We have been learning about strategies to use when we are in the blue, green, yellow, and red zones. Yoga is a strategy we often use in the blue or yellow zones. One of our favorite poses is called Legs Up The Wall. In this position, students lay flat on their backs with their legs against a flat surface, like a cupboard or wall. Students can put their hands on their heads, by their sides, or on their body. Their legs can be straight up and down, bent into a butterfly pose, or open in a V-shape. The benefits of this pose include calming the nervous system, quieting the mind, reducing stress, releasing pressure and tension in the lower body, and inversion benefits without a lot of effort. It is quick and easy and students love it! One of my students told me about how she was practicing at home and her mom wondered what she was doing. While it may look silly, it is totally worth it!
My Grade 1s have been reviewing the five senses and applying this knowledge to the parts of the brain. We are learning about the amygdala (safety guard), hippocampus (memory), and the prefrontal cortex or PFC (decision maker). We did lessons on mindful seeing, listening, and touching.
Today the students had a lot of fun learning about mindful smelling and tasting. I put 9 food items in brown bags and numbered the bags 1 through 9. Students got to smell an item and track their guess on the whiteboard tables. At the end, I revealed each item and we discussed how our hippocampus reminded us of a time we had smelled a certain food. Some students were reminded of a person or place. We also discussed how the amygdala can signal us that it was scary to not be able to see the foods and that students had to make the decision to trust me. The students agreed that it was easier to do mindful seeing than mindful smelling. The next step was to have students taste the food. We discussed salty, sweet, savory, bitter, sour, and spicy foods and students got a chance to categorize the foods and explain why.
Honestly, I was a bit worried about teaching parts of the brain to Gr. 1s but they have surpassed my expectations and are easily labelling the terms and learning about how they can use their brain and senses to explore the world around them!
Creating a safe place for students in our classrooms is so important as it allows them to take a break, develop coping skills, work through their emotions, and ultimately, feel safe, regulated, and calm so that they can learn. Safe spaces come in all shapes and sizes and help a variety of learners. Here are a few of my examples:
I typically incorporate visuals of emotions from the social-emotional program(s) we will be learning that year (such as Zones of Regulation, Mind Up, Inside Out + Zones, Circle of Courage, etc.), good/poor choices cards, and breathing/calm down/yoga activities. I like to keep the space cozy and sensory-focused with sensory bottles and/or fidgets, noise-cancelling headphones, weighted and non-weighted stuffed animals and blankets, and a personal space like a comfy chair, cushion, couch, or tent. As the year goes on, students will identify a tool-kit of strategies that works for them that is available in the area. The idea is that they can use the area as needed, identify how they are feeling, and self-select (or accept) a strategy to regulate and get back to the task at hand. I find that having a safe space actually increases student learning time as long as explicit instruction about the area/strategies occurs. Best of all, students are more regulated and calm!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas time; back to school time! This classroom – and more importantly, this teacher – is ready for the kiddos to return!
‘Twas the week before school, when all through the class
Not a student was stirring, not even a gasp;
The sight words were hung on the bulletin with care,
In hopes that the new students soon would be there;
The teacher planned guided reading snug in her bed,
While visions of comprehension strategies danced in her head;
Link: The Measured Mom
Soon students in their new shoes, and I in my dress,
Would settle our brains and bodies to do our best.
When inside the Tipi there arose no chatter,
The students would learn Zones of Regulation to solve a matter.
Student-friendly labels on the books for sorting in a flash,
Will make it easy for students to have a reading bash!
Some students, to the reading cubbies will go
Some at the standing table looking at objects below,
When, will students to my wondering eyes appear,
I can’t wait until tomorrow when they are finally here.
But will the little students be so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment Whole Body Listening was it!
More eager each day for the students that came,
She whistled, and planned, and labelled by name;
“Now, Sweetheart! Now, Honey! Now, Buddy and Friend!
Learn, reading! Learn, math! Learn, writing and pretend!
Write on the whiteboard tables but not on the wall!
Now walk only, no running, walk only in the hall.”
Link: Kindergarten Lifestyle
A clean class before the hustle-and-bustle fly,
When met with an obstacle, give growth mindset a try.
So students, the outcomes and lessons we’ll do,
With buckets full of books, and F&P sight words too.
And then, for the wiggles, a sensory cushion on the seat
Let the kids be kids and move their little feet.
Another option for those who need turning around,
A swivel egg chair the students will be glad I found.
The board all dressed in Letterland, letters from head to foot,
The math manipulatives covered so I get student input.
A bundle of Good/Poor choices, Inside Out in the back,
And Circle of Courage is all part of our pack.
Her eyes-how they twinkled! Her smile how bright!
The students were coming, their minds like a light!
Her small little class wrapped up like a bow
And the tabletops for writing were as white as the snow;
The classroom bulletins were covered by curtain,
Weighted dogs, Telemircale teddies, and pillows were there for certain.
The room felt like home with plants in their pots,
The students would care for, and water them lots.
The teacher area was organized, set to work like an elf,
And I’d work in the space, that was all to myself.
In a wink of the eye, in the guided reading zone,
Students would soon know how to read on their own.
Looking at the I Cans, and getting straight to work time,
LLI at the horseshoe table to ensure all is fine.
And laying on the couch when the teacher knows,
That a strategy is needed to care for the woes.
She can see the whole group, from any spot,
But the students snuggled in their sections cannot.
I heard the teacher cheer, as she prepped into the night,
“Happy School Year to all, and to all a learning right!”
Adapted from A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore, 1779 – 1863