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May 07, 2007

Becoming Social: Karen's Journey into our Community

Karen's grandmother told me from day one that she was concerned about her granddaughter's social skills.  She had never been to school before and spent most of her time around adults: uncles, grandparents, and cousins.  Karen already excelled in basic literacy and math skills after working with her great grandmother, a retired school teacher, one-on-one for the past year.  Her transformation into a highly sociable member of our classroom community highlights the benefits of pre-k, even for those children who can attain academic readiness at home.

Karen's experiences made her quite focused on reading, writing, and interacting with Ms. Morrison and me in the fall.  She chose to read in the Library, play with Table Toys, or paint by herself during Choice Time.  Like David she was quite hesitant to join her fellow four year olds in more social areas such as Dramatic Play and Blocks.  Yet she listened to and comprehended stories read on the rug, could write her name, and was starting to make connections between letters and their sounds.  While I kept challenging her with her academics, I knew the real challenge for Karen would be developing relationships with her peers.

I exposed Karen to the same community building lessons as David.  But whole group songs about our friends and puppet role plays did not motivate Karen to socialize with her friends.  She would cheer on her friends and participate in role plays at the rug, but then continue to play on her own during choice time.  I needed to use a more proactive and involved approach that both reflected Karen's current comfort level and built on that comfort level to further her social development.

Karen gravitated toward and listened to me because I was an adult.  So, I invited her to play with me and then suggested we either join her peers or invite them to play with us.  She agreed and, over time, discovered how much fun her friends could be!  I remember her laughing with Samar in the Discovery Area while they tested magnets with various materials.  She even started problem solving independently with her friends in December.

Karen in the water areaKaren has come a long way since September.  Just this week, she chose to go to Dramatic Play and was soon taking her friends' orders at our pretend restaurant.  She and her friends joked about changing their names in the Sand Area last month.  She still sometimes prefers "alone time," like when she became adamant about separating the seal and the alligator in the Water Area so the seal would be safe, as shown in the picture.  Yet she frequently experiences the very social interactions that will help her build and nurture relationships for years to come.

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