The Self-Regulated Teacher

Our personal journey towards self-regulation in Kindergarten

Change, Routines and Self-Regulation

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a “normal” schedule. It’s probably going to be like this until the end of the schoolyear. We’ve had a lot of schedule changes this term and numerous special visits and activities which has thrown us off our regular routine. Well, it’s a very good thing for our Kindergarten cuties and their self-regulation: they’ve helped us to stay steady, grounded and in the green zone.

Now, don’t get us wrong. It’s been a very FUN time. We’ve been doing lots of interesting activities but when you are schedule, routine oriented people, as we are, it does require quite a bit of flexibility to change. When we fit in all of these extra events, we still have our regular classroom lessons to teach and projects to finish up with our students; we don’t let all of that go.

But it made us realise how much we rely on our timetable, which we know to be a good thing. A sense of structure, predictability and knowing what’s going to happen next is really important to help reduce uncertainty and anxiety. We see our children check the visual schedule in the classroom everyday, at most transitions. If we’ve made an error in the schedule, or forget to change it, they certainly notice and we are duly informed. The children want to know where we are in the schedule; it gives them a sense of comfort in counting down the activities until they can see their mom and dad at the end of the day.

When the children are aware of the expectations for themselves and others they feel calm and confident. They know what’s expected of them and what to do, so they can bring their focused attention to learning. This is a vital part of our self-regulation, being able to centre ourselves to be ready to learn. Being cognizant of what we need to do to down-regulate, whether through deep breathing, calming countdowns, or quiet activities such as walking, colouring or reading, is learned as we explore our emotions, how we’re feeling and connecting them to words and strategies. The Incredible Flexible You and the Zones of Regulation are two of the pro-social programs we use in our Kindergarten.

We practise daily strategies for self-regulation. Everyday we listen to calming music and feel our bodies relaxing. Then, we listen to the Zenergy chime and practise deep breathing to develop our mindfulness. Sometimes, we do stretches. We’re getting outside more as the weather has improved, and started our Forest Fridays, so adding some springtime walks is the next strategy to add to our repertoire.

While change is healthy and necessary for growth, we also know that too much change too quickly leaves one feeling out of control, upset and frustrated. This is why routines are such a necessary part of Kindergarten. We want the children to feel safe and secure during their day. When we do have to make changes to our daily schedule, we make sure we explain very carefully to our classes what is going to happen and why. We try to make certain that there are not too many changes in a day or week, although that can be difficult to control sometimes.

So when and where we can, we start with small changes and practise.

We might change the order of how we do things in our day.

We might change the children in the groups for Centre time.

We might change the way we print our name – in crayon or felt pen, rather than a pencil.

These seem like small things, but experience has taught us that we cannot expect five and six-year old children to accept change and adapt ”just like that,” or that “it’s good for them,” without practise. The teaching and scaffolding around changing set routines is necessary so that our children develop an understanding of why things change and the resiliency to cope with them. While we love our routines, we also want our children to learn to embrace change, without fear or hesitation. We’re looking to build strong, flexible students for a constantly changing world.

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Great Expectations…Kindergarten Style

IMG_1861Sometimes people think that as a Kindergarten teacher you are talking quietly and gently because the children are young and perhaps a little uncertain about coming to school.  Of course we want them to feel welcomed, comfortable and loved.  Embedded in every word we say is a statement, a declaration, an intention about expectations.  Having taught many grades over the years, we bring with us the experience and the knowledge that clearly stating our expectations and boundaries for student behaviour is paramount to a self-regulated classroom.

What do we mean?

We’ve been teaching the Zones of Regulation curriculum to learn strategies for self-regulation.  Read how we’re using it in our classrooms here.  We use the vocabulary of the Zones, Blue (sad, sick, scared, tired): Green (calm, happy, focused, ready to learn): Yellow (excited, getting carried away, frustrated) and Red (very angry, very frustrated, my body is out of control), as a structure or organizer for our feelings and emotions.  At the start of school, and certainly throughout the year, we talk about how we’re feeling, how we interpret the energy (and Zone) of the class and what strategy for up- or down-regulating we should use to bring ourselves back to the Green Zone.

