Thursday, November 20, 2014

Helping Children Reach Their Goals

I am such a geek when it comes to professional development!!!  I absolutely LOVE TO LEARN!!!  Something really BIG happened for me last week!!!

I reached a BIG goal!!!  It has been a life dream of mine to be able to share my passion for teaching and learning on the national platform.  Last week that dream came true when I presented at the  NAEYC Conference in Dallas, Texas.  Lindy McDaniel from Considerate Classroom was my co-presenter and I was thrilled to have such a talented friend along side me all the way through this experience!  I could not have done it by myself! 

Lindy's blog is like the MECA of Early Childhood Special Education!!!  If you haven't checked it out already GO THERE NOW!!!!  She is AMAZING!!!  When others think there is NO way to help a child with special needs she says, "YES THERE IS"!!!  She will help you find a way with all her free videos and printable downloads.  She has such a giving heart!

Our presentation at NAEYC focused on helping children reach their goals and creating an optimal learning environment.  We shared many ideas for focusing on WHAT YOU WANT and then figuring out the steps for getting there.  You cannot change behavior by focusing on what you DON'T want!

Using a School Family Agreement is a great way to create a safe learning environment and teach children how to set and reach goals at school.  These are the guidelines we use as a School Family to help us know how to interact safely with one another on a daily basis.  Here is an excellent example of a School Family Agreement from a preschool classroom I visited recently.  
Notice how clear and specific the each statement is.  There are also appropriate pictures to show children what you WANT them TO DO.  This teacher set her class up for success by making this into a ritual that they did together every day as they continued to practice how to reach each of these goals!
She has this special basket that contains the names of all her "treasures" (her students).  She calls each child up to commit to keeping the School Family safe by placing their name on the Safekeeper Board near the commitments.  She is brilliantly aiming her attention as well as the attention of her students on what she WANTS them TO DO!  (I may or may not have gotten a little choked up when I witnessed the beauty of this ritual).  :)
Finally, here is one of my dear friends who is implementing Conscious Discipline in her Head Start Classroom.  She is absolutely brilliant and her passion for helping young children be their best just shines through!!!  She is sharing her class agreement which she has taught with rhythm and motions to help her children pick up the pattern, unite, and focus on moving in a positive direction!
By making commitments we are helping our children see that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.  We are also helping them discover that their teacher (the Safekeeper) is a safe conscious adult who owns their own upset, handles it appropriately, and can be trusted as a guide to come along side them whenever they need help. 
My week in Dallas wouldn't have been complete without the many treasured memories I created with my Conscious Discipline Family.  Dr. Becky Bailey and my dear friends have been that School Family for me and they have helped guide me as I move one step closer (with imperfect progress) toward becoming my best self!  I hope you'll join me!  Until next time, I wish you well!  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Peaceful Playground

I visit a lot of early childhood programs.  One of the most difficult environments in many programs is the playground.  The wide open spaces, less structure, and excitement can lead to conflict. 

Let's face it!  Teachers are just as excited about getting outside as the children are!!!  Many teachers see this as a time to relax and let the children play while they watch.  Although it is a very relaxed environment, there are many opportunities to help children learn self-regulation and social skills on the playground!

If you plan ahead and teach children the structures necessary to help them be safe on the playground you will make outside time much more enjoyable for everyone!!!

One essential tool for shutting off the stress response and helping children feel safe is VISUALS!  Before releasing children to play on the playground, make sure you take time to MAP out the playground expectations for everyone.  Model your expectation by acting it out yourself or having children role play for you.  Add pictures because pictures govern behavior for young children.  Practice with the children doing it the "right" way and notice them when they do!  When a child goes up the steps and down the slide say, "You did it!!!  You went up the steps and down the slide!  Way to go!!!"

Turn those visuals into a classroom book that can be referred to often!  If you would like a free copy of my playground book just follow this link!  Place it in your classroom library and pull it back out whenever you need a reminder of how to create a peaceful playground environment!  Until next time...I wish you well!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes

Who's ready to go back to school? 
Maybe I can help you get ready for school with another one of my favorite children's books! 

If you haven't already discovered the Pete the Cat books by Eric Litwin and James Dean you definitely need to check them out!  The adorable cat, predictable language, and rockin' songs are a favorite for children and adults alike!

I am sharing one of my personal favorites today, Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes.  It is a great back to school book that helps you teach many of your beginning of the year routines and procedures.  It also offers an opportunity to discuss the feelings children might have as they begin the new school year.  Children may find that they have a lot in common with Pete!  

I like to begin by using the free download of the author reading the story to the children.  I hold the book and turn the pages, but I let the author work his magic with the rhythm and song!  This way, each additional time we read the book, the children know the rhythm and they can sing along!

The story begins when Pete arrives at school on the bus.  After reading the story, we discuss the various ways that children come to school.  There are usually walkers, car riders, and bus riders.  The children use art materials to draw a picture and "write" about how they get to school.  They share their drawings and we compare this information by making a bar graph. 
Eventually, we turn their drawings into a class book about all the ways we come to school.  When you help children see how they are alike and appreciate their differences, you are building Unity among your students.  "We all come to school, but we may get here different ways."   
I also make arrangements with a bus driver to bring in a bus for us to tour and explore.  I have a Pete the Cat stuffed doll that went with us for the bus tour!

We had so much fun exploring the bus!  We covered language, math, motor, and social-emotional skills and had so much fun doing it! 

