Archive for February, 2014

Self regulation in the classroom

Posted on February 15, 2014. Filed under: educational, Grade 1 & 2, Kindergarten, reflection, teaching and learning |

I don’t know when the buzz word of “self regulation” first set foot into the education circle’s vocabulary, but for the past 4 years- I have been committed to the idea and the practice. It started when I taught Kindergarten and had 2 boys who would get very emotional and wild at the drop of a hat. One was diagnosed with autism, and the other one had FAS. We had a spare locker in the Kindergarten classroom, so I designated it as an area for those boys to go calm down. Even though they were bigger than normal lockers, there wasn’t a lot of room inside.

lockers

Even so, they loved having a special place to go and be by themselves; cut off from the rest of the group. We used that locker until our LRT suggested using a child sized tent that would become their safe haven. She found a Toy Story tent for $9 in the States that weekend. It worked perfectly. I used neutral colour material to cover the tent so the Toy Story pictures on the side weren’t so distracting, and I eventually decided that every child should be able to use the self regulation area.

toy story tent
From that point on, my life was changed. Every time a student came in crying about something – a kid stepped on their toe, or they didn’t get to be “it” at Recess, I would ask them, “Hmm, do you need to use the self regulation area?” They would almost ALWAYS answer yes, and it was magic. They went in crying and upset, and would come out calm and ready to learn. I was sold. I loved having the kids regulate THEMSELVES. Sure I still handled big issues and helped them work through things they needed to, but for the little stuff, it was BEAUTIFUL!
My self regulation area as changed over the years, but its magic hasn’t. Though I had to leave the tent at that school when I was transferred, I have since made my own self regulation areas in my classroom now. This year I teach grade 1/2 and the students still use it often. I now have 2 self regulation areas in my classroom. One for the majority of my students, and one special area for my boy with autism. I found that it was important to give my autistic student his own area, because if he was on the verge of a meltdown and needed to self regulate, it wasnt fair to kick out another student who also needed to self regulate so that he could go in and calm down.

I have found that all children,autistic or typical, like having closed off areas. It must be something about the protective feeling of shelter and seclusion. I guess it’s a classroom version of hiding under your blankets. The “classroom” self regulation area is tucked away in the corner of our classroom between a big cupboard and the wall. It has sheer fire retardant material hanging from the ceiling making a canopy that closes the student off to the rest of the world while allowing me to see in and make sure everything is alright. In that self regulation area I have a cushy chair, a mini bookshelf with books that talk about different feelings (including the 5 point scale.) I also have little fidgets and stress balls for the students to work with to help them if that’s something they need. I used to have crayons, pencils and a feeling journal in there until the walls got vandalized by some crayon happy 6 year olds last year… Self regulation at its finest- really what did I expect to happen?!
My other self regulation area is a special cut out under our cupboards. When my autistic boy was in grade 1 last year, the teacher found that he really liked to crawl under her tables when he was upset. Perfect. This covered area would be great for him.

self regulation
In his area I have some material, pillows, a weighted lap belt, and calm down strategies posted on the walls. He goes in there on his own terms or if I can see him getting upset, I might suggest it- but I never FORCE a child to use self regulation. That’s not something I get to decide.
It is important to recognize that self regulation is VERY different than a time out. I have lots of parents coming in and hearing from their child about this “corner.” They almost always ask if their child has had to be put in the time out area. It is a great way to start a discussion about self regulation.
I know my use of classroom self regulation will change and grow with time, and I would love to hear from other teachers using their own forms of self regulation in the classroom.

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Teacher evaluation day

Posted on February 5, 2014. Filed under: educational, Grade 1 & 2, reflection, teaching and learning | Tags: , |

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I was thinking about how I would eventually like to teach high school. (And possibly even try teaching summer school this summer!) I was thinking about how if I taught high school, I would give the students a teacher evaluation so that I would know what I could do to improve. Then it hit me…

Why can’t I do this right now… with 6 and 7 year olds? Why don’t they get a say in how I am doing as a teacher? Why can’t I take their advice on what to improve on? So this morning during carpet time I changed our typical Infuse Learning classroom vote to a teacher evaluation that my students filled out and submitted.  We made sure everyone had an idevice so that they could submit their results and I could save and review them later. We used the 1-5 Likert scale with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst. Not surprisingly my young students ended up being pretty black and white; they were either very passionate one way or the other. There were many 5’s and 1’s and not a lot in between haha.

