Are There Times When Even Adults Choose Not To Comply For The Sake Of Self-Reg?

While most of my professional blogging happens here, I also enjoy sharing monthly blog posts on The MEHRIT Centre’s blog. Back in March, I was inspired to blog there after an experience in our music class. I have music as one of my prep periods, but due to a lack of additional rooms, the music teacher comes into the classroom to run her program. Music happens at the end of the day twice a week, and I usually use this time to sit over at the eating table and upload documentation. On this particular day, I noticed three children that chose to remove themselves from the program. Music is usually quite loud and exciting, and while the students love the regular songs and dances, sometimes it’s too much for a few of them. Sitting out, watching, listening, quietly clapping along, and even reading and writing instead, seemed to be calming options for these children. While I loved, and appreciated, that our music teacher realized what these students needed and respected their decisions, I wondered if not complying would always be seen as a self-regulated choice. There is quite a discussion in the comments on this blog post, and it’s one of these very comments that inspired my post today.

Cheryl, the commenter, shared a concern that I think is quite a common one.

Both Stephanie and I replied, explaining how these kinds of choices at such a young age may not necessarily impact on adulthood. 

While I stand by what I shared here, an experience from the other day has me wondering if there’s even more to add to this discussion. On Thursday, we had the opportunity to have Groove EDGEucation come and visit our school. While Groove worked with classes all day long, after school, the dance instructor worked with the staff. We all got to “groove,” just as the kids did. I’m not going to lie: this was a very dysregulating experience for me. Even though I said aloud the comment that everyone else made, “I can’t get it wrong,” I still felt as though I could get it wrong. I’m not a confident dancer.

  • I find it a challenge to keep with the beat.
  • I was afraid that I wouldn’t know all of the moves.
  • I worry about everyone looking at me. 
  • And the stress is just compounded by being so close to everyone else.

In the classroom, with kids, I can happily dance and have fun with music, but it’s different in a room full of colleagues. I tried though.

  • I kept near the back of the room. 
  • I stayed near my teaching partner, Paula, who knew that this was a challenge for me and was incredibly supportive. Talk about an awesome co-regulator!
  • I made some jokes and shared some laughs. This always makes me feel better.
  • And I tried to give myself a little space … I think this helped me breathe!

But then we got to the part of the dance where we have to “swing our partners.” Ahh!! First of all, the directional component to this worries me. This is something that I really could “get wrong!” Then there’s the fact that swinging around in circles makes me feel dizzy. I worked at it. I swung around with two partners … and didn’t hit anybody or anything. Then though, I moved to the sidelines. 

  • I took a drink of water.
  • I watched from the corner.
  • I still shared a few laughs with friends.

Like the kids in our class though, I opted out, and just like them, this was the self-regulated choice for me. As adults, we actually opt out all the time.

  • We send text messages and emails in meetings.
  • We step out of the room to make phone calls.
  • We sit in the lunch room, but read a device, write a note, or even look at a book.

This opting out may not look the same as it did in our Kindergarten class, but it’s still a way of self-regulating, giving ourselves a break, and doing what we really do need to do for us. Now some may argue that these are “rude choices,” and maybe at times, they are. But is this something that we also might need to re-frameFor when many of us choose to make these decisions, we do so — whether intentionally or not — to find the calm that we need to tackle our next big challenge or to exist happily within the space where we’re at. 

I’d like to think that I’m a “functional adult” because of some of these very choices, and on Thursday, I think a bit of my own opting out was exactly what I needed to do. What about you? Even as this fabulous TEDx Talk implies, the look of self-regulation may vary as we grow up. Maybe not complying is still a good option at times, but just in a different way than our four- and five-year-olds chose to do so. Are there times when, even as an adult, you also choose “not to comply” for the sake of Self-Reg? I guess the troublemaker in me continues to exist.

Aviva

DPA, Self-Reg, And Transitions: How Do You Marry It All?

