The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

February 27, 2014

Pre-school program bolsters emotional vocabulary

Model being rolled out in Mankato classrooms

MANKATO — Each pre-schooler was parked on his or her own carpet square in a half moon shape surrounding their teacher, Sally Gallaher.

Before they could work on letters, Gallaher had some business to attend to.

“Friends, I need some help. What do we check for at circle time? What kind of body?” she asked.

“A listening body,” one of the kids says.

“Yes, we call it a ready body, don't we,” Gallaher said.

The behavioral instruction to sit legs crossed, hands in lap, mouths quiet, seems to be a small measure. But it's part of a larger framework of evidence-based practices to improve social-emotional outcomes for youth developed by Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children or TACSEI.

The TACSEI model was incorporated a couple of years ago in a Head Start site in Mankato and has been slowly rolling out to other sites, said Denise Schumacher, Early Childhood Family Education coordinator. Now the model is being used in two Head Start classrooms and two ECFE classrooms, including Gallaher's room at Rosa Parks Elementary School.

“We want it to be community wide,” Gallaher said. “So our pre-schools and Head Start programs and special education, eventually we would like to have it in all (classrooms).”

Elements of the model can be seen throughout the classroom. A large cardboard box is decorated to look like a beehive where students can climb inside when they want alone time. There are paper plates with pictures of emotive faces and the name for the emotion underneath.

“Feelings are such a big part of this,” Schumacher said.

Gallaher works with the students to identify the feeling, such as nervous or frustrated, and then she asks the students what makes them feel these things. Gallaher becomes emotional when she thinks of how well the students have been able to grasp those concepts.

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