Resources to help students build emotional intelligence
By Daniel Goleman
The scene: a first-grade classroom in a Manhattan school. Not just any classroom—this one has lots of Special Ed students, who are very hyperactive. So the room is a whirlpool of frenzied activity. The teacher tells the kids that they’re going to listen to a CD. The kids quiet down a bit.
Then they get pretty still as the CD starts, and a man’s voice asks the kids to lie down on their backs, arms at their sides, and get a “breathing buddy,” like a stuffed animal, who will sit on their stomachs and help them be aware of their breathing. The voice takes the children through a series of breathing and body awareness exercises, and the kids manage to calm down and stay focused through the entire six minutes, which ends with them wiggling their toes.
“You’ve just learned how to make your body feel calm and relaxed,” says the voice. “And you can do this again any time you want.”
The voice on the CD is mine, though I’m reading the words of Linda Lantieri, who has pioneered public school programs in social and emotional learning that have been adopted worldwide.
Her newest program adds an important tool to the emotional intelligence kit: mindfulness, a moment-by-moment awareness of one’s internal state and external environment. In a new book, Building Emotional Intelligence, which comes with the CD, Lantieri uses mindfulness training to enhance concentration and attention among kids, and to help them learn to better calm themselves. Building Emotional Intelligence comes with instructions that explain how teachers and parents can adapt Latieri’s exercises to kids at different age levels (five to seven, eight to 11, or 12 and up) and provides detailed explanations of each exercise.
Lantieri’s project exemplifies the ways we can build on scientific insights to help children master the skills of emotional intelligence. As Richard Davidson, founder of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, explained to me in