This is not a post full of answers, but instead a way to share questions/wonders, and hopefully start an important discussion. It’s a conversation that I began yesterday morning with an individual at school (I’m not going to name this person here, as I didn’t ask for permission first), followed later by a discussion with my teaching partner, Paula: another person that I really respect. I decided that my goal for this year is “questioning,” and maybe blogging about this topic is a way to voice my questions, and hear various perspectives. My wonders stem around the connection between DPA (Daily Physical Activity), Self-Reg, and transitions.

I started doing some of this thinking on Thursday, when our whole school had the opportunity to partake in a Groove EDGEucation experience. As I was observing the children dancing, I found it interesting to watch those that were participating, and those that eventually sat out. 

  • Why did they do so?
  • Was this demonstrating their ability to self-regulate?
When the noise became too much, some children sat around the outskirts of the gym and plugged their ears. Our instructor was fantastic though, and when asked, she turned the volume down, which helped reduce this stressor for kids. It was interesting to watch when some children chose to go to the sidelines. It tended to be during more exciting dance times, when the desire to get silly with friends became too much. I found it amazing that at the times when Paula or I were tempted to go and speak to a child, that child actually removed him/herself. Did the child know that a break was needed? That said, by sitting at the sidelines, kids could also re-enter as desired. Many did … especially as the music and movement started to calm a bit. When it was time to do some body poses, and then cool down at the end, everyone was involved again.

Thinking then about Self-Reg and the need for Daily Physical Activity (DPA), how might Groove connect — or not connect with both? My wonder stems from the fact that Shanker’s Self-Reg is so personal: what dysregulates one person, might calm another. The ability to move and express themselves through dance was fantastic for some of our kids. They stayed involved the entire time, and even though our outdoor learning time was cut short on this day, they came back to the classroom calm. For others though, the opposite was true. A few children actually had to engage in Self-Reg — from creating with the plasticine to reading a book — before they could join the morning meeting time. And here is where I’m stumped, for students in Grades 1-8 are supposed to have 20 minutes of DPA a day, but …

  • How do we meet the diverse needs of kids within this 20 minute time frame?
  • How do we get heart rates up, without dysregulating our students and negatively impacting on their other learning time?
  • Within this 20 minute time frame, how do we gradually reduce the type of strenuous activity that we provide for kids, so that when we transition to a more sedentary activity, they can also complete it successfully?
  • How do we work in these 20 minutes without providing too many quick transitional times that can further dysregulate our neediest of students?
  • How do we also make DPA part of our regular schedule — in a regular way — so that the consistency of it also helps reduce the stress for our learners? Routines matter …

In my conversations yesterday morning, I wondered about providing options. Could we have various types of DPA options available for kids, so that they can choose what works best for them? If needed, we could also support them with making this choice. Maybe connecting with some other educators might assist us with providing more of these options. We could even try mixing the groupings of kids. But this does not address the need for an additional transition due to this 20-minute time frame. As a Kindergarten educator, I can’t even imagine adding in this kind of quick transition, and even when I taught Grade 5 and tried to reduce transitions, I would have struggled with adding in such a short one. So what then?

Please don’t get me wrong: I see the need for and value of this movement. Our class is outside for almost 1 1/2 hours every day, rain, snow, or shine. We embrace it all! And our kids spend at least 20 minutes engaged in this type of big, heart-raising, gross motor play, including many opportunities to run and climb. Our situation is different though. With our longer time outside, the transitions between this active play and calmer play can be more gradual, but this is certainly an easier option to consider in Kindergarten. What about in other grades?

This thinking led to some of my other wonders.

