Strengthening Social and Emotional Competence in Young

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Summary of Strengthening Social and Emotional Competence in Young

LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 Infants and Young Children Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 96–113 c ⃝ 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Strengthening Social and Emotional Competence in Young Children—The Foundation for Early School Readiness and Success Incredible Years Classroom Social Skills and Problem-Solving Curriculum Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD; M. Jamila Reid, PhD The ability of young children to manage their emotions and behaviors and to make meaningful friendships is an important prerequisite for school readiness and academic success. Socially com- petent children are also more academically successful and poor social skills are a strong predictor of academic failure. This article describes The Incredible Years Dinosaur Social Skills and Problem- Solving Child Training Program, which teaches skills such as emotional literacy, empathy or per- spective taking, friendship and communication skills, anger management, interpersonal problem solving, and how to be successful at school. The program was first evaluated as a small group treatment program for young children who were diagnosed with oppositional defiant and con- duct disorders. More recently the program has been adapted for use by preschool and elementary teachers as a prevention curriculum designed to increase the social, emotional, and academic com- petence, and decrease problem behaviors of all children in the classroom. The content, methods, and teaching processes of this classroom curriculum are discussed. Key words: behavior prob- lems, emotional regulation, problem-solving, school readiness, social competence T HE prevalence of aggressive behavior problems in preschool and early school- age children is about 10%, and may be as From the University of Washington School of Nursing, Seattle, Wash. The senior author of this article has disclosed a poten- tial financial conflict of interest because she dissemi- nates these interventions and stands to gain from a favorable report. Because of this, she has voluntarily agreed to distance herself from certain critical research activities (ie, recruiting, consenting, primary data han- dling, and analysis) and the University of Washington has approved these arrangements. Corresponding author: Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD, University of Washington School of Nursing, Parenting Clinic, 1107 NE 45th St, Suite 305, Seattle, WA 98105 (e-mail: [email protected]). high as 25% for socio-economically disad- vantaged children (Rimm-Kaufman, Pianta, & Cox, 2000; Webster-Stratton, 1998; Webster- Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, 2001a). Evidence suggests that without early intervention, emotional, social, and behavioral problems (particularly, aggression and oppositional be- havior) in young children are key risk fac- tors or “red flags” that mark the beginning This research was supported by the NIH National Cen- ter for Nursing Research Grant #5 R01 NR01075-12 and Research Scientist Development Award MH00988- 10 from NIMH. Special appreciation to Nicole Griffin, Lois Hancock, Gail Joseph, Peter Loft, Tony Washington, and Karen Wilke for piloting aspects of this curriculum and for their input into its development. 96 LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 Classroom Social Skills Dinosaur Program 97 of escalating academic problems, grade reten- tion, school drop out, and antisocial behavior (Snyder, 2001; Tremblay, Mass, Pagani, & Vitaro, 1996). Preventing, reducing, and halt- ing aggressive behavior at school entry, when children’s behavior is most malleable, is a beneficial and cost-effective means of inter- rupting the progression from early conduct problems to later delinquency and academic failure. Moreover, strengthening young children’s capacity to manage their emotions and be- havior, and to make meaningful friendships, particularly if they are exposed to multiple life-stressors, may serve an important protec- tive function for school success. Research has indicated that children’semotional, social, and behavioral adjustment is as important for school success as cognitive and academic pre- paredness (Raver & Zigler, 1997). Children who have difficulty paying attention, follow- ing teacher directions, getting along with oth- ers, and controlling negative emotions, do less well in school (Ladd, Kochenderfer, & Coleman, 1997). They are more likely to be rejected by classmates and to get less positive feedback from teachers which, in turn, con- tributes to off task behavior and less instruc- tion time (Shores & Wehby, 1999). Parent education programs How, then, do we assure that children who are struggling with a range of emotional and social problems receive the teaching and sup- port they need to succeed in school? One way is to work with parents to provide them with positive parenting strategies that will build their preschool children’s social com- petencies and academic readiness. Research shows that children with lower emotional and social competencies are more frequently found in families where parents express more hostile parenting, engage in more conflict, and give more attention to children’s negative than positive behaviors (Cummings, 1994; Webster-Stratton & Hammond, 1999). Chil- dren whose parents are emotionally positive and attend to prosocial behaviors are more likely to be able to self-regulate and respond in nonaggressive ways to conflict situations. In- deed, parent training programs have been the single most successful treatment approach to date for reducing externalizing behavior prob- lems (oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD) in young children (Brestan & Eyberg, 1998). A variety of parenting programs have re- sulted in clinically significant and sustained reductions in externalizing behavior prob- lems for at least two third of young chil- dren treated (eg, for review, see Brestan & Eyberg, 1998; Taylor & Biglan, 1998). The in- tervention goals of these programs are to re- duce harsh and inconsistent parenting while promoting home-school