An understanding of the Zones is important so that when children are expressing their feelings, they are doing so in a manner appropriate (or inappropriate) to the specific social situation. How and when a child demonstrates his or her feelings and emotions plays a large part of a child’s social awareness. Lately, we’ve been emphasising expected behaviours and unexpected behaviours.

“Expected behaviours” are “Behaviours that give people around you good or comfortable thoughts about you” (The Zones of Regulation (2011), p. 14).

“Unexpected behaviours” are “Behaviours that give people uncomfortable thoughts about you.” (The Zones of Regulation (2011), p. 14).

These definitions are Social Thinking vocabulary developed in Thinking About YOU Thinking About ME (2007) by Michelle Garcia Winner.

Even at five- and six- years old, many Kindergarten children are socially aware enough to know they are at school to learn, have fun with their friends and that they will receive the privileges that come with expected behaviour.  So right now we’re connecting for our students how expected behaviour or unexpected behaviour can give the other people around you (the other students in the class) comfortable or uncomfortable thoughts.  

We’re trying to make it explicit for the children how expected behaviours, such as listening to and focusing on the teacher, following the teacher’s instructions, keeping their hands and feet to themselves, walking quietly in line and staying in-bounds during playtime not only make them feel good, but gives the other children in the class “good or comfortable” thoughts about you.  When students show expected behaviour, everybody in the class feels happy, calm, and safe – now we’re in the green zone and ready to engage in learning.  When a child perceives others to be following the classroom rules and routines, he or she has a sense of security and predictability about the classmates who will be his or her friends.  This gives a child confidence and a desire to play with those children he or she feels safe.

Conversely, we’re also making it explicit for the children how unexpected behaviours, such as talking during teacher instruction, touching others students in class, racing to be first or budging in line or drawing on another child’s paper gives the other children in the class “uncomfortable thoughts” about you.  When a child demonstrates unexpected behaviour, the others students feel scared, uncertain, reluctant, and frankly, many just do not like it.  The children become distracted from the lesson, they don’t want to miss the instructions and they are reluctant to play with a child who will not listen to the teacher.  

For example, when we see unexpected behaviour in class, we observe by saying, “It’s unexpected to see students running down the hall.”  Then we teach by saying, “It’s expected that students will walk quietly down the hall.”  We do not refer to behaviour as good or bad, but rather expected or unexpected.  

We know that unstructured time (Centre Time, recess time on the playground, transitions between activities, lining up) is a challenging time for Kindergarten and that’s where we will see unexpected behaviour the most.

By establishing classroom routines, we try to make the unstructured time more predictable to reduce unexpected behaviour so that children who are a little bit nervous, worried or anxious know not only what they should do, but what is expected of their classmates.

 

Developing social awareness starts at home during the early years. Although we teach pro-social curriculums such as the The Incredible Flexible You, our focus is on lessons for the individual child in the social context of the classroom such as following “The Group Plan” (as opposed to following your own plan) and keeping your “Body in the Group” (instead of straying from the group). Specific social skills such as maintaining eye contact, personal space and speaking pleasantly to others can and should be introduced, reviewed and reinforced at home.  

And yes, we still remind our own kids in the high school years about all these values because we as their parents, are their first teachers.  We want them to go into the world not just with their leadership skills and academic smarts, but with the social awareness and a strong moral compass so that no matter where they are, they can respond with the respect, empathy and compassion needed today.

 

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Self-Regulation Reflection: Snow Week

img_6225Well, that was certainly unexpected.

Even though we had all the warnings about significant snowfalls this week, as Vancouverites we carry on in our merry way because we’ve had false hopes before.  Our city trucks are filled with salt, we load up on groceries for snowmaggedon, and nothing much happens.  We get a few flakes.  But this time, when the snow actually fell, it wasn’t so funny anymore.

We started last school week with a Professional Day on Monday, a snowy drive and the good news that UBC was still open so my daughter was among the fortunate university students to write her exams as scheduled.  Our kids might be older but we still worry about them.  The price we pay for parenthood.

Mine and Christy’s biggest concern was that we not have a snow day on Tuesday or Wednesday, as we were well into rehearsing and performing for our Christmas Concert.  Our children had practised on stage, they had their Christmas best clothing organised, they looked adorable with candy cane/reindeer/snowflake crowns and if we did not perform on time, we would miss their “peak,” or when they were performing at their best.  But the snow held off long enough (till Friday, anyways) for us to have a run through and perform three times in 36 hours, surely a new record.  