  • In classrooms with more flexible seating options, which might include exercise balls and stationary bikes, how does this connect with DPA? Does this sometimes change the need?
  • What about at times when we read kids wrong? Sometimes we consider DPA when we notice children getting restless or becoming more energetic, but do they need to get their energy out or is this when Self-Reg is necessary? How do we decide?
  • DPA often seems to be shown as a full-class activity, but what if there was a space in the room where DPA could always exist? I remember reading some tweets about when Maria Marino, a teacher in our Board, collaborated with her students to help design a gym in their Grade 1/2 classroom. This made me wonder, what if we created spaces in our classroom for this type of active movement as required? Maybe these spaces even include an iPad with earphones for some dancing options. They could also include some Yoga cards or Brain Break resources to help children quiet back down after moving around. What if there was a time timer in here, so kids could set the timer for 10 minutes and see it counting down? The thinking is that every child needs two, 10 minute sessions in this space during the day. Students could choose the times when they require it. It’s kind of like what we do with our open lunch table: if our Kindergarten children can choose two times to sit down and eat, then it stands to reason that older students could do the same when it comes to exercise. Then the movement in this space is more fluid. The options can be targeted for the different children. The teacher can help support this space as needed, but knowing that kids should become more independent as the year goes on. Then too, if some children need more time here, they could have it, or even group their two 10-minute times together. This might also allow for smoother transitions, and some high impact exercise that happens throughout the day. The location and support of this space would take some time to coordinate, but I see a lot of potential here. I also wonder if some of the recent DPA suggestions could be incorporated into this area. Has anybody tried something like this before and how does it work?

I know that we all want to create the best possible learning environment for our students, and I think that DPA, Self-Reg, and minimal, smoother transitions are all part of this. The hard part is making all of these things work together. I’ve never been somebody that backs down from a challenge. Please help me out here then, and maybe in turn, we can also help each other. My questions are numerous, the answers probably aren’t easy, and a solution might not be the same for everyone. What do you think? What have you tried? As the school year comes to an end, and it becomes the perfect time to experiment with a few new things, maybe we can all experiment and share together. 

Aviva

How Do You Solve People Well?

Sometimes experiences stay with you. This is especially true of what happened yesterday.

I was on duty when one of the lunch monitors came out to see me in the hallway. There was a problem in her classroom. I went to the room, and I saw a child that was definitely angry and visibly upset. I know the student went, and his ability to express himself (through words) is a challenge, which often increases his frustration. It turns out that he finished eating his lunch, and he decided to draw a picture on a whiteboard. He had a green marker. He loves green! He put the marker down to go and get something, and one child took his green marker while another child erased his whiteboard. This was not intentional on their parts. They just wanted to draw a picture as well, and they thought that he was done. Imagine his frustration though when he came back to the table, and saw both the whiteboard and the marker gone. He screamed, and cried, and totally melted down. The child that took his whiteboard gave it back to him right away, but the other child handed him a different marker. It was green, but it wasn’t the green marker that he had before. He wanted the other marker. And that’s when he really lost it.

I went into the classroom, and got down low. He knows me, and he often likes walking with me in the hallway on duty. I thought that maybe he’d leave with me and go on a walk. “I don’t want to walk with you today!,” he screamed. “Okay, you don’t need to,” I said. Let me help you get the marker back. I asked the other child if he could change markers, and he did, but the student was still quite upset. I started to think about Stuart Shanker, Susan Hopkins, and Self-Reg. There was no doubt that this child was incredibly dysregulated. If I had him sit with the other children to draw, it wouldn’t take long for him to react again. I needed to help him find his own space. 

I thought that maybe he could sit out in the hall with me and draw, while I walked. “I just want to stay!,” he screamed. He definitely wasn’t going to leave. Maybe a table of his own would help. It seemed that he wanted some control in the decision, so I gave him a choice of empty tables. Wahoo!! That worked. He chose one. He actually sat down, wiped away his tears, and started drawing. That’s when another child in the class made the comment that I will probably always remember.

At that moment, I actually felt as though I made a difference. But then the bell rang, and the student broke down again. “I need to tidy up! I won’t have time to draw. I don’t remember what I want to make!” He was screaming. He was crying. He really couldn’t control himself. I told him that I had a prep and would stay with him. I said that he could keep drawing until he was done. I tried to get him not to worry about the bell, but he was focused on it. “My teacher needs me to clean up,” he said. I know his teacher, and I knew that he would understand, but this child was focused on the bell and the need to tidy up. That’s when the worst thing possible happened! Another child yelled, “Your marker goes here!” It was an innocent enough comment, but he lost it. He went running for the child with his green marker pointed out ready to strike him. And I got in the middle of it. I got down low. I went in for a hug, and he stopped.

