquire a concept of self and to interact more with peers as they explore the wider social environment of primary school.

As children move away from the "safety umbrella" that their parents, whānau, hapū, or church life have provided, friendships and acceptance into peer groups can provide them with a substitute form of support and security (Ladd, 1990) in which they are able to practise and develop their social skills. This means that teachers need to spend time planning and providing learning experiences for children's social development. Such experiences matter just as much as learning experiences for their intellectual development.

A child who is socially competent:

  • knows what socially appropriate behaviour is (knowledge);
  • can actually behave in socially appropriate ways (performance);
  • understands the effect that their actions have on the social environment (awareness).

It appears that there is a developmental progression from knowledge, to performance, to awareness, suggesting that all three may be necessary in order for a child to be deemed socially skilled (Stoddard, 1998).

Social skills programmes enable students to contribute positively in the classroom as well as in their wider social environment. This will contribute to their own well-being and that of others with whom they interact. These skills will provide long-term benefits, enabling children and young people to achieve quality of life now and in the future.

Linking to Curriculum
Key concepts
Planning considerations
Learning outcomes
Possible learning experiences
References, resources and organisations


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