relationships. These experimental studies provide support for so- cial learning theories that highlight the cru- cial role that parenting style and discipline effectiveness play in determining children’s social competence and reducing externaliz- ing behavior problems at home and in the classroom (Patterson, DeGarmo, & Knutson, 2000). More recently, efforts have been made to implement adaptations of these treatments for use as school-based preschool and early school prevention programs. A review of the literature regarding these parenting preven- tion programs for early school age children indicates that this approach is very promis- ing (Webster-Stratton & Taylor, 2001). While there is less available research with preschool children, the preliminary studies are also quite promising. In our own work, we targeted all parents who enrolled in Head Start (children ages 3–5 years). In 2 randomized trials of 500 parents, we reported that the Incredible Years parenting program was effective in strength- ening parenting skills for a multiethnic group of parents of preschoolers (Webster-Stratton, 1998; Webster-Stratton et al., 2001a). Exter- nalizing behaviors were significantly reduced for children who were showing above average rates of these behaviors at baseline. Mothers with mental health risk factors, such as high depressive symptomatology, reported phys- ical abuse as children, reported substance abuse, and high levels of anger were able to engage in the parenting program and to LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 98 INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN/APRIL–JUNE 2004 benefit from it at levels comparable to par- ents without these mental health risk factors (Baydar, Reid, & Webster-Stratton, 2003). Similar results were obtained in an indepen- dent trial in Chicago with primarily African- American mothers who enrolled their tod- dlers in low-income day care centers (Gross, Fogg, Webster-Stratton, Garvey, & Grady, 2003). Teacher training A second approach to preventing and re- ducing young children’s behavior problems is to train teachers in classroom management strategies that promote social competence. Teachers report that 16% to 30% of the stu- dents in their classrooms pose ongoing prob- lems in terms of social, emotional, and be- havioral difficulties (Raver & Knitzer, 2002). Moreover, there is substantial evidence show- ing that the way teachers interact with these students affects their social and emotional outcomes. In a recent study, Head Start cen- ters were randomly assigned to an interven- tion condition that included the Incredible Years parent training and teacher training curricula or to a control condition that re- ceived the usual Head Start services. In class- rooms where teachers had received the 6-day training workshop, independent observations showed that teachers used more positive teaching strategies and their students were more engaged (a prerequisite for academic learning) and less aggressive than students in control classrooms (Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, in press). Another study with chil- dren diagnosed with ODD/CD showed that the addition of teacher training to the par- ent training program significantly enhanced children’s school outcomes compared to conditions that only offered parent training (Bierman, 1989; Kazdin, Esveldt, French, & Unis, 1987; Ladd & Mize, 1983; Lochman & Dunn, 1993; Shure, 1994; Webster-Stratton et al., in press). Overall, the research on col- laborative approaches to parent- and teacher- training suggests that these interventions can lead to substantial improvements in teachers’ and parents’ interactions with children and ultimately to children’s academic and social competence. Child social skills and problem-solving training A third approach to strengthening chil- dren’s social and emotional competence is to directly train them in social, cognitive, and emotional management skills such as friendly communication, problem solving, and anger management, (eg, Coie & Dodge, 1998; Dodge & Price, 1994). The theory un- derlying this approach is the substantial body of research indicating that children with be- havior problems show social, cognitive, and behavioral deficits (eg, Coie & Dodge, 1998). Children’s emotional dysregulation problems have been associated with distinct patterns of responding on a variety of psycho physio- logical measures compared to typically devel- oping children (Beauchaine, 2001; McBurnett et al., 1993). There is also evidence that some of these biobehavioral systems are re- sponsive to environmental input (Raine et al., 2001). Moreover, children with a more dif- ficult temperament (eg, hyperactivity, impul- sivity, and inattention) are at higher risk for particular difficulties with conflict manage- ment, social skills, emotional regulation, and making friends. Teaching social and emotional skills to young children who are at risk ei- ther because of biological and temperament factors or because of family disadvantage and stressful life factors can result in fewer ag- gressive responses, inclusion with prosocial peer groups, and more academic success. Be- cause development of these social skills is not automatic, particularly for these higher risk children, more explicit and intentional teach- ing is needed (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). The preschool and early school-age period would seem to be a strategic time to inter- vene directly with children and an optimal time to facilitate social competence and re- duce their aggressive behaviors before these behaviors and reputations develop into per- manent patterns. LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 Classroom Social Skills Dinosaur Program 99 This article describes a classroom-based prevention program designed to increase children’s social and emotional competence, decrease problem behaviors, and increase academic competence. The Incredible Years Dinosaur Social Skills and Problem-Solving Child Training Program first published in 1989 (Webster-Stratton, 1990) was originally designed as a treatment program for children with diagnosed ODD/CD and has established efficacy with that population (Webster- Stratton & Hammond, 1997; Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, 