He was still crying, but he wasn’t moving. This is when his teacher came back. The other children were off to another class. He offered for this child to join them, but he wasn’t ready. I offered to stay. The teacher tried hard to get him to explain what happened, but the child was just too upset, and everything that ever bothered him merged with this marker issue from today, and it all came out.

  • “Somebody broke my tower.”
  • “Somebody took my blocks.”
  • “[Name] broke my backpack.”

The world was definitely against him … or so it seemed

It was at this point that his teacher said, “We need to pack up your lunch.” The child shouted, “I can’t do it! The zipper’s too hard.” Oh wait! I could help with this. I sat down by his lunch. I started to zip. I got about half way, and I said quietly, “You’re right. It is hard. Can you come and help me.” He came closer, and we worked on the zipper together. “You need to do the bottom,” he said. We worked on this part as well. He was now sitting down beside me, and while he wasn’t happy, he wasn’t crying anymore.

I had my iPad with me, so I said, “Do you want to see some pictures and videos of my kids?” He replied, “You have kids?” I said, “I have lots of children in my class, and I have pictures and videos of what they did today. Do you want to look?” Oh yes! He definitely wanted to. He moved closer, and we looked at the pictures and videos together. We talked about what was happening in them. He really liked the worm videos, and wondered about what else our students could add to Worm City. I told him that he could help if it was okay with his teacher. I said, “We need some signs for the city though. Could you help with those?” He said, “Oh, like a stop sign. Or a hospital sign. I could make those!” At this point, the period was almost over, as was my prep, and the kids were coming back to class. The student told everyone about Worm City, and the teacher said that he would look at a time that they could help.

View this post on Instagram

Worm City continues. They are working on the flow of water. Wyatt said that he needed some water for his mud. Trinity squirted out some juice, and said, “See: mud!” Then Wyatt directed her at where to squirt the juice. Some teamwork in action here! There were a lot of muddy hands and bodies here, but so much great oral language and problem solving! We want to bring out our sign book tomorrow with some popsicle sticks and sticky notes. Based on what they made today in Worm City, what signs might they add? I wonder if we can get a reading and writing connection here! Mya ended by proudly showing off that she was “the cleanest girl here!” Even my skirt was covered in mud, and Leah was pretty muddy too. I think that Mya was right! 🙂 ❤️ (Please note that we did a lot of hand and bottle washing at the end of this!) SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

As I stood up to leave, this child came up to me and gave me a big hug. He said, “You’re nice! I like you.” Less than an hour ago, he was yelling at me and angry at everyone, but some time to calm down and connect made a difference. It turned the day around.

  • Yes, I had a lot to do on my prep.
  • Yes, at the height of the problem, when our principal was walking down the hallway, I was tempted to call for help. I almost did.
  • And yes, while I offered to stay, I didn’t intend to do so for the prep.

But do you know what? That moment made my day! 

  • I made a difference.
  • I was able to help turn things around for a child.
  • And despite all of the dysregulation at play, I was able to see the incredible success that comes from Self-Reg.

Relationships are at the heart of Self-Reg. Yesterday worked because of the connection I was able to make with this child … and maybe when he needed it most. It was actually the comment from the other little girl in the class that made me stick with this child and with the solution. Maybe our job really is about “solving people well.” How do you do this? Thanks to this student who believed in me, and I think changed the end of the day for all of us. No matter how much school work I may have had to do, maybe it was this work with this kid that was the most important of all!

Aviva

If “Math Is Everywhere,” What Does This Mean And What Does It Look Like?

Math is everywhere! I hear this saying a lot, and I even believe in these words. I’ve used them before, and will likely do so again. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I really mean when I make this statement.