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Here are the questions I asked:

1) How much fun do you have at school?

2) Does Mrs. Maley give you opportunities to play?

3) Do you get opportunities to learn about things that interest you?

4) Does Mrs. Maley let you know how you are doing? (Tests, assignments, group projects)

5) Do you like the way she teaches reading?

6) Do you like the way she teaches math?

The next questions were open ended text answers:

7) What’s your favourite part of Mrs. Maley’s teaching?

8) What do you think Mrs. Maley needs to do better at?

Even though Infuse Learning compiles the data into an excel chart with their names attached to the answers, I promised them it would be anonymous, so the first thing I did was delete the name column. The student’s names are not important to me for this evaluation.

I learned a lot about what the kids like least and what they like most. Here is a list of how well I did starting with the things I need to work on, and ending with the things the kids think I do best.

1) The kids least like the way I teach math. I got a 76%  This one was a hard one for me as I LOVE the program I use (Math Exchanges) and the way I structure my math program is that almost every day they get to work in math centres (games).  I thought… really kids? If I taught you using strictly the Math Makes Sense program, I bet you would have a different answer. BUT that’s not how I am going to take this feedback. The kids don’t really have much to compare my math program to (especially the grade 1’s who have literally only had one other teacher!) and that’s ok. I need to take this feedback and use it to improve my math program so that they love it and are learning in as many ways as possible. Next step: Have them vote on things they would like to see in math.

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2) The students feel like they are not always getting opportunities to learn about things THEY want to learn about. I received a 79%  This was also a good reminder for me.  We do lots of inquiry in our class- but it tends to be framed around the curriculum and they get choices within that framework.  I need to think about opportunities and provide times for the students to learn about things they are interested in- “curriculum related” or not.

3) The thing that I was “average” in was allowing the students time to play. My score was 80%  This one I am ok with.  I do think that it is super important that children (especially primary age) get time for free play where they learn to socialize and interact with one another, but I also realize that we have some free play time built into our recesses.  I do need to find opportunities for the students to be able to have some structured play time in class where I can be present to support and encourage their play.

4) They don’t seem to mind the way I teach them reading as I scored an 83%.  If you are curious how I do it, I teach them different reading strategies with pictures attached, and then every morning in our morning routine we practice using those reading strategies to figure out a mystery word. I find that because we do this daily, they become familiar with the reading strategies and can use them in their own reading more easily.

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5) Even though assessment came back in the higher end of the teacher evaluation, (86%) I often feel like I struggle with assessment and evaluation in primary grades. We don’t really write tests, and our project work and group work is sometimes limited.  I find that the marks I do get from the kids usually just go into my PowerTeacher report card program and sometimes the kids don’t necessarily even get “their marks” on what they handed in.  That said, they don’t ALWAYS know when they are being assessed which I also like. I don’t think it’s important for primary kids to work for “marks.” I want them to enjoy learning and be able to share their learning without trying to please others or work for my approval.

6) The one thing my students voted as “highest” was that they have fun at school.  It scored 95% I am glad this came out on top.  I couldn’t imagine having a student who hated school at this age (or any age for that matter).  Engagement and learning are so connected, and my students will hardly have a chance to learn and retain knowledge if they are not having fun at school.

As for the open ended answers, here are some of the answers-

What is your favourite part about Mrs. Maley’s teaching?

-Having fun with her

-It’s she make’s it fun

-She helps people

-Reding time

-That she makes it fun.

-She is the best

-I like the way she teaches me Math

-She is sow nice 🙂

-Mrs Maley is the best at reading

As for things I need to work on… here we go:

-More fecipe (I’m still not sure what this translates to… if you have an idea, let me know!)

-Remember stuff.

-Drama has to be more fun

-For math centers I think mrs Maley should switch the centers every month.

– Not really any thing (So non committal)

-Swimming (They are right.  I really do hate getting my hair wet.)

-Not anuf reding in school

-She needs to do more math

-Time owt

-More field trip

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So there you have it. My teacher evaluation out of the mouths of babes. I plan on sharing the results with the kids and having more discussions around their answers with my students.  I hope that it will encourage their own self reflection and evaluation as well!

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