We had made explicit with our classes that we would notice if all of the self-regulation practise of the various strategies we’ve been teaching in class were working for them, or not.  As we made the procession from our classroom, pausing at the stairs, the hallway outside the Grade 7 classrooms, and in the boys’ changeroom before we entered the gym, we used our deep breathing and our calming countdown strategies.  Many children made eye contact with us as we led our classes in breathing (on the stairs, in the hallways, in the changeroom) so we were calm, focused and ready to perform.  

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And as always, our self-regulation practise paid off.  We sparkled and glittered at the perfect moments!  Special thanks goes to Mrs. Soderling, our new Music Teacher, for teaching our children and producing this year’s Concert.

 

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November Self-Regulation Reflection

img_1509In our post-Hallowe’en state of mind, we found ourselves thinking a lot about the children’s self-regulation this week.

In our Kindergarten classrooms self-regulation is the foundation of our teaching and the driving force behind our teaching practise. We view student behaviour through a self-regulation lens.  For us, Hallowe’en is the first marker, a personal assessment of how effective our teaching has been in not only creating a self-regulated classroom in its physical organisation, but in our teaching and use of self-regulation strategies.  

Not only was it Hallowe’en on Monday but we had our Emergency Release Drill on Thursday.  Sometimes we are not really sure how the children will respond to a lot of change.  We have many routines built into our day which forms a big part of the children’s self-regulation.  However, part of growing up also means having the flexibility to cope (calmly) with change so we put our self-regulation to the test.

Despite the Hallowe’en excitement, and waves of low (blue zone) and high (yellow zone) energy we had in class this week, our teaching of self-regulated strategies and routines over the past two months came back to us in a healthy harvest (you reap what you sow) of quite calm, thoughtful and cooperative children.  We tried to be very sensitive to the classroom energy level by providing extra outside time to make chalk drawings in our undercover area, more crafting for idle hands and lots of teacher read-alouds to listen and relax by.  We noticed lots of hearty sandwiches and pastas coming out of lunch bags and these delicious meals certainly made a difference to the lunch hour as the children were happily engaged in eating and refueling for the afternoons.

While enjoying a few quiet and reflective minutes with our class, we’re bringing their attention to how a peaceful, restful mind and body break can make them feel refreshed and re-energized for learning.   We’ve been talking about our thoughts as ideas, pictures (images) and quiet words in our head as we’ve introduced Incredible Flexible You, a social thinking curriculum for young children, a couple of weeks ago.  Understanding our thoughts and feelings, and how each person brings his or her thoughts and feelings to any social interaction, have been the first part of our teaching.  We’re building upon the concept of “thinking thoughts” to create calming images with the children, in their heads, to increase their repertoire of self-regulation strategies.

We made it safely past Hallowe’en, but our practise of self-regulation strategies carries on.  Next stop:  Christmas.

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The Zones of Regulation

fullsizerender-1You’ve probably heard it at home by now, that in Kindergarten we’re all about the Zones.

Those zones would be the “Zones of Regulation” from her excellent book, The Zones of Regulation by Leah M. Kuypers.

Christy and I started using the Zones of Regulation with our students a few years ago.  Briefly, it’s a curriculum on recognising one’s needs, impulses and emotional state (alertness); a classification system for feelings and emotions (the four Zones); the teaching of self-regulation skills and strategies; and the social awareness of how one’s behaviour may be seen by, and can affect, others.

Self-regulation is the foundation of our Kindergarten program.  Although what we do at our grade level is just an introduction, we support our children by teaching them to be aware of, and identify, their needs and emotions; accept that all emotions are present and valid; introduce and practise self-regulation skills and strategies to help them to manage their needs and emotions; and to choose appropriate social responses to the specific situation or environment (social awareness).

From the stories we’ve heard at school from the children and yourself, we know that many of the children have begun to use and apply their knowledge about the Zones at home:

When we’re in the green zone we are feeling calm, happy, focused, relaxed and ready to learn.When we’re in the yellow zone we are scared, excited, frustrated or getting carried away.When we’re in the red zone we are feeling very frustrated, angry and our body is out of control. When we’re in the blue zone we are feeling sad, tired or sleepy.