I remember a number of years ago now when I taught Grades 1 and 2. I just came out of Kindergarten, and was excited to teach a new grade. I spent a lot of time creating math centres for my students. They rolled dice, they graphed, they wrote numerals, they added and subtracted, and they even did some counting. These centres were largely game-based, and upon reflection, required very few thinking skills. But my kids seemed to love them, behaviour problems were limited during this centre time, and if you looked around the classroom, you could see “math everywhere” and children excited by the possibilities. I probably even blogged at the time about “math being everywhere,” and used these centres as examples. Now I wonder though, does this really illustrate the idea that “math is everywhere?”

Fast forward way too many years and schools to count (or maybe I just feel old when I do 🙂 ), and now I have some very different thoughts around this statement. The more that I learn and immerse myself in play-based and inquiry-based learning, the more that I believe that we don’t need to create math activities, but instead, help students see, think about, discuss, and understand the math in their world. Kids think mathematically, but they don’t always have the language to name the math that they’re doing. They can also benefit from adult prompts to ask questions and extend this math learning and/or apply it in different ways. Our Kindergarten Program Document supports this approach to math, but it’s not something that has to end in Kindergarten. Some experiences on Friday though made me realize just how rich these authentic math opportunities can be. 

This all started out in the forest, as a group of our students were climbing trees. As they climbed, a couple of children started to discuss birthdays. One child mentioned that he would always “be older” than his friends. He was trying to get to the idea that his birthday comes before the other two birthdays, so he will always turn a year older before the other two boys. I really wanted to hear more of his thinking here, but an issue took me away from the discussion, and when I returned, the conversation changed. I would like to further explore this connection between the months, the passage of time, and ages. What other truths can they explore based on this passage of time? Just a few minutes after this conversation, I heard some children commenting on the height of one child in the tree. What’s a safe height? It was interesting to note the intersection between standard and non-standard measurement in their discussion. Having the students explain their thinking to me, helped me further understand their estimations and their measurements. This discussion may be a good starting point for other discussions in the forest around measurement. What kind of standard and non-standard units can we use to measure height, and how can we use this information to better estimate and/or compare other heights?

View this post on Instagram

Tree climbing today resulted in such varied learning opportunities. For Trinity, it was all about taking some new safe risks and meeting with success. Look at her big jump and smile on the last video. Pure joy! For Wyatt, Brady, and Brayden, this tree space was perfect for some social interaction. I liked the discussion about the birthdays and how they knew that Brayden would always be the oldest. I’d love to flush this out more. The side discussion pulled me away for a bit, but no worries, the kicking was accidental. I also liked the measurement discussion. What is a safe height? What does non-standard measurement look like? So much potential here for exploring measurement more. Some great learning, thinking, and discussions in the trees! ❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry #engagemath

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

It was a little later that day that a child started a math discussion around a box of band-aids. He went to the office to get us some more band-aids, and one child took one from the box. As I was reading with some students around the eating table, another child asked me for a band-aid. I asked the child that got the box of band-aids to get one out for his friend. I thought nothing else about this, until this child, commented on the total number of band-aids in the box. (He was reading the information on the front of the box.) Then he noted that one child got a band-aid for his paper cut, and now he needed to take another band-aid to give to his friend. How many are left in the box? Listen as this child counts back, and figures out the total. He then further counts back when another child requests a band-aid. Writing the new band-aid totals on the box allowed him to work on his printing of numerals, and he even matched these numbers up with the children that used the band-aids: giving some meaning to these numbers. While children in Kindergarten really only have to recognize numerals up to 10, it’s clear that this child recognizes more than that. This authentic math opportunity though gives us a chance to later go back and explore number patterns. If there were 80 band-aids in the box instead of 50, what would the new total be? What remains the same and what changes as we count up and down with different number amounts? By writing the names on the box, he can also explore any patterns that he sees with children that use the band-aids. Are there certain children that use more band-aids than others? Why might that be? What can he infer from this data he collected? As more people also start to record the band-aid usage, they can also become more involved in this discussion, and the different learning opportunities that evolve from it. 

