Saturday, August 20, 2016

When Students Won't Transition Back With The Class

How to get students to transition back to class after dysregulation

In last week's post , I asked if the emotional needs of your students are taking away from your instructional time. And WOAH!  Sooo many of you reached out to me on social media to share your stories.
I shared how I use this guy..
How to a classroom pet to help student self-regulate.
in my classroom as our class pet to help my students self-regulate and relax.

He has become a trusted friend and companion. He is read to, petted, walked and very well-loved.  He has built a community of trust, love, and companionship in our classroom family.

How to a classroom pet to help student self-regulate. How to a classroom pet to help student self-regulate.

Charlie, as we call him, when he's not being held or begging for someone's snack or read to, sleeps in his dog bed in our classroom library.  This is also a part of our classroom that a student may use if they need to in order to self-regulate. 

Over the years, I have seen an increase in anxiety in my students (both diagnosed and undiagnosed). So much so, that it has taken away valuable instructional time away. 

Having a small area of the classroom with a "therapy dog", which to us is what Charlie is,in every sense of the word, has changed my teaching practices and my classroom management forever and I will never, ever turn back.


Click on the pictures to go to the original posts to  learn more....


How to a classroom pet to help student self-regulate.
Charlie has with him some calming tools and techniques to help those that need it.  Here's an example:

Strategies to help students self regulate in the classroom.


Strategies to help students self regulate in the classroom.



I have been asked some questions about using a classroom pet in the classroom...

"So what happens when a student goes to use the area?  Do you limit the time?



Answer:  I set a timer for 10 minutes. I use a timer like this


this way the student can see how much time they have left and there are no surprises. You can find this timer on Amazon.



"What happens when they don't want to leave after the timer goes off?"



Answer: This is not really a negotiable for me.  One trick that works really well is that even if I have to switch up a lesson I am currently in the middle of to make it a bit more engaging or fun I will do it to make it more appealing to the friend using the take a break area. I give the child the verbal warning if he/she does not heed the timer, then I walk away and return to the class.  I am not entirely changing my lesson for this one student, but if I add it a catchy tune, pop in Brainpop Jr. that correlates with the lesson at hand, send the students to to the table to "draw their thinking", etc, send them to their table with a piece of playdough to mold, or sculpt the word we are blending, etc that fits into the lesson. Basically, whatever may be motivational to the student that is not entirely taking my lesson completely off task that would be beneficial to the remainder of the class anyways....I'll do it. 



"I can't think on my feet that quick. Any other suggestions?"



Answer: I walk around with an apron that I bought off Amazon. You can find it here and I'm in love with it.  I keep pens, pencils, paper clips, sharpies, post its, band aids...you name it in it.  I don't have to make 4.5 million trips to my desk. Because I KNOW you know what I mean! 






I also keep a good handful of brag tags/badges in here.  Let me just tell you...

Do you use you brag tags?

Life changing, people!  Life changing! Who would have thought that these little pieces of paper could rock the worlds of these little darlings? BUT....they do!


So if you reach into the trusty apron and you start passing out badges for those that are showing on-task behavior and start issuing out some verbal praise as you do it ... "Oh Sarah, I just love how you are sitting so responsibly at the table."  Sitting at the table responsibly is a reasonable goal. Even Johnny who is in the take a break area is capable of sitting at the table responsibly. Notice how I didn't say "Oh Sarah, you have written a wonderful paper here."  Perhaps Johnny's behavior was triggered by academic failure. If so, the goal is to get him back to the table, and THEN he can be supported appropriately, but he can't be supported academically when he is in the take a break area. That was a brief calm down time. Now it's time to get to work.

"What if a student needs longer than 10 minutes?"

Answer: This is a great question and it very well could be a need. I think you need to use your discretion on this one. It varies from student to student. I highly recommend 10 minutes being the goal with gradual transition back to the task at hand if the student is having trouble returning. Some ways that you can do that are to encourage the student to participate in what the class is doing but perhaps in their own spot. If you use flexible seating in your classroom, this student may keep themselves fairly segregated as they continue to learn to regulate. If you don't use flexible seating, consider transitioning the student out of the take a break area and into a defined working space that is still separate if needed.

"Are there consequences? This seems like a reward."

Answer:  Fair isn't everyone getting the same thing. Fair is everyone getting what they need to be successful. In our classroom, this option is open to everyone. I do ask students to complete some kind of reflection sheet so that there is some self-awareness and learning to be had from the experience.



Can more than one student use the Peaceful Pet Place at a time?

Answer: No.  In order for a student to effectively have calm time they need the area to themselves.

