Using the Vocabulary with Primary Students

Periodically, I receive e-mail from a primary teacher who has second thoughts about using the vocabulary of the Social Development Hierarchy. The problem so often is that the adult is uncomfortable with the terms “anarchy” and “bullying.”Two points are important regarding the vocabulary of the hierarchy:
(1) The way to learn a concept is to have a way to describe it. This is the reason that one of the most fundamental approaches to success in school is vocabulary development. This seems rather obvious since vocabulary words are taught as soon as youngsters enter school.

(2) Adults associate the two unacceptable lower levels as negatives. When these words are used, adults conjure up negative thoughts and feelings about them. That is the very point and the reason these terms should be taught. We want the same negative thoughts and feelings to arise in young people when they describe these unacceptable levels. Young people are in the process of becoming adults. The way to develop responsible adults is to expose young people to ideas, rather than hide negatives from them so that they grow up not being able to discern what is appropriate and what is not.

The following is a communication I received from a kindergarten teacher shedding light on the point.

“I have used the hierarchy in Kindergarten and was surprised how quickly the Kindergarten students were able to pick up the language and were able to label situations as “Anarchy” and “Bullying.” It was a particularly challenging class. We used the Happy Face poster and discussed how Level A and Level B usually results in tears. We talked about what C and D levels are like in the hallway, in the bathroom, etc.

“It was very effective. Kindergarten students were certainly able to reflect on their behavior and discuss how to change it.

“It works and it was great!”

Read this for a further understanding of the Hierarchy of Social Development.