View this post on Instagram

Leah needed a bandaid for a little cut, so I asked Brayden if he could get her one from the new box. That’s when Brayden saw a math opportunity. He saw the sign that showed that there were 50 bandaids. But Filip already took one. How many were left? He initially thought 40, but as he knew that didn’t seem right. He kept thinking about it, and figured out 49. But then Leah needed one. Now how many? 48. I suggested he write down the number left. That’s when I noticed the reversal of the 4, and suggested he look at the number chart to figure out the problem. He did, and made the change. But then he gave away another bandaid, so he decided to write down 47. I suggested that he list the children that are using bandaids on the other side, and he went back to do so. Literacy and math, just by asking for a bandaid. I love these authentic reasons to explore math. ❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry #engagemath

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

Please don’t get me wrong. There may be times that we want to use different manipulatives or math activities to help better support the understanding of a particular concept. That said, I think it’s important for children, parents, and educators to distinguish between these types of activities and true examples of “math is everywhere.” Why? If we don’t, how do we get students, parents, and other educators to understand the value in this authentic math and how they can further mathematize the world around them? In our class, we talk about math all the time as we notice mathematical concepts evolving during play or during conversations. We give kids the vocabulary to also name the math that they’re seeing and thinking about as they play.

View this post on Instagram

Ben was telling me about the picture the first page in his story. After he told me a sentence out loud, I drew lines (one for each word) for him to write it down. Brayden saw what I did, and said that he had to, “write ten.” Ten words? How did he know? “I subitized.” In my 17 years of teaching, this is the first time, through play, I have ever had any child tell me they did this. Incredible!! He then explained exactly how he subitized. This started as writing, but connected with math. Meanwhile, I love seeing Ben’s increased confidence in writing. A few vowel sounds are hard, but he’s sounding out even longer words independently. Really working on having him use his writing to tell a story. ❤️❤️❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry #engagemath

A post shared by Aviva (@avivaloca) on

And yet, even though we talk math all the time, we still have some students tell us that they’re “excited to do real math next year in Grade 1,” or that they “do real math at home in their workbooks.” What makes this math “real?” What makes it better? My hope is that the more that we move away from contrived math opportunities indoors and outdoors, and the more that we help students and parents see the value of math in the everyday, the more that this math will be seen as “real.” How do we work past preconceived notions of what “math is everywhere” really means, and what it can look like in any grade? For a playful approach to math doesn’t need to end in Kindergarten, and the same examples that I shared here, could be easily extended to other grades, making authentic links to addition, subtraction, non-standard and standard measurement, and elapsed time. Math REALLY is everywhere, so what’s needed for us to truly embrace the math in the everyday? Imagine the rich thinking, dialogue, problem solving, understanding, and positive attitude towards mathematics that could come from this kind of approach. I think it’s worth it. What about you?

Aviva

Plasticine And Self-Reg: What Do You Do When Brands Change?

Just about every educator I know spends their own money on something. I’m no exception to that rule. One of the things that I buy the most is plasticine. Most Kindergarten educators are big play dough users. My teaching partner, Paula, and I have tried to use play dough in the classroom, but with little success. As strange as it sounds, play dough almost seems to be a little too soft for our kids. Instead of it being a calming option for children, it actually dysregulates most of our students. But plasticine is different. It’s not quite as soft, it requires a little more manipulation, and it lends itself to such wonderful oral language and storytelling opportunities, while also being the perfect sensory play that many of our kids use to self-regulate. We usually go through about one package of plasticine a day. I found the perfect plasticine at Dollarama a few years ago. You’d think that all plasticine would be created equal, but it’s not. We want our kids to be independent, so this plasticine is perfect.

  • They can easily go and get their own package of it.
  • They know how to quickly and easily break each stick into smaller pieces: around four or five little pieces that they can share with their friends.
  • It’s pliable enough that it allows for the formation of beautiful creations, but not too pliable, that it creates the same problems as play dough.

I seriously cannot say enough wonderful things about this plasticine … which is why I started to feel incredibly dysregulated this morning when I realized that my favourite Dollarama store no longer sells this brand. Oh no! What am I going to do now?