We teach the children that all the zones are “good.”  For example, you want to be excited and have energy (a higher state of alertness) when we’re on the playground or playing a sport so the yellow zone is where we want to be.  If we are tired or sick (a lower level of alertness), then perhaps recognising that we need to rest and play a quiet activity would be a better choice.   We are in the green zone when listening attentively at the meeting area, following teacher instructions, working on-task at our table groups, cooperating and playing well with our friends–it’s the optimal zone for learning.  We always try to identify and describe green zone behaviours so the children know what those behaviours might look like and sound like.

The red zone can be a bit trickier.  Just because we are angry and in the red zone does not mean we are “bad;” indeed, being angry and articulating (calmly) that we are angry is ok, but it’s how we respond which is key.  As parents and teachers, we need to calmly talk about our feelings and why we feel the way we do so that our children see what a socially appropriate response for a very high level of alertness and energy looks like.  We teach the children that yelling, hitting, pushing and throwing things are not socially acceptable responses and that there are other strategies to navigate their way.  Typically we would start identifying how a student is feeling, start a calming countdown (count backwards from 10) and then deep breathing together until words can be articulated and go from there.

We actively refer to the Zones throughout the day, what we observe about the energy in the classroom or where we should be for a specific activity.   The children are learning that different situations require different responses depending upon the context of the current social situation, and what should we do to get there–up-regulate or down-regulate.  We might need to up-regulate our energy with an Action Break if we’re feeling tired during instruction; or down-regulate our excitement with a slow, cool drink of water if we’re returning to our classroom after playing outside.

We practise a variety of self-regulation strategies in class.

At the beginning of the year, we taught deep breathing as a strategy for calming, using the Breathing Ball as a visual for breathing in and breathing out.  We did this first, so that the children would know how to breathe deeply down into their tummy (spine straight, in through our nose (silently), out through our mouth (silently) and keep our shoulders down).

The great thing about deep breathing for calming is that you always have your breath with you.  We can use this strategy when we are in line waiting to get into the gym for an Assembly or if our classroom line-up is exceptionally noisy.

Another strategy we’ve added has been to listen to music, from Jazz to New Age to Classical, for calming and relaxation following the morning recess.  Then, we work on our mindfulness by using the Zenergy chime to train our minds to focus and be in the present.  We also incorporate deep breathing into this time as well (having prioritized the teaching and practising of this strategy in September).  The children are experts as they have already had multiple opportunities to practise.

One of the primary roles of the teacher is to be a model of self-regulation.  Our ability to stay calm and focused, and to regulate and articulate our own emotional state, means we are better able to assist your children with regulating their optimal (green zone) state for learning.  Consider taking the time for your own “self-regulatory moment.”  In a busy classroom, we know it is very healthy, leaving all of us feeling energized and refreshed for the next part of the teaching day.

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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.

 

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May the Self-Regulating Force Be With You!

We often wonder how our teaching of self-regulation strategies fare outside of the specific lessons.  For us, the overriding question is whether or not the children are able to transfer what they know to a context outside of classroom instruction.  We’ve been practising our deep breathing; creating calm, peaceful scenes in our minds while meditating; listening to soft music and focusing on relaxing and breathing when using the Zenergy chime.  We’d have to say this was a pretty good week to test out the effectiveness of our teaching.  Would the children be able to manage their energy during the long presentations this week?  What would they do if they were feeling restless and wiggling in their seats?  Do they know how to ignore distractions? Would they be able to self-regulate their own learning by reflecting on what their task was in each new situation?

IMG_1186One of the most exciting things we did this week was to welcome Kathleen, a scientist leader, from “High Touch, High Tech” to our classrooms to present the “Newton in Nutshell” workshop which focuses on Force and Motion.  As physicists, the children would study things that moved and how they moved.

The children learned that scientists can do lots of things.  They conduct experiments which are done in a laboratory, and for this special day, our classrooms were the labs.  Kathleen reviewed the important safety rules such as wearing safety equipment like goggles and lab coats; walking in the lab and keeping things out of our mouths.  Students must listen to instructions, note the order in which tasks are to be completed and take precautions in using equipment.  