2001b; Webster-Stratton et al., in press). In 2 randomized control group studies, 4–8-year-old children with externalizing behavior problems (ODD/CD) who participated in a weekly, 2-hour, 20- to 22-week treatment program showed reductions in aggressive and disruptive be- havior according to independent observed interactions of these children with teachers and peers. These children also demonstrated increases in prosocial behavior and positive conflict management skills, compared to an untreated control group (Webster-Stratton & Hammond, 1997; Webster-Stratton et al., in press). These improvements in children’s behavior were maintained 1 and 2 years later. Moreover treatment was effective not only for children with externalizing behavior problems but also for children with comorbid hyperactivity, impulsivity, and attentional dif- ficulties (Webster-Stratton, Reid, Hammond, 2001b). Additionally, adding the child pro- gram to the Incredible Years parent program was shown to enhance long-term outcomes for children who are exhibiting pervasive behavior problems across settings (home and school) by reducing behavior problems in both settings and improving children’s social interactions and conflict management skills with peers (Webster-Stratton & Hammond, 1997). Currently we are undergoing an evaluation of the classroom-based prevention version of this program designed to strengthen social competence for all children. Head Start and kindergarten classrooms from low-income schools (defined as having 60% or more children receiving free lunch) were randomly assigned to the intervention or usual school services conditions. Intervention consisted of 4 days of teacher training workshops (offered once per month) in which teachers were trained in the classroom management curricu- lum as well as in how to deliver the classroom version of the Dinosaur School Curriculum. Teachers also participated in weekly planning meetings to review lesson plans and individ- ual behavior plans for higher risk students. Teachers and research staff cotaught 30 to 34 lessons in each classroom (twice weekly) according to the methods and processes described below. The integrity and fidelity of the intervention were assured by the ongoing mentoring and coteaching with our trained leaders, weekly planning meetings and supervision, ongoing live and videotape observations and review of actual lessons delivered, completion of standard integrity checklists by supervisors, and submission of unit protocols for every unit completed. Teachers and parents provided report data, and independent observations were con- ducted in the classroom at the beginning and end of the school year. Preliminary analysis with over 628 students suggests the program is promising. Independent observations of children in the classrooms show significant differences between control and intervention students on variables such as authority accep- tance (eg, compliance to teacher requests and cooperation), social contact, and aggressive behavior. Intervention classrooms had signifi- cantly greater positive classroom atmosphere than did control classrooms, and intervention students had significantly higher school readiness scores as measured by behaviors such as being focused and on-task during aca- demic activities, complying during academic time, and showing cognitive concentration (Webster-Stratton & Reid, in press). Moreover, individual testing of children’scognitive social problem-solving indicated that intervention children had signficantly more prosocial responses in response to conflict situations than control children. In addition, teachers reported high levels of satisfaction with both LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 100 INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN/APRIL–JUNE 2004 the teacher training and the Dinosaur School classroom curriculum. Recently, the classroom-based intervention has been used by 2 other research teams in combination with the Incredible Years parent program and while the independent contribution of the child training program cannot be determined from their research designs, positive outcomes have been re- ported in regard to improvements in chil- dren’s social and academic variables (August, Realmuto, Hektner, & Bloomquist, 2001; Barrera et al., 2002). In the remainder of this article, we will highlight the goals; describe the curricular content and objectives; and briefly describe the therapeutic processes and methods of de- livering the Incredible Years Dina Dinosaur’s Social Skills and Problem-Solving Classroom- Based Curriculum. CONTENT AND GOALS OF THE CHILD TRAINING DINOSAUR PROGRAM The classroom-based version of this cur- riculum for children aged 3–8 years con- sists of over 64 lesson plans and has preschool/kindergarten and primary grade (1–3) versions. Teachers use the lesson plans to teach specific skills at least 2 to 3 times a week in a 15- to 20-minute large group circle time followed by small group practice activi- ties (20 minutes). Teachers are asked to look for opportunities during recess, free choice, meal, or bus times to promote the specific skills being taught in a unit. Ideally, as each new skill is taught, it is then woven through- out the regular classroom curriculum so that it provides a background for continued social and academic learning. Children complete di- nosaur home activity books with their par- ents, and letters about the concepts taught are sent home regularly. Parents are also encour- aged to participate in the classroom by help- ing out with small group activities. The content of the curriculum is based on theory and research indicating the kinds of social, emotional, and cognitive deficits found in children with behavior problems. It focuses on 7 units: learning school rules and how to be successful in school; emo- tional literacy, empathy or perspective taking; interpersonal problem solving; anger man- agement; and friendship and communication skills. Teachers receive 4 days of training in the content and methods of delivering the program. They use comprehensive manuals with lesson plans that outline every lesson’s content, objectives, videotapes to be shown, and descriptions of small group activities. There are over 300 different