Here I was this morning thinking that I could quickly run into the Dollar Store, buy my plasticine, and leave, but instead, I spent close to 30 minutes just staring at the shelves. 

  • There is a new plasticine available that is in smaller bundles, but it feels really soft. Will it be too soft? Will this result in the same problems that we have with play dough?
  • There are the big blocks of plasticine available. They’re similarly malleable to the type that we prefer, but students will not be able to be as independent with taking them from the drawer and dividing up the pieces. Can I cut the bigger blocks into smaller sections to still allow for this independence? How much will I need to buy to equate to the other packages?

I went back and forth with the options, and eventually decided on buying a big block of each colour, plus one package of the new plasticine to try out. I didn’t leave feeling good about my decision though. We know that there are a core group of our children that rely on this plasticine play for self-regulating, and would this small change in material significantly change how students respond to it?

As I drove home, I decided to stop by another Dollarama closer to my house, and I was thrilled to find some packages of the old, familiar plasticine that we love. I bought all of them! 

While I can at least start this week feeling better about our plasticine options, what will the next week bring? And the week after that? There are so many things that stuck with me after I took The MEHRIT Centre’s Foundations 1 Course, but the positive and negative impact of sensory items on the classroom environment, is one of many things that continue to stick with me. Now I can’t purchase anything without wondering, how will the children respond?

  • In the past few years, I’ve spent countless hours searching for no-scent or low-scent shaving cream, and then sometimes, even the feel of the shaving cream is too dysregulating for some children. Is it the social nature of this play that also results in dysregulation for some kids?

  • Then there are the times that I’ve purchased flowers or plants for some observational drawings. How will students respond to the smell? Is it too powerful? Will it overwhelm the whole room and not just impact on one little section of the room?
  • This year, we also used vinegar in our sensory bin, as a way for students to help clean the acrylic paint off the floor. We needed to couple this vinegar with a little additional water and some soap to help reduce the scent. In a small room, the smell seems to travel even more. 
  • Some scents seem to work better than others, as we noticed with the rice in our sensory bin. While the cinnamon and peppermint scents were somewhat strong, they were also calming. Students were really attracted to this sensory bin when they wanted a quiet space to self-regulate. Maybe the pouring helped. Maybe the quiet conversations also made a difference. And maybe, a different group of students would have responded differently. When it comes to scents though, I think we now spend hours smelling, thinking, and making changes to sensory experiences before children ever partake in them. 

Today’s plasticine experience reminded me of how something seemingly so small can have such a big impact on student learning and the classroom environment. Thinking back to my experiences of the past, before I even heard about Stuart Shanker, Susan Hopkins, and The MEHRIT Centre 

  • I would have purchased another brand of plasticine without a second thought.
  • I would have chosen the shaving cream based on which brand was on sale versus which brand had the least amount of scent.
  • my school shopping expeditions were a lot shorter, and involved less time feeling and smelling items before buying them.
  • I definitely thought less about the decisions that I made.

In the end, I might have saved some money and time without these Self-Reg considerations, but what impact did my past decisions have on the kids in my class?

  • Did I blame the dysregulation on the children that just couldn’t control themselves?
  • Did I neglect seeing opportunities to change, and the positive possibilities that might come from these changes?
  • Did I manage not to make a difference for a kid that I could have made with just a few small changes and a little extra money and time?

A search for plasticine today has made me think even more about Self-Reg, and the impact that our decisions can have on children. Imagine if it’s not just about plasticine, but creating a learning environment where kids are calm, ready, and able to learn. What would you do if you were me? Here’s to hoping that there are other Dollarama Stores that still carry our favourite classroom necessity, and if not, carry the perfect substitute. Soon we’ll be entering into the last month of school, where year-end activities, field trips, and school events often lead to an even bigger need to focus on Self-Reg. Varied, calming sensory options might be even more important than before, and now hopefully you can understand why a plasticine product is most definitely blog post worthy.

Aviva