Kathleen asked the children to describe how objects move.  They knew they could pull or push objects. Pushes and pulls are the forces to get objects to move; however, the objects have to follows rules or “laws” so Kathleen taught us these laws:

The first law of motion:  An object in motion stays in motion.  An object at rest stays at rest.  Kathleen showed us with a long string of beads in a cup how once we start to pull the strand out of the cup, the rest of the strand would follow and it would not stop until it was finished. This motion stopped when the beads hit the ground.

IMG_1181The second law of motion: The bigger the force, the faster the motion. An object with a bigger force goes faster and further.  Kathleen set up a series of dominoes to demonstrate  what happens when we push hard or push slowly; and that by changing the position of the dominoes (closer, farther apart) it also changes the motion.

The third law of motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.   A reaction happens after the action; for example,  if pushing against a wall while wearing your skates (the action), the reaction is to go backwards.  Using Newton’s Cradle, Kathleen showed how the number of balls she set in motion had an equal reaction in that the same number of balls on the opposite side would start moving.  


FullSizeRender-1Finally, we learned about the apple falling out of the tree. Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity.
If you drop an object, it will always fall to the ground. Gravity pulls everything to the ground.

With their newfound knowledge, our children then embarked on a series of experiments and learning centres to practise what they had learned.  They were able to drop a variety of objects down a vortex, race cars, fling pompoms in catapults, spin felt pen tops to make designs and test out the “spinning wheel” while standing on a moving platform.  It was a very busy and exciting time.

We were happy we’d taught the expectations for centre-based activities and practised this process many times under a variety of circumstances from the regular activity time to Hallowe’en Centres to Math.  The children were all able to rotate well through the stations and participate in their specific learning tasks.  They walked safely from table to table. For the most part, they remembered the instructions to follow through on their activities in the correct order.  For their age, and this being the first time for many of them to receive specific lessons in self-regulation strategies, we were really proud of our students for demonstrating patience, turn-taking and sharing cooperatively most of the time.

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But we’ve also learned that self-regulation instruction is not a series of lessons, or taught only in the early years of Primary.  In the past four years where we’ve made significant changes to our classroom instruction and classroom environment, we know that learning, understanding and using self-regulation strategies is a complex process.  We’ve said before that self-regulation is a way of being, something that we have learned and developed over time.  We know that our Kindergarten students are well on their way in their personal journey of self-regulation.

This Week in Our Room:  June 13-17, 2016

Many thanks to Roseanne from the West Vancouver Memorial Library for showing us a variety of wonderful books and reminding us to register for the Summer Reading Program.

We enjoyed our delicious cookies from the Kindergarten Cookie Sale.  Thanks to Mr. Blackburn and the Grade Six students for organizing this special event.  Funds raised will be donated to Free the Children.

We loved watching our siblings and other Ridgeview Primary students perform at the Primary Talent Show.

Upcoming Events and Reminders

Next week is the last week for Home Reading.  Friday, June 24, will be the last day to take home a book.

Wednesday, June 22, is our Vancouver Aquarium Field Trip.  Please return your permission form and cheque on Monday.

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The Self-Regulated Teacher’s Top 5 Most Read Posts for Term Two, January-March 2016

IMG_0728We’ve just finished the first week of our spring break, and have taken some time to get caught up on household duties, skiing, concerts, shopping, and future blog post ideas and scheduling.

But it also reminded us it’s the end of Term Two for our classes, and as usual we like to wrap it up with a summary and links to our top 5 most read posts in case you missed them.

IMG_1854Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines

Although teachers typically establish classroom routines in September, we’ve learned over the years that teaching routines is not something that can be done once and never referred to again.  Routines of any kind, for our students and ourselves as adults, need to be practiced and reinforced over and over to become a good habit and part of the natural way we do things.  So it is every autumn that we begin teaching routines to our new Kindergarten students on the first day of the Gradual Entry Program.  Routines provide calm and comfort for the children, particularly for transitions between activities.  The children have a sense of safety and security when they know what is expected not only of them, but their classmates as well.

IMG_2478Math, the Kindergarten Way

We wrote this blog last April and we’re excited that it continues to remain informative for parents and teachers.  We’re still faithful to the basic principles of Math Their Way even after many years of teaching, a variety of new programs and new directions.  Math Their Way is just right for young children:  it is a manipulative based math program that focuses on developing a deep understanding of math concepts at the concrete (manipulative) level before the children start to make the connections between the concrete and abstract.  Every math unit we plan, from Patterning, to Sorting and Classifying, Number and Geometry and Measurement, begins with the manipulatives and planned time for the children to explore over a number of days before we begin direct instruction.