Is the area just for when students are NOT doing the right thing?

Answer: Absolutely not! In fact, I can't believe I forgot to mention this....Charlie gets lots of visits from friends who are eager to read to hear, tell him about their weekend, tell him about their lost tooth and more.  Many students write him letters. They leave the letters in his mailbox.  Yes, Charlie has a mailbox.



"Since the Peaceful Pet Place is in your Library area, what do you do if a student needs to use that area but other students are using it as a library?"

Answer: This is another great question!  Luckily, since Charlie is stuffed (sshh, don't tell) he and his dog bed are very light. I can move him and his dog bed and the bin holding his toys and calming supplies very easily to another quiet location in the room. In fact, I have done that as needed. This also lets the student know we will not allow their off task behavior to create a class wide disruption.  We are hard at work and busy learning. 


When I thought about how much having a dog has changed my life and the life of my 3 special needs boys in my home....


I knew I had to have a dog in my classroom too. Charlie is in every way, a real dog to us. And we treat him that way in Room D156. We love him very much and I suspect...he loves us too....

Life is good.


























Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to Teach Students to Self-Regulate their Behavior

How to Teach Student to Self-Regulate their Behavior

Sometimes I don't know which is worse....Monday morning or the fifteen minutes after recess.

"Mrs. Pettersen, Amy said I'm not invited to her birthday party."

"No I didn't!"

"Mrs. Pettersen, Ryan pushed Jonathan off the swings at recess and Sam told Miss Stone he had to miss 5 minutes off of recess and she said you should email his mom."

When I look across the room Ellie looks like she is about to cry again but she hasn't wanted to talk about it and I've tried emailing and calling the school counselor three times.

Does any of this sound familiar?  It's a day in the life of an elementary classroom and it's not getting any easier. In the past few years these types of social/emotional issues have not been confined to Monday morning or after recess.

They are taking up more and more of the school day and are happening with both more urgency and more frequency. It's both alarming and heartbreaking.

With the demands of standardized testing, the pressures of the Common Core, the harried life of working families, increased divorce rates, and the list goes on

and on

and on

and on...

it's no wonder that children feel lost in the shuffle and....
more
stressed
out
than
ever.

In the busy, in the chaos, in the pressures of the world as they are now experiencing it ,kids are finding it harder and harder to cope and to keep their feelings and emotions in balance, even though they want to. I truly believe they want to. I don't remember taking Tylenol at 5 years old for a tension headache do you?  I don't remember my friends having panic attacks in second, third, or even fourth grade. Now I see it happening in my school and...to my own child.  It's happening to my own child and it's breaking my heart.



How to Teach Student to Self-Regulate their Behavior

I am a dog lover.  I truly don't think there is a problem out there that a dog can't help make better with a lick, a cuddle, a wag of the tail, a nudge with their head.  My beagle, Bentley truly senses when I feel stressed and anxious and he will snuggle right up next to me in my most anxious moments.  Which had me thinking.....I really wish we could use therapy dogs in schools. All schools. 

Oh wait.....

Hold the phone....

or rather.... click on over to.....



I know...it's a problem.  It's way too convenient.  Anyway....$25 and 5 days later, I received my classroom therapy dog.  He is our classroom pet.  His name is Charlie.

I named him Charlie after Ree Drummond's basset hound named Charlie. I know,  I know, he's not technially a basset hound. He's a beagle. Close enough.  I own a beagle, so I can say that.  Anyway, Ree Drummond wrote a whole series of books about her lazy basset named Charlie and they are just the cutest books ever!




So Charlie became a part of my classroom in 2015 and he has been the single best thing I have ever done for the classroom, my students, and my teaching practices.

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

The students read to him, talk to him, cuddle him, they talk him for walks, they write him letters, they talk to him at all school meetings. And truth be told....sometimes on a tough day....I give him a cuddle too.  True story. 

Over the years he has heard the kids talk about their weekends, their disagreements with peers or siblings, how their parents are getting a divorce and how awful that feels. He has given a struggling reader the confidence to read aloud for the first time. He has helped many a nervous and scared first grader on the first day of first grade. He has sat with a first grader and given them confidence when the work seems too hard.

I could go on and on.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words...

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

He's pretty popular..... and he's very much well-loved. Just like a real pet.

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

The parents of the students have loved the concept so much they started donating supplies for Charlie....

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

Charlie's favorite spot is in our classroom library. We call this Peaceful Pet Place. Students are able to go to Peaceful Pet Place when they need a hug from Charlie, a quiet place, to take a break or to utilize a calming strategy.