activities that re- inforce the content of the lessons. The fol- lowing description is a brief overview of each content area in the curriculum. Please see the book How to Promote Children’s Social and Emotional Competence by Webster-Stratton (1999) for more details. See Table 1 for an overview of the objectives for each of the in- tervention program components. Making friends and learning school rules and how to do your best in school (Apatasaurus Unit 1 and Iguanodon Unit 2) In the first 2 units, students are intro- duced to Dinosaur School and learn the im- portance of group rules such as following di- rections, keeping hands to selves, listening to the teacher, using a polite and friendly voice or behavior, using walking feet, and speaking with inside voices. In the very first lesson, children are involved in discussing and prac- ticing the group rules, using life-sized pup- pets. In small groups (6 per table), the chil- dren make rules posters that include drawings of the rules or instant photographs of the chil- dren following the rules. Understanding and detecting feelings (Triceratops Unit 3) Children at risk for behavior problems of- ten have language delays and limited vocabu- lary to express their feelings, thus contribut- ing to their difficulties regulating emotional responses (Frick et al., 1991; Sturge, 1982). Children from families where there has been neglect or abuse, or where there is consider- able environmental stress may have negative LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 Classroom Social Skills Dinosaur Program 101 Table 1. Content and objectives of the Incredible Years child training programs (a.k.a. Dina Dinosaur Social Skills and Problem-Solving Curriculum) (ages 4–8) Content Objectives Apatosaurus Unit 1: Introduction to Dinosaur School • Understanding the importance of rules • Participating in the process of rule making • Understanding what will happen if rules are broken • Learning how to earn rewards for good behaviors • Learning to build friendships Iguanodon Unit 2: Doing your best detective work at school Part 1: Listening, waiting, quiet hands up Part 2: Concentrating, checking, and cooperating • Learning how to listen, wait, avoid interruptions, and put up a quiet hand to ask questions in class • Learning how to handle other children who poke fun and interfere with the child’s ability to work at school • Learning how to stop, think, and check work first • Learning the importance of cooperation with the teacher and other children • Practicing concentrating and good classroom skills Triceratops Unit 3: Understanding and detecting feelings Part 1: Wally teaches clues to detecting feelings Part 2: Wally teaches clues to understanding feelings • Learning words for different feelings • Learning how to tell how someone is feeling from verbal and nonverbal expressions • Increasing awareness of nonverbal facial communication used to portray feelings • Learning different ways to relax • Understanding why different feelings occur • Understanding feelings from different perspectives • Practicing talking about feelings Stegosaurus Unit 4: Detective Wally teaches problem-solving steps Part 1: Identifying problems and solutions Part 2: Finding more solutions Part 3: Thinking of consequences • Learning how to identify a problem • Thinking of solutions to hypothetical problems • Learning verbal assertive skills • Learning how to inhibit impulsive reactions • Understanding what apology means • Thinking of alternative solutions to problem situations such as being teased and hit • Learning to understand that solutions have different consequences • Learning how to critically evaluate solutions—one’s own and others T-Rex Unit 5: Tiny Turtle teaches anger management Part 4: Detective Wally teaches how to control anger Part 5: Problem-solving step 7 and review • Recognizing that anger can interfere with good problem solving • Understanding Tiny Turtle’s story about managing anger and getting help • Understanding when apologies are helpful • Recognizing anger in themselves and others • Understanding anger is okay to feel “inside” but not to act out by hitting or hurting someone else (continues) LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 102 INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN/APRIL–JUNE 2004 Table 1. (Continued) Content Objectives • Learning how to control anger reactions • Understanding that things that happen to them are not necessarily hostile or deliberate attempts to hurt them • Practicing alternative responses to being teased, bullied, or yelled at by an angry adult • Learning skills to cope with another person’s anger Allosaurus Unit 6: Molly Manners teaches how to be friendly Part 1: Helping Part 2: Sharing Part 3: Teamwork at school Part 4: Teamwork at home • Learning what friendship means and how to be friendly • Understanding ways to help others • Learning the concept of sharing and the relationship between sharing and helping • Learning what teamwork means • Understanding the benefits of sharing, helping, and teamwork • Practicing friendship skills Brachiosaurus Unit 7: Molly explains how to talk with friends • Learning how to ask questions and tell something to a friend • Learning how to listen carefully to what a friend is saying • Understanding why it is important to speak up about something that is bothering you • Understanding how and when to give an apology or compliment • Learning how to enter into a group of children who are already playing • Learning how to make a suggestion rather than give commands • Practicing friendship skills feelings and thoughts about themselves and others and difficulty perceiving another’s point of view or feelings different from their own (Dodge, 1993). Such children also may have difficulty reading facial cues and may distort or underutilize social cues (Dodge & Price, 1994). Therefore, the Triceratops Feelings Pro- gram is designed to help children learn to regulate their own emotions and to accu- rately identify and understand their own as well as others’ feelings. The first step in this process is to help children be able to accu- rately label and express their own feelings to others. Through the use of laminated cue cards and videotapes of children demonstrat- ing various emotions, children