Legs Up The Wall

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!

Try with classical music for added calming benefits.

Amygdala, Hippocampus, and PFC on Grade 1 Terms!

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.

During mindful smelling, she easily identified pickles and connected the smell to family meals in the summer.
“This is sour, Ms. Gorham!” – Student

“Do you like it?” – Ms. Gorham

“I like that it makes me think of my family… but can I eat something salty?” – Student

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!

Literacy Across Subjects

Ensuring that literacy activities occur in all subjects can seem overwhelming but is often easier to implement than we think! As a Student Support Teacher, I spend most of my non-English Language Arts time teaching math and health concepts. Our current Gr. 1 health unit focuses on healthy choices, relationships, and mindsets and I wanted to tie it back into our phonemic awareness learning – identifying initial, final, and medial phonemes in CVC, CVCE, and CCVC words. Today we worked on phoneme identification when completing a healthy eating word search. The word bank had healthy fruit and vegetable words. I would state the word that we were searching for and the kids would tell me what sounds they heard at the beginning and end of the word; some learners would pick out the medial sounds. Then students would point to the word in the word bank that they believed was stated, before working together to search for the word. I was able to differentiate the activity so that those learners working on alphabet sounds could focus more on the individual letter sounds and identification. Using health content to work on literacy skills was both beneficial and fun for the kids.

Learning is healthy and fun with this spelling and word recognition practice! Be sure to check out Education.com for more learning resources.

Letter Review

In September I benchmark my Grade 1 students on their letter names and sounds (see my: Grade 1 Phonics Assessments). Then students who need additional review are placed in my room, as well as continue to review the letters in their classrooms. A typical intervention alphabet lesson includes:

  • review any letters that we have previously studied (name, sound, and action) with the large Letterland flashcards
  • introduce the new letters (name, sound, and action) with the large Letterland flashcards
  • practice forming our sounds with each student watching my mouth, discussing what my mouth/tongue looks like, and then practicing in their own mirrors to replicate the sound/mouth movements (I listen and correct sounds/formations as needed)
  • read the Letterland story for the current letters
  • brainstorm our own words that start with the letter sound
  • listen to the Letterland song for the letter while students repeat the sound and action (movement break)
  • sort 8 items/toys by initial sound for the letters (also focusing on turn taking)
  • find the names of our classmates that start with those letters and adding them to our word wall (we sometimes discuss sight words, too)
  • practice letter formation, after listening to “Start Your Letters at The Top” (Handwriting Without Tears), on our whiteboard tables
  • We also use activities from the Florida Center for Reading Research K-2 Phonics Curriculum and various letter songs on YouTube.

As a review of multiple letters or the entire alphabet we bowl or fish for letters (while the other students practice their writing), and play alphabet Jenga, Twister, dominoes, memory, Bingo, etc. One of our favorite reviews is the alphabet scavenger hunt!

I hide lowercase and uppercase foam letters of all sizes around my classroom. Students are put into teams or they can work as a group. When I hold up letter flashcards, everyone must state the name and sound and show me the letter action. I pick two students (from opposite teams) and they must search for the letter around the room while the rest of the students cheer them on. Students can receive two points – one for finding the letter and another for stating the name/sound when they bring it to me. I keep track of their points on the board and then we practice counting by 5s afterwards. The activity only takes about 30 minutes and allows me to take some anecdotal notes on each student’s letter proficiency. The best part is the student engagement!

Classroom Safe Spaces

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!