BreathingBallSelf-Regulation Tool:  The Breathing Ball

This little blog on the Breathing Ball (aka the Hoberman Sphere) has been visited often since we originally posted it in February 2015 .  We continue to use the Breathing Ball daily, either after the morning or lunch recess, to provide an important visual for our students for the deep breathing practise that we take so seriously in the Kindergarten.  Our dear SEA who retired last year always said to the children, “your breath is your friend.”  When we are out and about, in a hallway line-up to enter the gym for an assembly, waiting for our turn to perform at the Christmas Concert or anticipating a special snack, we turn to our “friend” and breathe deeply and calmly to help us focus so that we are always relaxed and ready to receive whatever the day is about to bring to us.

IMG_2474Understanding Phonological Awareness as Part of a Balanced Approach to Reading Instruction

A significant part of our Kindergarten program is to build upon the children’s phonological awareness, which has been developing since they were young.  In our school district we assess our students’ early literacy skills at the end of January, such as alphabet names and sounds, initial and final sounds of words and segmenting and blending skills, with a follow-up assessment in late spring.  For us, planning a balanced approach to reading instruction includes developing phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, along with the songs, rhymes and poems, read-aloud stories, environmental print, shared reading and independent reading opportunities that are a part of a rich, oral language experience.

IMG_2584Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom

This year we made some significant changes to the physical arrangement of our classrooms based upon suggestions from Stuart Shankar (@StuartShankar) in his book Calm, Alert and learning:  Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation.  From increasing our use of natural light, soft wall colours, uniform organisation of materials and noise reduction strategies, we are better able to support our students’ self regulation through the creation of a calm and peaceful learning space.

 

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The Self-Regulated Teacher’s Top 5 Most Read Posts for Term One, September-December 2015

Beautiful shadows on a beautiful late autumn day!

Beautiful shadows on a beautiful late autumn day!

Well, time has flown by again.  Who can believe we are already finished the first term of the school year and now we’re in the countdown to Christmas?

Today marks the 80th post for theselfregulateacher.com and as we do at the end of every term, we highlight the top five most read posts (according to our WordPress.com stats) for you to read in case you missed them!

Setting Up the Self-Regulated Classroom

We decided to make further changes in setting up our classrooms this past September, to better support the children’s self-regulation.  We started with reviewing Stuart Shankar’s Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation to consider what distractors and stimuli could be changed or removed to enhance a calm and peaceful classroom environment.  We made purposeful wall colour choices (ocean blues and forest greens), increased the natural light, considered other attractive lighting options (pretty lamps) and new storage containers (all matching) for a more pleasing visual appearance.  Click here for the full version.

Our Kindergarten Classroom Routines

Classroom routines are extremely important in the day-to-day running of the classroom.  Let’s face it:  we all want to have fun at school whether we are the teacher or the students, and classroom routines help us to make it so.  The children feel safe and secure in their classroom, and with their teacher and classmates, when they know the expectations.  They know they can explore, play and learn within the established boundaries.  As teachers we create the routines every year for the students;  we know based on our own teacher training, and professional and personal (we’re parents, too) experience, what children in this particular age group can do independently, and what they can learn successfully with teaching and practise.  Click here for the full version.

Self-Regulation Resources

It’s exciting that our link to self-regulation resources has been visited many times, as that means more of us are thinking about self-regulation and how we can support our students.  We have a list of self-regulation sites for you, in addition to links to self-regulation tools we use ourselves in the classroom, and curriculums to consider.  We update this page on our site about once a term so check in regularly. Click here for the full version.

About Us

Christy and I are long-time teachers in the West Vancouver School District and have dedicated our professional lives to teaching primary-aged children.  We’ve been friends and colleagues for many years.  I was teaching Grade 3 at Chartwell Elementary in 1994 when Christy was hired there to teach Kindergarten, having just completed her student teaching right here at Ridgeview.  We became Buddy teachers and I also acted as a teacher mentor for Christy as she was a beginning teacher.  Today, congratulations are in order for Christy as she was honoured in September for having completed 20 years of teaching in West Van!  You can read more about us Our Story:  Becoming the Self-Regulated Teacher.  Click here for the full version.