We made comparisons with the tires to see how BIG they are.  We discussed the colors, shapes, letters, and numbers on the bus.  The driver let us get on the bus and practice the procedures for being safe.  And of course the tour wouldn't be complete without a roaring rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus!"
When we arrived back in the classroom, we gave the children the supplies to make a "bus" for their snack.  They used Twinkies, mini Oreos, and some icing for glue.  Yes, it was full of sugar, but it was a special treat and we didn't do things like that very often!  Sometimes you have to splurge!  :)
To conclude our fun with Pete on the bus, we made a thank you card for the bus driver.  We used yellow paper to cut out the shape of a bus and added some tires and windows.  The children made thumbprints in the windows to represent themselves.  They added facial features and, of course, we added a little Pete the Cat to the bus as well! 
Remember, what you offer to others you strengthen in yourself.  Practicing an attitude of gratitude and appreciating the help of others, helps children feel appreciated.  Always take time to be thankful!
Follow this link to my previous Back to School with Pete the Cat post!  See you soon!!!  Until then, I wish you well!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Do Dinosaurs Go To School?

The brain loves contrast.  Contrast helps the brain pick up patterns and focus attention.  At the beginning of the school year I spend about six weeks helping my students learn the patterns/routines and expectations of our classroom.  This enhances feelings of safety.

One of my favorite teaching tools during this time is  the book How Do Dinosaurs Go to School.  There are several other similar books in this series by Jane Yolan and Mark Teague.  They are so much fun!  Through the use of contrast and humor they teach valuable social-emotional lessons.  Follow the link below to learn more about this book and others!

After reading this story with the children we make a class book titled:  How do Preschoolers Go to School

By this point, all of the children know our classroom agreements.  They look something like this...

We repeat them day after day, we sing about them, and even include movements to help us remember the agreements to keep our classroom safe.

When we make the book, the preschoolers act out what it would look like if they were NOT doing these things.  We take pictures of each scene.  There is a picture of them fighting over toys, looking away while the teacher is reading a story, running through the classroom, and screaming and yelling.  Here is an example...

Looking away while the teacher reads a story.
Screaming and yelling while they play at the table.
They have an absolute blast making this book!  It is their chance to act naughty without any consequences.  They really ham it up!
Once we take pictures of what NOT to do.  We go back and take pictures of what TO DO.  Once all the pictures are printed we make them into a class book.
The beginning of the book says...
"How do preschoolers go to school?" 
"Do they run through the classroom and crash into walls?" 
"Do they scream and yell at the top of their lungs?" 
"Do they turn their back and not look at all?"
Then in the very middle of the book you put a big NO!!!!! 
The second half of the book illustrates how preschoolers go to school safely.
"They walk through the classroom and in the halls."
"They talk quietly with voices so small."
"They look at the teacher when she shows a book."
...And so on until you have included all of your class agreements in the book.  I like to end the book with a photo of our entire class including teachers and something like, "My job is to keep you safe, your job is to help keep it safe.  THAT'S how Preschoolers Go To School!" 
Picture rule cards are also helpful.  These are images that you post around the classroom, school, or home to show children two positive options and one that is not an option.  You can print images off of the internet or take photos.  Conscious Discipline also has a premade pack of Shubert's Picture Rule Cards that you can purchase. 

As in the example above, these images show children what you want them to do.  "You may clean up your workspace by yourself."  "You may clean up your workspace with a friend."  "You may not leave a messy workspace."

When a child has trouble remembering your classroom expectations, the first consequence is to choose again.  Send the child back to the pictures for a reminder and guide them in making a different choice. 

Self-regulation is a right brain job.  The right brain needs images to help govern behavior.  The best thing about images is that they don't get tired of reminding children what to do!  :)

Until next time, I wish you well!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Children's Books that Teach Self-Regulation

I LOVE really good children's books!  In fact, I might just have a little bit of an obsession!

I am one happy girl when I find a book that can help me teach self-regulation skills to children!  One of my favorites is Shubert is a S.T.A.R.

In this adorable story, Shubert comes to school in a very grumpy mood.  He hurts his friend and does several other things that are unsafe.  His brilliant teacher, Mrs. Bookbinder (a beautiful butterfly), floats across the room to help. 

With the guidance of Mrs. Bookbinder, Shubert learns some new skills.  His classmates help him turn "bug crazy mad" into "caterpillar calm".

This book is very helpful when teaching your children the four calming strategies that Dr. Becky Bailey has shared with us.  They are:  S.T.A.R., Drain, Balloon, and Pretzel.  You can get some free printables for your classroom or home on the Conscious Discipline website.  Just follow this link

Once we have finished reading the story I have children share what makes them "bug crazy mad".  We use this photo of Shubert to help us get started.

Children fill in the blank and then illustrate it.  "I feel bug crazy mad when _________________." 

There are many extension activities you could do with this book!  You could have children think about what they can do to help them feel caterpillar calm.  Some examples would be listening to music, taking a bath, writing in a journal, or exercising.  Some of these are strategies that work well for the "I choose" step in the Five Steps for Self-Regulation.

Look at this simple little caterpillar craft you could make.  Imagine taking one deep breath for each hump in the little critter's back!


You could also help children make this cute little caterpillar and bug snack!  You can find more information on Little Page Turners.

Shubert has a sister named Sophie!  Recently, Dr. Bailey released a board book titled:  Sophie is a STAR.  The skills in this book are similar to the Shubert book.  The language is much simpler as it is geared for infants, toddlers, and children with special needs.

What are some of your favorite children's books?  Could you use them to help teach children life skills?  Come back on Thursday!  I'll be sharing another one of my favorites! 

Until then, I wish you well!!!

photo credit: sean dreilinger via photopin cc