Connect via FacebookConnect via TwitterConnect via YouTube An Edkey® School

Social Curriculum

Each school should have individual classroom and school wide management and discipline systems that insure fulfillment of the school’s mission. The specifics of such systems are the responsibility of each principal. Below is an example of one school’s system which is referred to as the “Social Curriculum.” Addendum B lists some of the anticipated results from the use of the Social Curriculum.

Sequoia Schools



  • To help children learn to take better care of themselves, each other and their classrooms.
  • To help children learn “self-control” and not to “be controlled”.
  • To help children learn to build caring communities through social participation.

“What good is academic learning if young people don’t learn to become contributing members of society?”
-Jane Nelson – Postive Discipline

“To educate a man and not teach him to behave ethically is tantamount to creating a menace to society.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

To our new staff members…

Sequoia Pathway Elementary School (Pathway Elementary) will be working on developing and implementing a social curriculum in our schools. The social curriculum is a WAY of doing things. It is not a new subject area. It is a method for changing the way we interact with children, how they interact with each other, and how we, the staff, relate to each other. The curriculum is embedded in daily interactions with children.

We utilize Ruth Chaney’s book, Teaching Children How to Care as a “how to” guide to this program. We highly recommend that staff read this text and books by Harry Wong.

See the bibliography for the following books cited in this report.

(Wong and Dolmatz 1971; Wong 1980; Charney, Clayton et al. 1996; Wong and Wong 1998; Charney 2002; Breaux and Wong 2003; Wong and Wong 2005)

Training is ongoing with at least one staff meeting per month dedicated to working on specific social curriculum items on the agenda. “Treat others as you would like to be treated” is a universal goal in most cultures. We work towards developing an awareness and appreciation of this simple goal which we refer to as the “Golden Rule.” Some of the ideals that we hope for are included in the list that follows this description.

The following guide is adapted from the Northeast Children’s Foundations definition of a Social Curriculum and serves as a framework for Pathway Elementary.

THE FIRST SIX WEEKS: A period during which we establish expectations and routines and teach the following skills that will allow children to work independently and responsibly in the future:

Stage 1: Whole Class Learning – getting to know each other by learning how to: listen, ask questions and share solutions to problems; put things away; follow classroom rules; carry out orderly transitions.

Stage 2: “Paradoxical groups” – establishes expectations for group work with and without the teacher’s immediate supervision – children learn to be productive while the teacher works with another group.

Stage 3: Independence and responsibility – lasts the rest of the year.

MORNING MEETING – Conducted in every class – community – building – greeting each other, sharing, problem-solving, role playing, guided discovery. A circle on the floor (or in chairs) may be used so that everyone is included, can see and be seen.

RULES – The Golden Rule is the basis for all. Members of each class work together to establish rules that will create an environment conducive to learning, where all feel safe, not only physically but emotionally, and where we all care about each other. Emphasis is on the positive – what we can and want to do, not the usual “Do not’s.” Logical consequences for forgotten rules are established.

The school rules serve as a framework for these rules.

TIME OUT – Each class has a time out chair which is used by all students – small things that were previously ignored are being noticed (tapping pencils, talking instead of listening, making faces) – students are sent to time out, not as punishment, but to “stop and think” about what they were doing. Children practice time out – getting up and going without question or comment. They may ask for explanations later, but the purpose is to keep the class focused on the task at hand, not on the person distracting the group.

We utilize a number of TIME OUT solutions here including using a neighboring teacher’s room for a TIME OUT area when a child needs to be in a different environment. If a child is sent to the office it is not uncommon for the principal to also use a TIME OUT for the child prior to discussing the problem. Each member of the staff reinforces the TIME OUT concept by practicing it with the children they are responsible for.

COMMON LANGUAGE – In order to establish consistency throughout the school, staff makes an effort to use common language and practices. Some common phrases include: “Time out…” “I notice…”, “Remind me how we…” “What do you need to do to accomplish this?” “I expect…” “Show me how you might…”

Teachers often use a common signal to get the classes attention – in most cases it is the sound of a bell, letting children know that they are to stop what they are doing, look at the teacher and listen. The word, “FREEZE” is an example.

GUIDED DISCOVERY – introducing materials (or areas of a classroom) before letting children use them to be sure they know all of the possibilities for their use, how to care for them and where they belong. Role-playing is used to explore uses, sharing, etc.

An example: Materials are not simply distributed. A conscious effort is made to introduce the new material and instruct children on its proper use and care. The act of passing out new art materials for the first time is a time to teach children the proper use and care of the materials being used. Students who are misusing the items are asked to “remind” the teacher how to use them.