discuss and learn about a wide range of feeling states. The unit begins with basic sad, angry, happy, and scared feelings and progresses to more complex feelings such as frustration, excite- ment, disappointment, and embarrassment. The children are helped to recognize their own feelings by checking their bodies and faces for “tight”(tense) muscles, relaxed mus- cles, frowns, smiles, and sensations in other parts of their bodies (eg, butterflies in their stomachs). Matching the facial expressions and body postures shown on cue cards helps the children to recognize the cues from their own bodies and associate a word with these feelings. Next, children are guided to use their detective skills to look for clues in another person’s facial expression, behavior, or tone LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 Classroom Social Skills Dinosaur Program 103 of voice to recognize what the person may be feeling and to think about why they might be feeling that way. Video vignettes, photos of sports stars and other famous people, as well as pictures of the children in the group are all engaging ways to provide experience in “reading”feeling cues. Games such as Feel- ing Dice (children roll a large die with feel- ing faces on all sides and identify and talk about the feelings that they see) or Feeling Bingo are played to reinforce these concepts. Nursery rhymes, songs, and children’s books provide fun opportunities to talk about the characters’ feelings, how they cope with un- comfortable feelings, and how they express their feelings (for example, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” expresses happiness, fear, worry, and hopeful- ness in the course of a few lines of rhyme). As the children become more skilled at recog- nizing feelings in themselves and others, they can begin to learn empathy, perspective tak- ing, and emotion regulation. Children also learn strategies for changing negative (angry, frustrated, sad) feelings into more positive feelings. Wally (a child-sized puppet) teaches the children some of his “se- crets” for calming down (take a deep breath, think a happy thought). Games, positive im- agery, and activities are used to illustrate how feelings change over time and how different people can react differently to the same event (the metaphor of a “feeling thermometer” is used and children practice using real ther- mometers in hot and cold water to watch the mercury go from “hot and angry”to “cool and calm”). To practice perspective taking, role- plays include scenarios in which the students take the part of the teacher, parent, or another child who has a problem. This work on feel- ings literacy is integrated and underlies all the subsequent units in this curriculum. Detective Wally teaches problem-solving steps (Stegosaurus Unit 4) Children who are temperamentally more difficult, that is, hyperactive, impulsive, or inattentive have been shown to have cogni- tive deficits in key aspects of social prob- lem solving (Dodge & Crick, 1990). Such children perceive social situations in hos- tile terms, generate fewer prosocial ways of solving interpersonal conflict, and anticipate fewer consequences for aggression (Dodge & Price, 1994). They act aggressively and im- pulsively without stopping to think of nonag- gressive solutions or of the other person’s perspective and expect their aggressive re- sponses to yield positive results. There is ev- idence that children who employ appropri- ate problem-solving strategies play more con- structively, are better liked by their peers, and are more cooperative at home and school. Consequently, in this unit of the curricu- lum, teachers help students to generate more prosocial solutions to their problems and to evaluate which solutions are likely to lead to positive consequences. In essence, tempera- mentally difficult children are provided with a thinking strategy that corrects the flaws in their decision-making process and reduces their risk of developing ongoing peer rela- tionship problems. Other students in the class benefit as well because they learn how to re- spond appropriately to children who are more aggressive in their interactions. Children learn a 7-step process of problem solving: (1) How am I feeling, and what is my problem? (define problem and feelings) (2) What is a solution? (3) What are some more solutions? (brainstorm solutions or alternative choices) (4) What are the consequences? (5) What is the best solution? (Is the solution safe, fair, and does it lead to good feelings?) (6) Can I use my plan? and (7) How did I do? (evalu- ate outcome and reinforce efforts). In Year 1 of the curriculum a great deal of time is spent on steps 1, 2, and 3 to help children increase their repertoire of possible prosocial solutions (eg, trade, ask, share, take turns, wait, walk away, etc). In fact, for the 3–5-year-olds, these 3 steps may be the entire focus of this unit. One to 2 new solutions are introduced in each lesson, and the students are given multiple op- portunities to role-play and practice these so- lutions with a puppet or another child. Lami- nated cue cards of over 40 pictured solutions LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 104 INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN/APRIL–JUNE 2004 are provided in Wally’s detective kit and are used by children to generate possible solu- tions and evaluate whether they will work to solve particular problems. As in the feel- ing unit, we begin with the less complex and more behavioral solutions such as ask, trade, share, and wait before moving onto the com- plex, cognitive solutions such as compliment yourself for doing the right thing. Children role-play solutions to problem scenarios intro- duced by the puppets, the video vignettes, or by the children themselves. In one activ- ity, the children draw or color their own so- lution cards so that each student has his own detective solution kit. The children are guided to consult their own or the group solution kit when a real-life problem occurs in order to be- gin to foster self-management strategies. Ac- tivities for this unit include writing or acting in a problem-solving play, going “fishing” for solutions (with a magnetized fishing rod), and working as a group to generate enough solu- tions