Take Away the Stress from The Little Ones!
As educators we need to not only be cognizant of how our behaviour and expectations are affecting our students, increasingly we need to work to counteract the effects of outside stresses which may hinder success in the classroom. Of course we have no way of discerning the emotional state (and thus the readiness to learn) of each of the students in front of us. But with ever increasing numbers of kids who have difficulty self-regulating most teachers can bet on the fact that some (or many) of the students in front of them on any given day are in either a hyper-aroused or hypo-aroused emotional state. Here are 5 simple things that teachers can do to help students self regulate.
1) Monitor the Physical Surroundings
Avoid clutter, including too much visual stimulation in the form of bright colours and other visual distracters. Yes it’s great to have some decoration, and displaying student work is a must, but avoid having your classroom space look too “busy”.
2) Allow for Movement and Fidgeting
Sitting still simply isn’t an option for some kids, and for many others it’s doable, but at a high cost in terms of attention and focus. Some teachers have had great success experimenting with exercise balls instead of seats, disc cushions or simple “fidget toys”.
3) Reduce Extraneous Noise
Some noise is good, it’s productive and rhythm exercises are great for development. But some kids shut down in the presence of “disorganized” noise. Reduce the number of hard reverberative surfaces where possible, and keep the music area to one corner of the classroom, with a simple divider where possible, so that those not participating can focus on other tasks.
4) Build in Time for Transitions
Most teachers area aware of, and do this, intuitively. But sometimes we try to hurry from one activity to the next. Kids who have difficulty up regulating from a “lighter” activity to something requiring more focus, or down regulating from a busy activity, can get lost in the shuffle if we don’t allow time (and perhaps provide a little guidance).
5) Make Your Students Aware of Their Own Mindset
Tools like The Alert Program encourage students to be aware of their own readiness to learn. Young kids will always need some guidance and help to self regulate, but if students are made aware of how they’re feeling, and if teachers are aware of how they (and their classroom environment) are affecting students, classroom management issues will be reduced and student learning will be improved.