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?
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I loved when Trinity took a brain break right in the middle of Groove Education. She knew she needed it. Then she supported a friend, with Milla, when he was sad. It wasn’t long before we all had a little calm down time after so much movement. Love how our kids recognize this need in themselves. True @self_reg! ❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE! #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram
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?
— Maria Marino (@ACMmysons) November 19, 2016
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.