to join “Wally’s Problem-Solving Detec- tive Club.” Tiny Turtle teaches anger management (T-Rex Unit 5) Aggression and inadequate impulse control are perhaps the most potent obstacles to ef- fective problem solving and forming success- ful friendships for children. Without help, children who are aggressive are more likely to experience ongoing peer rejection and con- tinued social problems for years afterwards (Coie, 1990). Such children have difficulty regulating their negative affect in order to generate positive solutions to conflict situa- tions. Furthermore, there is evidence that ag- gressive children are more likely to misinter- pret ambiguous situations as hostile or threat- ening. This tendency to perceive hostile in- tent in others has been seen as one source of their aggressive behavior (Dodge & Coie, 1987; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). Consequently, once the basic framework for problem solving has been taught, chil- dren are taught anger-management strategies. Anger-management programs based on the work of Novaco (1975) have been shown to reduce aggression in aggressive middle and high school students and to maintain gains in problem-solving skills (Lochman & Dunn, 1993). Clearly children cannot solve problems if they are too angry to think calmly. A new puppet, Tiny Turtle, is used to teach the chil- dren a 5-step anger management strategy that includes (1) recognize anger; (2) think “stop”; (3) take a deep breath; (4) go into your shell, and tell yourself “I can calm down”; and (5) try again. Tiny’s shell is the basis for many activities: making a large cardboard shell that children can actually hide under, making gro- cery bag “shells”or vests, molding play dough shells for small plastic figures (the children pretend the figures are mad and help them to calm down in the play dough shells), and mak- ing teasing shields (the teasing shield is made of cardboard—friendly words are written on cards that stick to the shield with the Velcro; unfriendly words have no Velcro and slip off the shield). Each of these activities provides multiple opportunities for the teacher to help the children practice the steps of anger man- agement. Children are helped to recognize the clues in their bodies that tell them they are becoming angry and to learn to use self- talk, deep breathing, and positive imagery to help themselves calm down. Teachers also use guided imagery exercises with the children (having them close their eyes and pretend to be in a cocoon or turtle shell) to help them experience the feeling of being relaxed and calm. Videotapes of children handling anger or being teased or rejected are used to trig- ger role-plays to practice these calming down strategies. Throughout the discussion of vignettes and role-play demonstrations, the teachers and puppets help the children to change some of their negative attributions about events. For example, the puppet Molly explains, “Maybe he was teasing you because he really wanted to be your friend but didn’t know how to ask you nicely”or, “You know, all kids get turned down sometimes when they ask to play; it doesn’t mean the other kids don’t like you”or, “You know, he might have bumped you acci- dentally and not on purpose.”The Pass the Hat LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 Classroom Social Skills Dinosaur Program 105 Detective game is played to help the children determine when an event might be an “acci- dent” versus when it might be done “on pur- pose”and how each event could be handled. Molly Manners teaches how to be friendly and how to talk with friends (Allosaurus and Brachiosaurus Units 6 and 7) Few teachers need to be convinced that friendships are important for children. Through the successful formation of friend- ships, children learn social skills such as cooperation, sharing, and conflict manage- ment. Friendships also foster a child’s sense of group belonging and begin to facilitate children’s empathy skills—that is, their ability to understand another’s perspective. The formation (or absence) of friendships has an enduring impact on the child’s social adjustment in later life. Research has shown that peer problems such as peer isolation or rejection are predictive of a variety of problems including depression, school drop out, and other psychiatric problems in ado- lescence and adulthood (Asher, Parkhurst, Hymel, & Williams, 1990). Children who are aggressive and have more impulsive and hyperactive tempera- ments have particular difficulty forming and maintaining friendships. Our research has in- dicated these children have significantly de- layed play skills including difficulties waiting for a turn, accepting peers’ suggestions, offer- ing an idea rather than demanding something, or collaborating in play with peers (Webster- Stratton & Lindsay, 1999). They also have poor conversation skills, difficulty responding to the overtures of others, and poor group en- try skills. Consequently, in the friendship units of this curriculum, we focus on teaching chil- dren a repertoire of friendly behaviors such as sharing, trading, taking turns, asking, making a suggestion, apologizing, agreeing with oth- ers, and giving compliments. In addition, chil- dren are taught specific prosocial responses for common peer situations, such as entering a group of children who are already playing (ie, watch from sidelines and show interest, continue watching and give a compliment, wait for a pause, and ask politely to join in and accept the response). As with other units, the teaching strate- gies involve (a) modeling these friendship skills by the puppets or in videotape exam- ples; (b) guided practice using them in role plays and games; (c) coaching the skills dur- ing small group activities; and (d) promotion of skills throughout the day. For example, af- ter the initial circle time discussion and mod- eling, children are paired up for a cooper- ative activity, such as making a Lego build- ing together. A teacher coaches the pair to exhibit friendly behaviors by making sugges- tions and describing the children’s play (eg, “Wow! That was really friendly of John to share that block with you. And now you’re waiting patiently for a turn with the car. Can either of you think of a good compliment to give