Self-Regulation Tool:  The Breathing Ball

We’ve been using the “breathing ball” for over a year now, and continue to find it a useful tool to practise deep breathing with our classes.  We introduce it quite early in the school year and like most things we do, we incorporate it into a routine.  This year, we try to use the breathing ball daily after the lunch recess.  We expect the children to walk quietly to the meeting area in the classroom; they sit down on the carpet and we practise deep breathing with the breathing ball as a visual aid before we read our afternoon story.  Although it takes time and thought to set up, and persistence to shape each routine, teaching and practising strategies is a necessary building block to helping children develop self-regulation.  Click here for the full version.

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Self-Regulation Tool: Frog’s Breathtaking Speech

IMG_2088The days are flying by right now.  From our Hallowe’en Centres Party and the Hallowe’en Assembly, we went straight to Remembrance Day activities and the Remembrance Day Assembly.  Although we’re going to be starting our theme on “Bears” for the next few weeks, we’ve already started planning ahead to Christmas which is going to be here in no time at all.

In between times we’re continuing with our Alphabet letter of the week (sound/symbol relationship and correct letter formation), writing pages for our class big books, and working on phonological awareness skills (phonemic awareness, syllable awareness, rhyme awareness, word awareness and sentence awareness).

We’ve seen our Buddies for seasonal craft-making and to start putting our Kindergarten scrapbooks together for our children’s special momentos of some of the best work they will have completed this year.

And in math, we are having a lot of fun with sorting and classifying, counting sets to 10 and we’re always working on the new pattern for each month (November is ABC) and being attentive to where we might see that pattern in everyday life.

Wow, we’ve been busy.  We think it’s time for a self-regulatory moment and a Crocodile breath.

Here is a gorgeous book we want to share with you about breathing. Thank you to our Kindergarten teaching partner, Charity Cantlie, for bringing it to our attention!

FullSizeRender-6Frog’s Breathing Speech:  How Children (and Frogs) Can Use Yoga Breathing to Deal with Anxiety, Anger and Tension by Michael Chissick and Sarah Peacock, is a beautifully written book that tells the story of Frog, who must give a speech about breathing to his class.  He knows nothing about breathing, and so asks his friends for help. Crocodile, Lion, Humming Bee and Mr.Gumble the Woodchopper all explain how they use their breath for specific situations (calming, tension, headache, anger), what they do and why their breathing strategy works for them.  Frog becomes less scared as his friends teach him about breathing and of course, after reflecting and choosing the appropriate technique for his situation, he gives an excellent speech at school the next day.

We don’t want to give away the whole book, but as a brief example, Crocodile shows Frog how he breathes:  “I breathe IN through my nose, Then I breathe OUT through my nose.”  We love how he explains that this technique of breathing is for calming, and that if we are feeling “worried, anxious or even frightened about something, this way of breathing will help you deal with it better.”  The colourful illustrations show how the animals’ posture for breathing.

The author has also included a lot more valuable information about how to use the book in your teaching, including the postures and breathing techniques for the children.

Breathing is a very important self-regulation strategy we use daily in our classrooms.  We have a designated time, immediately after recess, where we intentionally practise our breathing.  Our routine has the children enter the classroom quietly and we meditate to quiet music.  Many children instinctively know to sit cross legged, spine straight, eyes closed and their palms on their knees.  Following the music we begin the core practise and we lead the children through a deep breathing sequence, being mindful of our breath, gently pushing sounds away, to listen to ourselves breathe.

In the afternoon, before we have a read aloud story, we deliberately practise our breathing again, using the breathing ball  (which we think is best suited for the Crocodile and Humming Bee breathing techniques).

We are going to start teaching the breathing techniques of Frog’s friends in the upcoming weeks.  We’re ready to deepen our learning and understanding of breathing so the children can continue adding to their toolkit of self-regulation strategies that work for them.

We would like to thank our Principal, Valerie Brady, for kindly purchasing this book (and others to be shared in a future post) for each of our classrooms.

For more on this book and others, visit http://www.yogaatschool.org.uk.

 

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