COMMUNITY BUILDING – We need children to feel that each student has something valuable to contribute. They will learn to listen and respond with relevance and attention, to show concern for the feelings and viewpoints of others and to develop a capacity for empathy. Teachers and students will model behaviors and ways of expressing care through role-playing.

LUNCH – We teach lunchroom (no matter where we might eat) behavior so that this time can be a calm, enjoyable experience for all. Each team works together to assure this happens. The staff provides consistent monitoring in this area.

RECESS is also taught so that students learn a variety of games, how to play fair, be good sports and how to make sure that people feel included. The rules for safe play are reviewed and re-taught as needed.

Monitors on duty teams meet to discuss consistency among team members in dealing with students during unstructured times such as lunch and recess.

A Social Curriculum, one that permits us to teach control and social participation, takes time. Time to stop lessons when the tone of the room is awful. Time to discuss what went wrong out at recess. Time to tell others about the baseball game, the new baby sister, or the death of a pet. Without time in our day to talk to children and to allow them to talk to each other, there will be no discipline, only disciplining.”

-Ruth Sidney Charney

Based on: Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Sidney Charney reference also to Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson, Ed. D


Prepared by Ruth Charney and Marilyn K. Clayton

Adapted and edited for Pathway Elementary School.

This is a brief overview of how to establish the management of a developmental classroom during the beginning weeks of school. Each component and phase helps:

  1. Build a solid foundation of trust and warmth between the teacher and children and among the children,
  2. Create an environment where it is safe to take risks, make mistakes and work to fix mistakes and,
  3. Nurture and extend each child’s ability to exercise independence and responsibility in work, care for materials and care for others

The curriculum for these first six weeks is ethical behavior and management in the classroom. Children are being taught in ways that are respectful, consistent and firm that result in each child understanding how to behave and how to care for their room, themselves and each other. Children are involved in the process in such a way that they feel an ownership and responsibility towards the management and ethical behavior that is established. The “Social Curriculum” takes priority over the academic curriculum during these first six weeks because we are setting the tone for a disciplined academic year. This does not mean academics are not taught!

Week 1:

    Two components are used to begin the week

  • Building a Sense of Group
  • Establish morning meeting ritual
  • Establish “sharing” and “representing” times
  • Lots of whole group activities

Inside: songs, chants, cooperative learning games, “getting to know you” games, stories – read aloud and make together

Outside: spend a lot of time outdoors, non-competitive games, “working together” games, free play time to practice outdoor rules and boundaries

Guided Discoveries:

Whole group

Very few materials are out on shelves

Areas and materials are introduced slowly and deliberately- rules and expectations are carefully established

Children are excited and motivated to use material/area

Easiest areas are introduced first/materials that children probably have some prior knowledge about or are very simple and/or open-ended in their use

    Art center: crayons, paper, pencils
    Library: to start, only a few more books than the number of children in the room
    Math: one manipulative to start – time to explore – give children opportunity to practice with material during guided discovery

Important to introduce enough materials for active work for young children

(Sand/water, Lego, manipulative materials)

These first two components are alternated during the first part of the week. When enough materials/areas have been introduced so that every child can make a “real choice” of an activity (several more choices available for children to choose than there are children in the class) then the third component is added.

Choice Time

Begin with ½ hour periods at a time.

Children choose orally and teacher records on chart or children sign up or hang up names under listed choices.

Teacher moves from area to area and is an observer and facilitator.

Teacher uses 3R’s: Reinforce, Remind, and Refocus.

Teacher makes time each day for some children to “represent” work done during choice time.

These three components of the day are alternated as more areas and materials are introduced.

Week 2:

Continue with the first three components introduced in the first week.

Introduce new areas and materials but not before children show good use of materials already introduced.

Increase length of choice time or add another choice time to the day’s schedule.

Introduce choice board if not already using.

Teacher continues to make children feel he/she is everywhere and seeing everything: doing the 3R’s.

Teacher interacts with children in all parts of the room

Week 3:

The Paradox: Teacher begins to take a small group of children for group work, while rest of class is having a choice time. The children think that the teacher is totally involved with the small group. However, the teacher is really watching the whole class very carefully and doing the 3 R’s. The small group is working on something that does not take much teacher input or direction so teacher attention can actually be directed to the actions of the rest of the class.

Children learn to manage themselves while teacher is involved in small group work. Children in the group must have a choice at another time of day.

    Introduce the concept of “Have-to’s”…

    Teacher assigned work is introduced in the form of “Have-to’s.”