your friend?”). Over time, pairs be- come triads and then larger groups practice these skills. The complexity increases for early school age students when they are given a turn to become the “coach,” and the teacher helps them to count and record (on a sheet with pictures of each behavior) each friendly thing they see their peers doing. Other activ- ities for this unit include making Secret Pal Friendship Books (each child writes friendly things about a secret pal and then gives the book to them), compliment circles, Friend- ship Bingo, and setting goals (on a sticker chart) for friendly things they can do to help at home. Developmentally appropriate, individualized for every child The cornerstone of developmentally appro- priate practice and setting goals is individ- ualizing the curriculum and experiences for all children. Using a manualized curriculum does not mean that it is delivered inflexibly or without sensitivity to individual student, fam- ily, or community differences. Throughout Di- nosaur School, we individualize the curricu- lar activities and teachers’ interactions with students to take into account developmen- tal, cultural, and interpersonal differences and LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 106 INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN/APRIL–JUNE 2004 also individual approaches to students’ learn- ing. Teachers are encouraged to make mod- ifications and adaptations for children with special needs, for classrooms with particular issues (eg, bullying on playground), and for unique situations that occur in a particular community (eg, experiencing an earthquake). For example, the small group activities allow for many levels of development. If an activity calls for a drawing of a feeling face, the child who can barely hold a crayon may color in a line drawing of a feeling face and the teacher may transcribe the child’s word for that feel- ing, another child with better fine motor skills may be provided with a blank face to draw in his own feeling face, and a third child may draw a feeling face and write the word or even a story to describe the feeling. Thus, emergent and formal reading and writing skills can be encouraged according to the child’s abilities. Dinosaur School is also individualized through behavior plans developed for children with particular behavioral issues. Individual behav- ior plans include identifying the target behav- iors that are of concern; doing a functional analyses of the behavior (ie, identifying when and why the behavior occurs); pinpointing the desired behavior to increase; and identi- fying the specific strategies that teachers will use to help the child learn the new behavior (Bear, 1998; Wolery, 2000). It is important that a social skills curricu- lum reflects the lives of the children it is be- ing used with. Dinosaur School uses puppets, pictures, and videotapes of children from di- verse cultural backgrounds and stories of chil- dren from differing ethnic groups. In addition, the puppets reflect the diversity of personal issues for families and children in a particu- lar classroom. For example, one of the pup- pets may have a disability, another puppet may be teased by peers, another may have parents who fight or may live in a foster home. Although the curriculum offers sugges- tions about role-play scenarios, teachers are encouraged to tailor the specific role-plays to issues that are relevant to the children in their classes. For example, if sharing at choice time is an issue in a particular class, the puppets might come to class to talk about their own difficulties with sharing in the block area. Translators are used for Dinosaur School whenever necessary. Parent volunteers or in- structional assistants have helped translate during the large circle time discussions, some- times even using a puppet to speak the other language. Involving parents Widespread support for involving parents in their children’s educational experience grows out of convincing evidence suggest- ing that family involvement has a positive ef- fect on children’s academic achievement, so- cial competence, and school quality (Webster- Stratton, 1998; Webster-Stratton et al., 2001a). Teachers send Dinosaur newsletters home to inform parents about what is being taught in Dinosaur School and make positive phone calls about children’s successes. Dinosaur School homework is another way to promote parent involvement. Children receive Dina’s Detective Activities workbooks for each of the 7 units. They work on the activities in these workbooks with their parents so that parents can reinforce the skills their children are learn- ing in Dinosaur School. If parents are unable to complete homework with their children at home, the children are provided with op- portunities to complete the workbooks dur- ing the school day. Our experience to date suggests that about 85% of the parents are very involved with their children in doing the homework and report that they and their chil- dren enjoy this time together. Parents are also involved in Dinosaur School through reports given at school in parent meetings about what skills are being taught in Dinosaur School, as well as through volunteer opportunities to help with Dinosaur School, particularly dur- ing the small group activity times. Parents’ in- put is also solicited when individual behavior plans are developed for their child. Because research has suggested that many of children’s emotional problems are affected by parenting practices, it is ideal to also offer parent pro- grams that aim to reduce families’ use of in- consistent and harsh parenting and strategies LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 Classroom Social Skills Dinosaur Program 107 for parents to strengthen social competence at home. METHODS OF PRESENTING DINOSAUR PROGRAM Methods and processes for teaching social skills to young children must fit with the children’s learning styles, temperaments, and cognitive abilities. Within the 3- to 8-year-old age range, there are vast differences in chil- dren’sdevelopmental ability. Some children in a group may be reading, other children may not read at all. Some children will be able to grasp relatively complicated ideas, such as how to evaluate possible future consequences of an