1 Goals
  • To deepen teachers' understanding of children's sociomoral development.
  • To know how to construct a classroom atmosphere that fosters children's sociomoral development.

2 In Advance

  • Get a flip chart and marker.
  • Distribute the handout (pages 12-14) one week prior to the workshop.
  • Ask teachers to read the handout and to:

1. Observe and jot down one or two of the childlike things children say during the week. (Refer them to page 12 of the handout and the child who told the teacher the weatherperson made it rain.)

2. Observe instances when children yelled at, hit, or ostracized others because they did not understand each others' intentions. (For example, one child accidentally knocks down another's block building. The builder, not understanding that this was an accidental act, attacks the child.) Ask teachers to record what the children did and said, what other children did, and how the adults handled the situation.

  • Make a "talking stick." The talking stick was used by Native Americans in council meetings to make certain that everyone would have an opportunity to speak. The eagle feather tied to one end symbolized the courage to speak truthfully and wisely. Rabbit fur was tied to the other end to remind the speaker that words coming from the heart are spoken with gentleness. The leader handed the stick to one of the tribal members to begin the discussion. When finished, he handed it to another. This continued until everyone had a turn to speak.

3 Begin the Workshop

Invite teachers to share their lists of observations. Then use the "talking stick" to brainstorm about what the child was thinking and how the child was reasoning at the time.

Jot down teachers' responses on the chart. Remind them that children's preoperational thinking is characterized by attributing life and intention to anything that moves and is dominated by children's perceptions: Anything that moves, like the wind, has life; the taller glass holds more than a shorter glass regardless of the diameter; and a cracker when broken into pieces is larger than one that is whole.

Now ask teachers to share their observations of children whose behaviors mirrored their understanding of a situation. Again, use the "talking stick" as you discuss what the children were thinking and reasoning at the time as well as what the teachers could say or do. Make the point that a great many social problems arise because children are just developing social skills. Further, young children are not mature enough to think about another's point of view and consider how to coordinate it with their own.

4 Continue the Workshop

Use the talking stick to brainstorm ways teachers can create a classroom environment that promotes sociomoral development. For example, how do teachers demonstrate respect for children? Do they listen attentively, expanding and extending what children are saying? What do they do when a child is angry, sad, frustrated, or depressed? How do they help children express, label, understand, and cope with their feelings? List teachers' ideas on a chart.

5 Conclude the Workshop

Summarize the key points made during the workshop by asking teachers if they agree or disagree with the statement at the end of the handout about not initiating group discussion of problems between two children. Use the talking stick so everyone can give her point of view. Then reiterate the key points made relating to the modeling and expectations a teacher sets in a classroom to foster children's sociomoral development and knowledge.