    When children gather for small group work it is named a “Have-to.” Children might have another kind of “Have-to” during a choice time such as doing a painting or working in the sand/water table.

    Teacher continues to do components of first and second weeks.

Week 4:

Continue with activities and components of previous three weeks; increase attention paid to small group work but still do.

The Paradox – good time to introduce science or blocks which need more teacher input and direction in the Guided Discovery (if there is an aide in the room then it may be possible to introduce blocks in the second or third week of school.)

Could introduce written planning.

Week 5:

Continue with activities and components of previous four weeks – especially remember group building games and activities; introduce written planning in small group time

Week 6:

Continue with activities and components of previous five weeks.

Time to increase curriculum teaching that demands teacher’s most intense attention – small group reading, math etc.

Daily planning process should be in place

Each day should have a balance of teacher directed work and child initiated work – each should carry equal value in the classroom

    The foundation is now set. The class should manage quite smoothly. However, the teacher must continue to give “management tune-ups” throughout the year. Issues will come up around management and when children are taught in this manner, they can very successfully be involved in finding the solutions.

    This is a framework for building a successfully working developmental classroom. It is not a recipe that is set in stone. Teachers can try it out and see what works for them. It is important for you to realize that the children at our school have had several years of training in this program and are used to how the social curriculum works. Most of our older children have experience with this program and can be actively engaged in finding solutions.

    Most important is that each group of children is unique and will move at their own rate. Some groups will be ready for the Paradox in Week 2 and others won’t be ready until Week 3 or even Week 4. Older children in particular, who have never had the opportunity to make real choices in their classrooms before, will need more time to adjust and learn how to handle themselves responsibly.

    Move slowly and deliberately with patience. It pays off in the future.



The principal greets the children as they arrive on the bus. The principal waits at the front of the school building and shakes hands with every person who comes to school. This sets the tone for the day. This facilitates a safe “hand-off” from home to school.

Teachers meet their classes at the playground and walk them to their homerooms.

Morning Meeting is a teaching approach used in classrooms from kindergarten through sixth grade. It is one approach that helps to integrate the academic and social curriculum in a way that teachers and students can be more responsive to each other’s needs. As a daily event, Morning Meeting has the following aims:

  1. To create a community each day begins with a whole group circle
  2. To foster responsive interactions – sharing, listening, inclusion and participation
  3. To teach through daily rituals and patterns the skills needed to be a responsive member of a classroom and school

Morning Meetings provide for children’s social and academic needs that are crucial to their success in school.

Some important ideas to understand and remember about Morning Meetings:

    Morning Meetings provide both individual and group participation, teaching children that they have important things to contribute to their group.

    Morning Meetings teach children to care about themselves and each other.

    Morning Meetings establish rituals and routines.

    Morning Meetings have a varied content and are fun!

    Morning Meetings create an attentive, alert, responsive and friendly tone for the day.

    Morning Meetings teach important skills for academic success such as listening, speaking, synthesizing information, problem solving, following directions, decision-making, reading, writing, spelling and math skills.

Schedule: 15 to 30 minutes daily; meetings usually start shortly after school begins when all of the children have arrived. While children are waiting for all to arrive (usually not longer than 10 to 15 minutes), they are individually greeted by their teacher and then chat with friends or choose a quiet activity that can be stopped quickly and easily like drawing, looking at books or a short game.

ORGANIZATION: Forming a circle is important for visibility, sense of group and attention. A rug large enough for all to sit on in a circle provides definition and comfortable seating. Rug squares or chairs can also be used to form a circle if no rug is available. Children come to meeting with nothing in their hands. Even those who are bringing something to share put their object on a special “waiting” shelf or corner of the floor.


  1. GREETINGS: Naming everyone (including the teacher) establishes a friendly and inclusive tone.
      Purpose: To learn and use everyone’s name
        To greet and welcome each other to room, becoming friendly caretakers

      Children need to:

      • Use names clearly
      • Make friendly eye contact
      • Use friendly works and/or gestures

Teacher has children practice learning and saying names. The teacher models “greeting” calling attention to proper attributes (names are clear, children look at each other, children use friendly handshakes and manners). “Good Morning Jimmy,” (starts the teacher). “Good Morning Mrs. Roth,” replies Jimmy. “Good Morning Delores,” continues Jimmy until it goes all around the circle. (Students are expected to pay attention and remember who has and hasn’t been named. “What can you say if you forget someone’s name? What can you say if you forget who has been named?”)