action. Other children may be operating in the “here and now”with little ability to pre- dict ahead. The Dinosaur Program provides relevant content areas for the preschool to early elementary school age group. A skilled teacher will then use developmentally appro- priate practices to present the material to the child in any given group. The following sections provide guidelines for teaching and sequencing the curriculum, organizing groups, and for using methods that will enhance learning for young children. Research-proven group management skills It is vitally important that the teachers have positive and proactive classroom man- agement skills in order for the curriculum to be maximally effective. Harsh and critical ap- proaches, a poorly managed classroom with no clear limits or predictable schedule, or a failure to collaborate with parents will re- duce the effectiveness of the program. Effec- tive classroom management strategies (such as high levels of praise and encouragement, incentives, predictable rules and schedules, effective limit setting, proactive teaching strategies, and developmentally appropriate discipline) used in conjunction with a child- directed approach that promotes emotional and social literacy can reduce aggression and rejection as well as enhance social, emotional, and academic learning (Webster-Stratton & Reid, in press). Selecting children for small group practice activities Small group practice activities consist of 6 children per table for preschool and up to 8 per table for early school grades. We sug- gest selecting children for each table accord- ing to developmental level and temperament style. For example, a student with attentional or behavior problems might be paired up with a popular student with good social and self- regulatory skills. Thus a more mature student may serve as a model and helper for the stu- dent with difficulties. The diversity of skills at a table helps with modeling and learning among students. Preparing lesson plans Lesson plans are provided for 64 lessons in Year 1 and another set in Year 2. Teachers plan and prepare each week’s lessons noting the objectives and tailoring role-plays accord- ing to the particular needs of that classroom. This preparation includes practicing for what the puppets will say during small group dis- cussions, cueing videos, and preparing props and cue cards. Teachers also select and pre- pare the small group activities they feel will best reinforce the new concepts for students in their class. Special planning is conducted around specific children’s individual behavior plans and the targeted negative and positive behaviors for those children. Teachers com- municate with their coteachers about the be- haviors they will ignore and those they will praise and perhaps give incentives to promote specifically targeted social skills for children with special difficulties. The teachers think about whether the day’s activity needs some adaptation for a child with more or less ad- vanced developmental skills. Schedule At the opening of circle time, Wally, Molly, or Dina puppets arrive with a hello ritual or song. They are welcomed and students have an opportunity to ask questions and tell other LWW/IYC AS265-02 March 5, 2004 16:10 Char Count= 0 108 INFANTS AND YOUNG CHILDREN/APRIL–JUNE 2004 group members about the dinosaur home- work that they have done during the week (and receive compliments and dinosaur but- tons for completing it!). The opening discus- sion lasts 5 minutes. After this introductory time, new content is presented. Although the Dinosaur Curriculum is child focused and in- dividualized for different developmental lev- els or family situations, it is important that structured learning occur in each lesson. This learning should be interactive, engaging, fun, and paced at the level of the children in the group. The goal is to present new ideas or content so children begin to increase their repertoire of ideas and responses. Children who do not know words to express feel- ings can not describe their feelings to oth- ers in problem situations. Children who do not have strategies to control their anger will not be able to respond to an adult’s direc- tions to calm down. Children who have not learned what it looks like to share, trade, or wait for a turn, will have difficulty us- ing these strategies in their peer play. This plan to present new material to children in a structured small group circle time is paired with the idea of taking advantage of teach- able moments that occur naturally between the children during the time they are in the group. Both the videotapes and puppets are used to present content that is then processed during discussions, problem solving, role- plays, and collaborative learning. After each vignette, the teacher solicits ideas from the children and involves them in the process of problem solving, sharing, and discussing ideas and reactions. To enhance generaliza- tion, the scenes selected for each of the units involve real-life situations at school (eg, playground and classroom). Some vignettes represent children behaving in prosocial ways such as helping their teachers, playing well with peers, or using problem solving or anger management techniques. Other vignettes are examples of children having difficulty in conflict situations, such as teasing, argu- ing, and destructive behavior. After viewing the vignettes, children discuss feelings, de- cide whether the examples are good or bad choices, generate ideas for more effective re- sponses, and role play alternative scenarios. Although some mild negative videotape ex- amples are shown so that children can show how they would improve the situation, the program uses a far greater number of posi- tive examples than negative examples (about 5 to 1), and children are coached to help solve or resolve any problems that they see in the vignettes. The children are never asked to act out the inappropriate responses, only the positive alternatives. After the 15- to 20- minute large group lesson, students go to their small group activity tables. Small group activities can involve cooperative projects, puzzles, games, stories, reading, and puppet play. Puppets as models The teachers use child-size boy and girl puppets to model appropriate c...