Time to Revisit “Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom”

We’re back at school this week, setting up the physical space of our classrooms and thinking about our teaching practise.  We will be reposting some of our blog posts for the next few days to keep us focused on what we need to do when creating a safe, secure learning environment that best supports self-regulation and ultimately, student learning.  Today, we reblog, “Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom” from September 2015.

We’ve spent some time unpacking the cupboards and boxes, and moving the classroom furniture into place the past couple of days.  While we’re keeping the general layout of tables and chairs and location of various Centres the same, we did try to further reduce clutter at the end of last school year and refine our organisation of school supplies and learning resources.

Some small changes we made this year include:

  • DECLUTTER!  Removal of toys and activities the children showed little interest in or were in poor condition; recycle extra copies of alphabet and writing activities; return extra and unnecessary supplies to the art and science cupboards
  • Cover the remaining bulletin boards with broadcloth for increased noise reduction
  • Purchase a few more matching clear containers for all math manipulatives, Centre activities and storage so there’s a sense of cohesiveness and uniformity when you look around the classroom
  • Place Centre toys and activities on a rotation so not everything is out in view; but rather, stored in a closed cupboard and can be brought out as needed
  • Christy is sewing curtains to cover her open cupboards – reveal to follow in the next few days!

Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom

Although it’s the first day of school across British Columbia, here in West Vancouver our Kindergarten children do not start school until tomorrow.  Their Gradual Entry Program begins on Wednesday when we will welcome small groups into the classroom over the next few days, and provide the children with time to familiarize themselves with us, the classroom routines and their new classmates in a gentle and unhurried manner.

For the past week we’ve been busy setting up our classrooms, and we’ve been doing so with an eye to the children’s self-regulation.

Of course we will be specifically teaching the children about the Zones of Regulation, identifying feelings and emotions and exploring mindfulness.  But there are also some things we can do to prepare the physical environment of our classrooms to support self-regulation.

Stuart Shanker, in Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation, reminds us that a classroom environment with reduced visual and auditory distractors can help students to concentrate better.  Here are some of his main points, and what we’ve been doing in our classrooms.

Lots of natural light.  We both have lots of windows to appreciate the natural light which flows into our classrooms.  Sometimes we will lower the blinds but in the “open” position so we can still have light.  Our windows also have a special reflective coating on them so the children can see outside; however, others are unable to see in.

Minimum of artificial light.  We keep the overhead lights IMG_4498“off” in the classroom generally, although the grey, cloudy days make the room quite dark.  Sometimes one bank of lights turned is on because it’s necessary for reading and printing!  We’ve purchased several lamps (or cast-offs from home) to provide some atmosphere and they make the classroom feel warm and cosy.

Soft paint colours in a non-gloss finish.  As teachers we don’t often have a lot of choice in the paint finish of our classrooms; we both have the standard “white.”  Christy’s cupboards are a soft blue and mine are naturally finished so we are fortunate in that regard.  We’re just happy to freshly painted classrooms and that our classrooms schools are beautifully maintained by our District Facilities group.

IMG_1654No vibrant colours.  Not living with colour in the classroom is something we have both struggled with.  We love colour:  colour energizes us, inspires us, provokes creativity, brings us happiness, and is necessary for our mental well-being.  We know there are many self-regulated classrooms which have gone with a neutral colour scheme, but that wasn’t for us.  We spend many hours in our classrooms so our compromise has been to decorate our classrooms in a blue (to suggest the sky or ocean) and green (to suggest fields and forest) colour scheme, both of which bring a sense of calm and tranquility to our teaching, and therefore, the children’s self-regulation.

This year we also tried something different.  Instead of using paper to cover our bulletin boards, we used broadcloth to help absorb the sound better, plus being more environmentally responsible as fading should be less and the fabric won’t need to be replaced every year or two.

IMG_4500Organise everyday materials and put away other supplies.  In continuing with our blue and green colour scheme, we have primarily blue and green baskets to organise the children’s table school supplies, plus some pink for fun.  We place all daily school supplies (crayons, gluesticks, scissors, felt pens) in their baskets in a designated, labelled bookcase, and teach the children in the first weeks of school how to give out and put away the baskets.

The rest of the children’s school supplies for the year are stowed away in the cupboards.

We use clear tubs of for organizing Math manipulatives and Activity Time toys and shelving/tub systems for areas such as the Imagination Station.

Reduce wall clutter.  We don’t like any kind of clutter; we find it overstimulating and not helpful in our own self-regulation.  We use our bulletin boards for displaying student art work.  The children, and us, need to be surrounded by the beauty of their own creations, and to develop an appreciation of their own, and others, efforts.

We display only what we deem essential:  Alphabets, number line, our Math Their Way calendar, math rotation groups and the Visual Schedule.  Although we are often printing Alphabet letters, recording our brainstorming and demonstrating art projects, these charts usually come down or are put away soon after we’ve finished using them.