When children are able to go around the circle well saying “Good Morning” to each other, then various other naming/greeting games can be played. Children can learn to choose people anywhere in the group to greet. Students are expected to say good morning to many different children not just their best friends. (“If meeting is where we get to know people that we don’t usually play with, who might we say Good Morning to?”)


Children all hold hands in circle. Child takes a turn introducing the child beside him by saying, “This is my friend, Jim.” He raises his hand and Jim’s as he speaks. The group responds, “Good Morning Jim!” Then Jim introduces the child next to him and so forth until all children are introduced and everyone has their clasped hands in the air. At this point everyone says, “Good Morning Friends!” and lowers arms and hands.

Name Cards & Riddle Game: “I have someone’s name that begins with the sound B…” “I have someone’s name that just went to a baseball game.” “I have someone’s name that has 3 syllables – that sounds like this.” (Clap out the syllables)

    SHARING: Children have the opportunity to share things, events and feelings that matter in their lives.

      Purpose To know and be known
        To make transitions from home to school
        To develop ability to speak to a group
      Children need to: Brainstorm sharing – happenings, not just objects

Teacher models first “sharing” by demonstrating how to use a clear and strong voice and how to make news brief as the sharer. Teacher teaches “jobs” of the audience – respectful and active listening and how to ask an “interesting” question or make a “respectful” comment.

Children are ready to share. “Who has news for sharing?” Gino raises his hand and is called on. Gino tells about a special event in his life – a new bike, his uncle’s new car, an accident he saw on the way to school or, Gino might have brought a special treasure from home. When finished sharing, Gino says, “I’m ready for questions and comments.” Gino will call on people. Interesting questions may ask for clarification, details or expansion. Comments may relate to feelings (“I like your uncle’s car, you must be very excited and happy that you get to ride in it”) or responses and extensions of the topic (“I noticed that your uncle’s car is one of your favorite colors. I can see that your uncle’s car has fancy tires.”)


Teachers have to make sure that the focus does not shift from Gino’s experience (“I like cars, My cousin has a car that…”) the goal is to help children respond to another’s experience without bringing it back to the self. At 4, 5, and 6 years of age there is a tremendous amount of egocentricity. At 7 and 8 years of age there is a little less but the age is still striving hard to comment outside of self. Teachers must continually give children opportunities to practice reaching that goal: (“That sounds like some interesting sharing about you. Now give Gino a respectful comment or a thoughtful question about his sharing his uncle’s car.”)

There is a tendency for teachers to repeat student’s responses (voice-overs) but this does not train children to respond to one another.

Teachers Need To: Facilitate the questions and comments component:

  1. Model and suggest “constructive,” interesting, thoughtful and respectful question and comment patterns.
  2. Help focus the speaker (who may ramble) – to be briefer rather than longer, to tell the most important things rather than everything. (“Tell one important part of your visit.” “You’ve told us lots of interesting things about your team. Let’s see if there are questions.”)
  3. Model responsive behavior by raising a hand when the sharer is done and asking a question or making a comment. Often it will be related to feelings: “Were you worried?”
  4. Maintain the focus and job of the audience: listening, staying on topic, and responding. If children respond selectively (to a friend but not to others) or don’t respond at all, teacher may need to redirect or remind group that they have jobs to do.
  5. Rotate turns for sharing and for questions and comments. Children can sign up the day before or the morning of the sharing to share. Children can usually only share once a week. A limit on how many questions and comments each sharer may take helps to keep sharing moving.
  6. Keep environment safe for risk taking, making mistakes and sharing hard or sad news. Teachers model the “serious respect” which is given to someone who makes a mistake or shares some hard or sad news. “Serious respect” means you don’t laugh at or tease someone. “Serious respect” means you show that you care about what someone is saying or doing. “What can you say or do for someone who makes a mistake during morning meeting to let them know that you care about them?” “What can you say or do when someone shares some sad news to let them know that you care?”

Two Kinds of Sharing for Older Children

1. “Newsy News”

Children share events, experiences and special possessions. Teachers will probably want to control the kinds of special possessions that children bring for sharing to avoid the “Bring and Brag” syndrome. A general rule that forbids the sharing of toys will help to eliminate much of that. However, it is important to sometimes have a chance to share a special toy. This can be achieved through category sharing weeks
– This week is “bring your favorite toy to share” week; This week is “bring your softest stuffy to share” week; This week is “Grandmother Week” – bring some kind of news about your grandmother. Some teachers have “sharing rules” that limit children to bringing things to share that they’ve made or found in nature.

