Bear Series: Approaches to Learning & Social and Emotional Development

Many of the points I’ll share in this training are adaptable for any book and thus will work with your curriculum whether purchased or also self developed. I have chosen to build my own curriculum for my family child care program, as I’ve found this allows me to have my lessons align better with the interests of the children within any given group I’m working with. My philosophy about teaching children is driven by my belief in the importance of my “intention” in any interaction I have with children. 

I use the Maine Early Learning Standards (MELDS), not as my curriculum, but as a guide to be sure I’m providing the children I work with the foundation they will need for continual growth in their development. Too often I think providers look at the MELDS in isolation.  I’m hoping this training allows you to maybe see the MELDS in a different way. When I first started using the MELDS I was surprised with the number of standards that l could repeatedly cover using books and their expanded activities as part of a unit of learning. It was a good surprise.

The following two sections of the MELDS are always part of the equation in the larger planning I do as I develop a unit of study. The learning value of books is increased through shared reading and expanded activities. Each book shared within any unit and the planned expansion activities work together to continue to build towards meeting these standards. 

Approaches to Learning 

“The young child is by nature, curious and inquisitive. Children will explore their world in the context of the trust and guidance of significant others, and based upon their own temperament and interests. Children’s drive to learn develops from their need to make sense of the world as they attempt to understand their own experiences. Children display their approaches to learning by expressing an eagerness to learn through asking questions, making choices, exploring, imagining, inventing, concentrating, and applying prior knowledge to new learning experiences.” 

Initiative & Curiosity:

  • Expresses (verbally or nonverbally) an interest in a widening range of topics, ideas, and tasks
  • Shows interest in how and why others do things
  • Develops increased ability to make independent choices
  • Explores materials and actively uses them to follow through on an idea 

Engagement & Persistence:

  • Engages in individual or group activities that express real life experiences, ideas, knowledge, feelings, and fantasy
  • Participates in an increasing variety of tasks and activities 
  • Begins to sets goals, develops plans, and completes tasks
  • Demonstrates an increasing capacity to maintain concentration for a meaningful period of time 

Reflection & Problem- Solving:

  • Recognizes and attempts to solve problems through trial and error and by interacting with peers and adults
  • Explains part, or all, of the problem when asking for help
  • Uses self-talk to guide when solving a problem

Social and Emotional Development

“Young children’s social and emotional development is fostered through positive interactions and in settings where guidance for healthy and safe relationships exists. Children between the ages of three and five years develop a growing awareness of themselves as an individual as well as of others around them. While children each develop social and emotional skills and regulation at their own rate, as they grow socially and emotionally they will begin to express their needs and feelings, communicate and develop a growing awareness of self and others, begin to recognize the feelings of others and to develop sympathy and empathy for their peers. Children at this age display increasing confidence in themselves by their willingness to take on new tasks, by initiating play with their peers, and by demonstrating an understanding of routines and rules for behavior in their daily environment.” 

Emotional Development- Self Concept:

  • Develops and communicates a growing awareness of self as having certain abilities, characteristics, preferences and rights
  • Chooses individual activities
  • Expresses self in different roles during pretend play
  • Compares self with others
  • Expresses own ideas and opinions 

Emotional Development- Self-Regulation:

  • Begins to tell and follow basic safety guidelines and requirements
  • Shows progress in appropriately expressing feelings, needs and opinions in difficult situations and conflicts without harming themselves, others or property
  • Demonstrates increasing competency in recognizing and describing own and others’ emotions
  • Develops increased capacity to share materials or caregiver/teacher’s attention
  • Shows increased ability to wait for his/her turn in a simple game or for use of equipment
  • Will use private or inner speech to help remember the rules and standards of behavior
  • Uses materials and equipment purposefully, safely and respectfully
  • Begins to accept consequences of own actions
  • Listens with interest and understanding to directions
  • Listens with interest and understanding during conversations

Emotional Development- Sympathy and Empathy:

  • Realizes and expresses how another child might feel
  • Demonstrates awareness of feeling during pretend play
  • Recognizes other children’s kind behaviors 

Emotional Development- Adapting to Diverse Settings:

  • Explores objects and materials, and interacts with others in a variety of new settings
  • Begins to demonstrate ability to be flexible or adjust to routine or unexpected changes including physical setting, daily schedule, staffing and group size/ attendance 

Social Development- Building Relationships with Adults:

  • Separates with assistance from significant adults, without undue anxiety, in familiar settings
  • Approaches adults for assistance
  • Offers to assist adults
  • Expresses affection for significant adults
  • Follows caregivers’/teachers’ guidance for appropriate behavior in different environments
  • Interacts appropriately with familiar adult(s) and peers
  • Identifies known safety roles and distinguishes between trusted and unknown adults

Social Development- Building Relationships with Children: 

  • Separates willingly from adults to play with friends
  • Plays beside and interacts with peers
  • Shows enjoyment in playing with other children
  • Participates in group glee
  • Has at least one other friend and begins to show preference for particular playmate
  • Leads or participates in planning cooperative play with others
  • Understands the concept of “mine” and “his/hers”
  • Joins a group of other playing children with adult prompts, as needed

Social Development- Respecting Similarities and Differences:

  • Compares similarities or difference of others’ physical characteristics, interests, and abilities, may use self as a reference
  • Develops varied relationships with others based upon shared experiences and engagement in activities not based upon gender, ethnic background or special needs
  • Carries on sustained interaction with adults in their world
  • Asks questions about other families, ethnicity, language, cultural heritage, and differences in physical characteristics
  • Begins to demonstrate an understanding of inclusion or fairness through words and actions 

“Bear Feels Scared” is a good book to bring into your program when you want to build understanding for children around understanding a feeling too many children experience – that of being afraid/scared. Being familiar with the story characters brings a layer of safety for children. I also find all the books in the Bear series supports the idea of friendship and its importance in positive relationships.

I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, so check out this post by MrsSpeechieP. She includes ideas around vocabulary, language skills, social skills and play.

Since I use this book for feelings I am not focusing on reading and early language like rhyming. You can do rhyminging words in the same manner as I’ll share for other books in the series. I do work with vocabulary, but find the questions I ask are more important for the lessons with this book.

  • Who are Bear friends?
  • When did Bear’s friends get worried?
  • What was Bear doing in the forest?
  • Why was Bear scared?
  • What did Bear’s friends feel?
  • When did Bear feel safe?
  • How did Bear’s friends make him feel safe?
  • What did Bear’s friends do when they got back to the cave?

Another Bear series book that fits nicely into social skills is “Bear’s New Friend”. All young children need support with understanding how to develop friendships. CrazySpeechWorld has a growing collect of materials around the Bear serie books for speech and language available in her TPT store.
I also have found “Bear Wants More” to be a book that touches on an area of social skills that I haven’t found another book for. A stage or developmental period for most young children involves the idea of wanting “more” and getting upset or frustrated if needs not met. Being part of a series that has multiple books used within the program, the familiarity of style and slight humor makes it easy to talk about the idea of “more” and reactions to that need. I don’t have to build knowledge of the characters, it can be all about the concept of “more”. Reading Confetti has a simple adaptable activity to use with this story.

Next section: Reading Standards for Literature

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