IMG_4502Tennis balls (“Hush-Ups”) on the chairs.  The sound of the chairs banging against the table legs and floor was one we endured for many years until we were able to order these “Hush-Ups”  through a Parent Advisory Council (PAC) grant for self-regulation materials last year.



Carpets on the floor.  My classroom is carpeted so the noise level is generally quite low.  Christy’s classroom is not carpeted but she was able to purchase, through the PAC grant, additional small carpets for some of her play areas to reduce the noise.  All the teachers in our school were fortunate to be able to select a beautiful, decorative carpet for our classrooms, paid for by our PAC.

Room organisation.  Although it seems logical that every classroom needs a quiet area for Meeting Time, sitting and discussion, the physical classroom itself does not always lend itself easily to determining where that might be.  Our Alphabet carpet area is the quiet space, and we’ve tried to surround it with low storage units or bookcases and the Special Helper’s chair to make it feel safe and enclosed.  We both have our quiet space deep into the classroom and well away from the door to help eliminate unnecessary distractions.

Well, our classrooms are ready, supplies are in their baskets and the activities are on the tables for the children.  We’re all ready for the Kindergarten and looking forward to facilitating their new journey as self-regulated learners.


Summer is (Almost) Over Musings and Some Back to School Shopping

IMG_1448It’s been a gorgeous summer, filled with aquamarine skies and tropical waters, sandy beaches, barbecues with friends and families and lots of gardening.  Although we’ve travelled to places near and far, there’s nothing quite like coming home and the comforts of your own space and bed.  That’s probably more indicative of our age, but it’s a conversation that can be revisited at another time, cool drink in hand.


My dad used to always say that time goes by faster after your children are born, and in our families,IMG_5655 that is certainly true.  We don’t think just about the days and weeks anymore; instead, we find ourselves measuring time by years, holiday celebrations and the summer holidays.



This summer was particularly poignant as my daughter graduated from high school and so begins her next journey in education:  University.  It’s such an exciting time for her, and we’re so delighted as our own memories of University life are very special.  Back at home, Christy and I each have a child going into Grade 12 this year so I’m back on the graduation wheel of special events but this will be it for me (apparently with a son it’s supposed to be simpler?).  Christy’s youngest has a few more years in school so she will have a bit of a breather between her girls.  It occurred to me that Christy and I are closing the circle as parents of school-aged children, and this will be reflected in our blog as we think about Kindergarten within the context, and as the foundation, of public education this year.

And now onto business.

Although many people don’t realise this, it actually takes a great deal of time to wind down the classroom, and ourselves, after a busy year of teaching.  There is a lot to clean and tidy in a Kindergarten classroom and we are usually in school for another week or two, depending upon what projects we might be up to.  When we’re finished, we definitely try to relax and “let it go.” But school is never really far from our minds, because in just a matter of days after starting our holiday we found ourselves out and about and shopping for some great resources for our classrooms this fall.

Whenever I go to Victoria, British Columbia, I love to visit my favourite teacher’s store, Schoolhouse Teaching Supplies.  I’ve been shopping there for a number of years now and they always have such fantastic collections of books, teaching resources and supplies, stickers and classroom decorations.  The lovely shopkeepers are happy to order things in for you, if you’re looking for something specific.  We need to replenish our alphabet stickers, calendar pieces, birthday certificates and cloakroom tags every year, and sometimes a pretty new bulletin board border is just the perfect finishing complement to an art display.

Some of the treasures of our most recent shopping spree

Some of the treasures of our most recent shopping spree

On this particular visit to Victoria, we wanted to do a mini bookstore tour so we took a day to go to the downtown Chapters, Russell’s New and Used Books and Munro’s Books.  We hadn’t been to Munro’s for a long time but our son’s English teacher had recommended he go there the next time we were in town.  Munro’s is in a beautiful, high ceiling space on Government Street and very wonderful it is with not only a well-curated collection of books and fun “bits and bobs” for the literati (think cute book lovers’ tote bags, book labels, cards and papers) but they also have an outstanding children’s literature section.  Naturally, we couldn’t leave empty handed so we came away with these beautiful new alphabet books:



And I had to buy this adorable tote:

I <3 Darcy

I ❤ Darcy

Back at home, when we thought we couldn’t possibly buy anything else for school, we were having lunch in town with a colleague and walked past Vancouver Kidsbooks at their new Broadway location on the way back to the car.  Although our usual neighbourhood haunt is our adored Kidsbooks in the Village store in North Vancouver, this larger store is pretty amazing.  There are just so many beautiful books for children from infant to young adults, and toys, puppets and puzzles.  We’ve been replacing and upgrading the learning resources for our classrooms so we decided to purchase some new puzzles for our classes:


We won’t tire you with the rest of the shopping we did, but let’s just say we’re going to need some help getting this stuff to our classrooms.  The shopping bags are starting to pile up downstairs for our return to school this week, and there will be certainly be some unpacking to do.  But in the meantime, we’re going to stay in this restful and relaxing state of mind, hopefully the same as you.