2. “Serious News”

Children share painful, worrisome, sad events. Teachers want to validate that both types of news or occurrences are accepted and respected. However, the ability to take risks, both as a speaker and as an audience must be achieved. It is suggested that the teacher begins with “Newsy News” format and when there is a comfortable and respectful interaction, informs the group that they appear ready to add “Serious News”.

It is also important that the teacher feel confident and familiar with her group to know how to channel or respond to “shocking” or disturbing exposures and revelations. (Also if some child attempts to manipulate attention by manufacturing or over-using such events.)

Teachers of younger children, ages 4 to 6, will find that there is little if any discrimination in kinds of news. Younger children tend to blurt out what they need to say when they need to say it. So the separation of times for certain news and times for others does not apply. However, the idea that some news is serious news and demands a different response is one that young children can learn to recognize. Here the ideas, actions and language talked about and practiced in relation to the concept of “serious respect” would apply (see #6 above).

3. GROUP ACTIVITY: These are short, fast-paced, enjoyable, and varied activities that allow everyone to contribute at their own level.

    Purpose: To build class cohesion and spirit
      To have fun and participate as a group
      To encourage cooperation rather than competition
      To foster variety and differences of input
      To foster active, not passive participation

Teacher and children together build a repertoire of common group material – songs, games, chants, poems, and chart activities that are active, include everyone and are cooperative.

In activities teacher models voice level, physical controls needed, taking turns, making mistakes, problem solving, cooperative playing, etc.

Games: Electricity, Ring on a String, Telephone, Category-Snaps, Indian Chief, Presto-Change-O, and cooperative games.

Daily Math Rituals: Date-Equations, Counts and Number Line/Money 10 Questions

Language Arts: Poetry, role-plays, Story-writing, choral reading

Songs, Chants and Rhythms

4. NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS: Short reminders or directions about the day and for immediate orientation (“Who knows what happens when meeting is over?”) Often these are written on a chart for children to read before meeting, to be referred to during meeting and to serve as a written way to build communal interest.

    Purpose: To transition and orient children to class day
      To develop and reinforce language skills
      To build community through written information

For younger children the daily use of the written “News and announcements” chart is critical to motivating and teaching reading and language arts skills in a meaningful way. The language patterns used on the chart are predictable, repetitious from day to day, include familiar sight vocabulary and reflect content that is of great importance to the children.

Teacher needs to:

Develop regular and predictable format for chart:

Example: TODAY IS ______
_____ IS FIRST.

Build and use famliar language patterns.

Build and use familiar number patterns.

Include range of skills that offer challenges and rehearsal: (Names, vocabulary, sounds, number sequences… etc.)

Include activities that allow input for all skill levels in the class.

Teacher models:

  1. Reading chart – then in chorus, taking turns.
  2. Making mistakes and reworking mistakes.
  3. Games with chart – picking out familiar names, matching, guessing (in context), leaving blanks or making mistakes that need to be fixed.

CAUTION: It is important that Announcements are short and that meetings are not piled high with teacher directives and business. There may need to be another time allotted for giving more information.

Each of these components is important to the health of the classroom “Social Curriculum”, but they do not all have to be done at one meeting time. For children 4, 5, and 6 years of age all these components in one meeting can be overwhelming. Therefore teachers of younger children often try to schedule some of these components during other gatherings in the day. Often it works well to splinter off “Sharing” to mid-day or end of the day, or to put some or all of the “Group Activity” at another time of the day.

MEETING RULES: (to be generated in collaboration with children)

  1. Gather quickly, find your own place in the circle, sit quietly and keep hands to yourself (“Let’s see if everyone can be in a circle by the time I count to…”)
  2. We value everyone’s contributions and ideas.
      We show we care by:

    1. Speaking clearly
    2. Looking at everyone in the circle when we share
    3. Listening to and looking at the person who is talking
    4. Offering thoughtful questions and respectful comments
    5. Raising our hand to speak only when someone else is finished speaking.

Consequences for Breaking Meeting Rules

  1. Situational assistance – changing place in circle, removing distracting object, having a “special” place to sit in the circle
  2. Time out – Return to meeting and show us how you follow meeting rules


The Guided Discovery is a teaching technique that is used to introduce materials, working areas, or learning processes in a classroom. It provides children with clear expectations about care and use of a material or a working area and an organized management structure. It makes a material, working area or learning process accessible to all children in a classroom. Most importantly, the Guided Discovery excites and motivates children to see all the wonderful possibilities there are to explore in a material, working area or learning process. It can be done in a variety of ways, with a whole group, a small group or one on one, but every Guided Discovery contains the following 4 components:

  1. All children are actively involved in generating rules, establishing common vocabulary and exploring expectations and possibilities for the material, area or process.
  2. All children will experience a Guided Discovery for a material, area, or process before any children use it independently.
  3. All children will have the opportunity to practice and rehearse using and exploring the material, area, or learning process while the teacher closely observes and guides.
  4. Children will have the opportunity to share with other children work done during a Guided Discovery.


