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Al's Pals - An Effective Early Childhood Curriculum and Teaching Approach
Al's Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices is a nationally recognized, resilience-based early childhood curriculum and teacher training program that develops social, emotional and behavioral skills in children 3 to 8 years old. The Al's Pals interactive lessons and teaching approaches help young children learn to:
How It Works
The Al's Pals curriculum has 46 lessons lasting 10-15 minutes each. The Wingspan-trained classroom teacher conducts two lessons a week, in sequence, over a 23-week period. Designed specifically for the early childhood years, the lessons use guided creative play, brainstorming, puppetry, original music, role plays, and movement to delight young minds and engage them in the development of social-emotional competence.
An original hand puppet named Al serves as a positive role model. Along with puppet pals Ty and Keisha, Al engages children in developmentally appropriate activities that build positive social skills and healthy decision-making. Lessons are rooted in resilience-specific learning objectives and include narratives, puppet scripts, songs and activities that use real-life early childhood experiences.
Between the lessons, educators use teaching approaches learned in the Al's Pals training to help children practice and generalize skills in daily classroom interactions. An Al's Pals classroom – with posters, photographs, music, "Al's Place," and other reminders of positive social behavior – becomes a caring environment of cooperation, respect, responsibility, and healthy decision-making.
Interactive Core Training
Al's Pals training is provided by Wingspan, the developer and national distributor of the program. The core training is required for all educators who will deliver the program.
The training features:
Wingspan offers training in two formats: 1) face-to-face training conducted over two days in centralized locations arranged by Wingspan as well as on-site in local communities or; 2) live, online training consisting of seven sessions, each lasting approximately two hours, scheduled over a period of several weeks. Wingspan National Outreach Specialists can help determine an appropriate training plan to meet your local needs.
Comprehensive, Easy-to-Use Curriculum Materials
Curriculum materials are distributed only upon completion of the core Al's Pals training. Each classroom requires its own curriculum kit. Contained within a puppet house, the kit includes an array of developmentally appropriate materials designed to convey prosocial concepts through daily classroom activities as well as in the lessons:
Ongoing communication with parents is built into the Al's Pals curriculum. Teachers regularly send home curriculum letters from Al to update parents about skills the children are learning and suggest home activities reinforcing these concepts. "Al-a-Gram" messages recognize children who display specific Al's Pals skills such as using kind words or stopping and thinking and are sent home to inform parents about the children's progress.
Al's Pals partners are encouraged to conduct the companion parent education program, Here, Now and Down the Road... Tips for Loving Parents to engage parents in supporting children's social-emotional development. This strengths-based program offers parents practical strategies to reinforce Al's Pals concepts at home and fosters positive relationships between parents and their children.
Booster Curriculum for Older Children
To help children retain the Al's Pals gains, a nine-lesson booster curriculum reinforces Al's Pals skills for second and third grade children who previously completed the core curriculum. The interactive booster lessons offer opportunities for role-play, brainstorms, group interaction, written work, and music to help children integrate the positive social skills into their regular behavior patterns.
The Unique Role of Guidance Counselors, Prevention, Mental Health
and Other Specialists
Prevention specialists, guidance counselors, and other mental health specialists often spearhead the initiative to bring Al's Pals to their community, school, or organization. They provide guidance in funding procurement, training coordination, monitoring fidelity of program implementation, and evaluation efforts.
After completing Wingspan training, specialists may opt to co-deliver the program with the trained classroom teacher and offer suggestions on how to enhance Protective Factors at school and home. When resource specialists deliver the lessons, it is essential that the classroom teachers still participate in Wingspan training. The Al's Pals training prepares the classroom educator to infuse the program's values into the classroom environment and seize opportunities between the lessons for children to practice and generalize newly acquired skills, when the specialist is not present in the classroom. Some specialists spend five hours a week or more in a classroom working with the children. To learn more about effective adaptations of the Al's Pals model in settings like this, click here to contact an Outreach Specialist.