Pattern blocks are the material used in this example.

It is a whole class guided discovery. The children are seated in a circle in the classroom meeting area.

T: Signifies what the teacher is saying.

C: Signifies what the children might say.

>> back to top

Introduction – Naming

    Aims: To begin with children’s own knowledge
      To establish common vocabulary
      To excite and motivate children to explore the material
T: What do you think I have in this box? (The teacher rattles small, enclosed box with one of each pattern block in it) Who has an idea?
C: Rocks, crayons, blocks?
T: I do have blocks in here but now tell me more about them.
C: Is there a yellow one? Is there a square one? (Teacher brings out a block one at a time as children start to guess and name. With older children you can ask for more information before bringing block out. Guessing continues until all blocks are out.)

Teacher may continue with next question or begin the entire introduction using this next question:

T: What do you notice about these blocks? OR What can you tell me about these blocks?

Children share their ideas. Teacher may write them up on a chart or not. Teacher can use this time to introduce vocabulary and or general concepts.


T: Who can tell us the name of this yellow shape?

How many shapes do we have?

How many colors are there?

How many colors does each shape come in?

Active and Participatory Modeling


  • To excite and motivate the use of the material by suggesting potentials, possible activities and ideas for constructive use
  • To establish rules together for care of materials and care for each other when using the material to establish a sense of group ownership and responsibility for the material
  • To solidify these possibilities and rules through modeling

Generating Ideas for Use and Potential

T: What can we do with these blocks? Who has an idea of how we might use these blocks in our math area?
C: Make a design. Would you like to show us how you would do that? (Teacher gives one of each shape to child to model this first idea. Others are asked to notice how child does this)
T: What do you notice about Ann’s design? (Teacher asks for one or two responses.) What’s another way we can use (build with) our blocks?

This modeling is done two more times with two different ideas from the children.

Generating Rules for Care of the Material

T: We’re all going to get some blocks now so that we can have a chance to build. Who has an idea of a safe and careful way that we can take the blocks we need from the box? (Children share ideas.)
T: Who can show us a safe and careful way to take the blocks from the box?
T: Where will you build when you have your blocks? Who can show us a safe place to build with their blocks?

Exploratory Play


  • To excite and motivate use of the material by suggesting potentials, possible activities and ideas for constructive use
  • To give each child the opportunity to explore the material for the first time within a safe and watchful environment
  • Teacher has provided several boxes of blocks so that they are spread around the circle and no one has to wait very long. Teacher guides this first Exploratory Play.
T: Who remembers one of the ways we said we could use our blocks?
C: To make a design.
T: Everyone is to make a design.
Teacher goes through each of the other two suggestions given by children in the modeling session. Then the teacher can extend and play with ideas as long as the children can maintain a focus.


T: Make something beautiful.

Make something funny.

Make an animal.

Tell One Thing – Representing


  • To teach the language of sharing
  • To teach the language of responding
  • To teach attentive listening and looking/seeing
  • To put value on children learning from each other
  • To teach ability to synthesize ideas

After each guided instruction from the teacher in the first Exploratory Play, a few children, if in a large group, or all the children, if in a small group, share their work. The teacher chooses a focusing questioning for children to answer in their sharing. The group is solicited for one comment about each sharing.


T: Tell one thing that you like about your construction.

Tell one thing that is beautiful about your construction.

Tell one thing that was hard about building this way.

Clean-up and Care of Materials


  • To teach children how to handle materials properly when working independently (“unbuild” not crash down – put away not throw away)
  • To teach children where to find and stow materials
  • To teach children fun and instructive ways to clean-up
  • To teach children routines for beautiful display of finished work
T: How can we un-build our structures and put our blocks back in the box in a safe and careful way. Who can show us a safe and careful way to do this? What did Sue do that was safe and careful? (Helping children see what others model.)
T: What’s another way we could put away our blocks? (Children continue to give their ideas.)
T: Let’s put away all the hexagons first. Who can show us a safe and careful way to put a box on the shelf?
T: When you want to use the pattern blocks next how will you take the box off the shelf and where will you put it? Who can show us their safe and careful way?

Teacher can then introduce some “what ifs” to cover some of the other management problems that might arise. Depending on the attention span of the children, this can be done during this first Guided Discovery or during another one specifically focused on “what ifs.” Teacher brainstorms with children to find possible solutions to potential or real problems. Teacher teaches many social skills through these “what if” modeling situations.


T: What if there is a group of children using the pattern blocks in the math area and there are no more boxes for another person to use?
T: What if you need a special color or shape and there are none left in the box? What can you do?
T: What if you want to save your work? What can you do?
T: Suppose someone accidentally knocks over your building. What might you do?
T: Suppose some people are building and you want to join their group. What might you say to them?
T: What if you want to work with someone and they don’t want to. What might you say and what can you do?


Whole Group/Small Group


  • To extend possibilities
  • To develop learning strategies
  • To teach specific skills and concepts
  • To teach further social skills
  • Other Building Possibilities:
      Make a bridge.
      Build a road with a pattern
      Make a design with 3 different patterns.


Copy Cat: Teacher designates partners. Partners decide who will build first. One partner copies the other exactly. Then they switch. This can also be done with whole group “copy-catting” one child. (This is obviously much harder to do and comes at a later point.)
What’s Missing?: Teacher makes a design. Everyone takes a good look. Teacher then covers the design and removes 1,2,3,or 4 blocks. When design is uncovered, children all examine in silence.
T: I want you to tell me what’s missing and how you figured it out. What can you do to let me know that you have an idea?

Set Making: Teacher names a set and children try to make it. Teacher makes a set. Children try to name it. Then children take turns making a set and others try to name it.
Children in Pairs: Aims:

    To develop partner learning
    To model and role play social skills

Ideas may include ways:

    To be a good partner:

      Give clues if needed
      Give partner lots of time to guess;
      Tell answers only when your partner asks for help (“I give up”, “I need help” etc.)

Individual Work
– “I Work”:

    To have children continue to explore and practice tasks
    To have children continue to practice social skills

T: Tomorrow you can play the Copycat game with a partner.
T: Today if you choose pattern blocks, you need to make a wall that has a pattern and is longer than your arm.
T: This week at the pattern blocks everyone needs to copy a design from our pattern block book.


Can we doubt that the current crisis in our schools will impact on our society tomorrow? How we address this moment is crucial to our future. It is our belief that the way children are treated and the ways they learn to treat others is the central issue facing our schools as well as our communities. Ours is not so much a crisis in learning, as a crisis in learning to care.

For the past twenty years the work of the Northeast Foundation for Children has promoted the development of a social caring curriculum in public school elementary classrooms. Pathway Elementary School has subscribed to this program. The mission of the Foundation has been to help teachers see their academic instruction and curriculum content in the light of a broader and more encompassing context of social interaction and moral purpose for the students. This has been accomplished through teacher workshops, summer institutes, publications, and a model of change that involves long-term consultation and collaboration with individual teachers, administrators, schools and school districts. Current work in Washington, D.C. and West Haven, CT is yielding promising results and tangible evidence of the benefits to be gained by placing a primary emphasis on the social curriculum in schools. Results of a pilot research study conducted by Dr. Stephen Elliott of the University of Wisconsin are now available. A major contribution to the field, a textbook by NEFC co-founder, Ruth Sidney Charney titled Teaching Children to Care: Management in the Responsive Classroom, is issued to each teacher in our school to support them in their efforts.


Largely overlooked in the educational debate is the social context of today’s classroom. It is widely acknowledged that children do not come to school, even to kindergarten, ready to learn. Primary in this un-readiness is the lack of social skills children bring to the learning environment called the classroom. In many schools children do not know each other’s names. These same children lack the knowledge and do not know how to greet each other, how to say “good morning!” or how to introduce one person to another, how to say “please” or “thank you”, how to share, how to solve a dispute over a snack, a crayon, or a book, how to work cooperatively on a project, how to ask a polite or interested question, how to make a respectful comment, how to evaluate their own or another’s work for quality, how to show interest in and explore or make use of a range of social and academic opportunities or how to do a favor.

In a rush for academic accountability schools have placed a priority on academic content, “time on task” and basic skill development in test taking without setting a context for this accountability. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a goal of academic excellence and individual and school accountability, but it will not be realized unless students and teachers themselves experience intrinsic reasons for achieving this goal. Such a goal can only be accomplished within a social context that includes cooperation, responsibility, empathy and self-control.


A clear social curriculum can help build a classroom or school into a learning community where high social and academic goals are both attained. The approach, known as The Responsive Classroom, is built around six central components that integrate teaching, learning and caring in the daily program. As a principal and superintendent I have implemented this approach successfully for the past several years in K through high school programs and have been working with urban, suburban and rural school systems on components of the program.

The six components are:

  1. Classroom organization that provides for active interest areas for students, space for student-created display of work and an appropriate mix of whole class, group and individual instruction.
  2. A Morning Meeting format that provides children the daily opportunity to practice greetings, conversation, sharing and problem solving.
  3. Rules and Logical Consequences that are generated by, modeled, and role-played with the children that become the cornerstone of classroom life.
  4. Choice time for all children each day that provides them with the necessity of taking control of their own learning in some meaningful way, both individually and cooperatively.
  5. Guided Discovery of learning materials, areas of the room, curriculum content and ways of behaving that moves children through a deliberate and careful introduction to each new experience. There is no assumption that children already know how to do something before they begin.
  6. Assessment and Reporting to Parents that is an evolving process of mutual communication and understanding. We currently use our Web page to communicate with parents.

Any of these six components can be implemented independently and enhance the social and academic curriculum of any classroom or school. Our approach is not a package. Implemented gradually, each of these components can help to build a cohesive social curriculum that can be shaped around the particular demographic and community needs of our school.

Addendum B

Brainstormed List of How a School Looks That has Adopted a Social Curriculum
Collated from fifteen staffs
“Treat others as you want to be treated. People and things are not for hurting. Be good to each other.”

Group Brainstorm:

Q: What would a school look like that adopts this motto?

    Productive Hum
    No kids in the office for discipline reasons

Q: How would a staff that has adopted this motto act towards children?

    Lead by example
    Eye Contact
    Open Minded
    Listen to them – Really hear them

Q: How would a staff that has adopted this motto act towards each other?

    All of above lists
    Sense of humor
    Not afraid to be yourself
    Keep the pot full!
    Unload quickly
    Less backbiting
    Direct communication
    Accepting of differences
    Positive Feedback
    Dare to be different!
    Less disruptive
    See our commonalty
    More time together

Selected Bibliography For the Social Curriculum

Breaux, A. L. and H. K. Wong (2003). New teacher induction : how to train, support, and retain new teachers. Mountain View, Calif., Harry K. Wong Publications.

Charney, R. (2002). Teaching children to care : classroom management for ethical and academic growth, K-8. Greenfield, MA, Northeast Foundation for Children.

Charney, R., M. K. Clayton, et al. (1996). The responsive classroom : guidelines. Greenfield, MA (71 Montague City Rd., Greenfield 01301), Northeast Foundation for Children.

Wong, H. (1980). Dynamic tension. Hollywood, Calif. (7011 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, Calif. 90028), Unique Publications.

Wong, H. K. and M. S. Dolmatz (1971). Biology: ideas and investigations in science; teachers manual. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,, Prentice-Hall.

Wong, H. K. and R. T. Wong (1998). The first days of school : how to be an effective teacher. Mountainview, CA, Harry K. Wong Publications.

Wong, H. K. and R. T. Wong (2005). The first days of school : how to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, CA, Harry K. Wong Publications.

Selected Bibliography for Manual

Argyris, C. (1960). Understanding organizational behavior. Homewood, Ill.,, Dorsey Press.

Breaux, A. L. and H. K. Wong (2003). New teacher induction : how to train, support, and retain new teachers. Mountain View, Calif., Harry K. Wong Publications.

Charney, R. (1992). Teaching children to care : management in the responsive classroom. Greenfield, MA, Northeast Foundation for Children.

Charney, R. (2002). Teaching children to care : classroom management for ethical and academic growth, K-8. Greenfield, MA, Northeast Foundation for Children.

Charney, R., M. K. Clayton, et al. (1996). The responsive classroom : guidelines. Greenfield, MA (71 Montague City Rd., Greenfield 01301), Northeast Foundation for Children.

Charney, R., M. K. Clayton, et al. (1998). The responsive classroom : advanced guidelines. Greenfield, MA (71 Montague City Rd., Greenfield 01301), Northeast Foundation for Children.

Wong, H. (1980). Dynamic tension. Hollywood, Calif. (7011 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, Calif. 90028), Unique Publications.

Wong, H. K. and M. S. Dolmatz (1971). Biology: ideas and investigations in science; teachers manual. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,, Prentice-Hall.

Wong, H. K. and R. T. Wong (1998). The first days of school : how to be an effective teacher. Mountainview, CA, Harry K. Wong Publications.

Wong, H. K. and R. T. Wong (2005). The first days of school : how to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, CA, Harry K. Wong Publications.