In the past, I had a tool kit of sorts, for a student or students when they become dysregulated and I would break out the squeeze ball or the sensory bottle when it was needed. Over the years, I have seen the need to make these materials accessible to all of my students.

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.

After modeling the care, use, clean-up, and storage for each of the tools in the Peaceful Pet Place the students are able to access the calming strategies as needed. 

And you know what I have found?  My students have become better students. When they know they have the ability to take a break when the need to, when they feel a part of a classroom where are feel safe, valued, listened to, and cared for….they actually work harder and more efficiently. They are invested and they want to do well.

Here are some of the calming tools I have in Peaceful Pet Place:

Teach kids how to self-regulate their behavior



The sensory bottle is very easy to make. All you need is a Voss water bottle (available at most grocery stores). I used inexpensive V05 shampoo and marbles (since I had them in the house).  The Thinking Putty I found at a local gift store and probably paid WAY too much for it. It is available here on Amazon in all kinds of varieties and colors.

Some other things you can include are:

Inexpensive and simple ways to incorporate a peaceful area in your classroom

Coloring books with crayons or colored pencils, an iPod with classical music, squeeze ball, bubbles, a variety of sensory bottles...the possibilities are endless and really depend on your class.

Inexpensive and simple ways to incorporate a peaceful area in your classroom
The calming cards and breathing box are great visual tools and strategies to help students pick a strategy that suits them well.  I keep these in the Peaceful Pet Place.

Here is a close up of what Peaceful Pet Place looks like:

Create a simple, safe, and peaceful place in your classroom with a classroom "pet".

The activities are meant to be short and calming and non-disruptive.  Here's some examples of a few of the calming strategy cards:





   Another strategy that I have found effective for students to self-regulate is to write letters or maintain a journal. I have students that have brought in a special decorated notebook/journal from home for this purpose, or they have made one with our school counselor.  I have students keep a journal in their cubbies if they need one.

When a conflict arises, especially with another peer and it has been discussed and worked out but the student is having a having a hard time letting it go, sometimes I will suggest “Write it down and then leave it be."  This way, students who are particularly expressive or emotional can get their feelings out, write it down, and then.....let it go.(sing it now....)

Teach students how to self-regulate, monitor and check in with their own behavior and feelings.

Students often need help using words to describe their feelings. I love this activity to help them develop and review the language to express themselves.


Teaching students the vocabulary to express their emotions is important.  It can very enlightening for a 7, 8 or 9 year old child to learn more words beyond "I'm mad" to express frustration.

Equally important, is teaching young child to recognize what defines a good choice or a bad choice and why. Perhaps most important, is for them to understand how it makes them FEEL when they make these choices.  It is like their conscience and it will govern how they act or react in your classroom, towards their peers, and with you, as their teacher.

Teach students how to self-regulate their behavior.

It is also important for students to develop empathy for others. Role playing social/emotional scenarios is enormously helpful, especially for younger students who are so concrete.  Morning meeting is the perfect time to role play one or two playground, cafeteria, or hallway scenarios.  Choose student volunteers and role play one of the thousands of conflicts you have heard, seen, and witnessed in your teaching experience (you know you have them....).


Here are a few to get you started...






What do you do to help your students who are struggling with stress, sorry, anxiety and emotional discord in your classroom? 

Are even your best classroom management strategies no longer working because the social/emotional needs of students is so significant it is robbing you of effectively running your classroom?Students are able to use the Peaceful Pet Place as a way to self-regulate, manage, and maintain their own behavior in the classroom as needed with less classroom disruption, leaving you free to be able to conduct the class as you need to be.
Self-Regulation: Using a Class Pet is available here

Next week I will share what I do to get students back on task.

Amy asked me "How do you get students to get back to the task at hand or to not use the Peaceful Pet Place as a method of work avoidance?"

This is a great question and here's the answer....











































Monday, July 4, 2016

Classroom Decor, T-shirts, and Painting Signs

Happy Fourth of July! Happy Birthday America!

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday Made It! Many thanks to Tara of 4th Grade Frolics who is the founder of this fantastic linky and to Learning in Wonderland for hosting Monday Made It this week! 

I was hard at work this week on my "made-it's". 





When one of the first graders came into school wearing one of the t-shirts I knew I had to make them for the team.


I found the shirts this week for $3.99 at Michael's. I already had the HTV (heat vinyl transfer at home).


I cheated a little and bought the SVG file (that's the pattern you see on the shirt) for my Silhouette Cameo on Etsy for $2.50.  I could have made it but....I'm lazy.  Some things are just worth the $2.50, you know what I'm saying?! My husband bought me the Silhouette last X-mas and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!  The first week when I was learning it I wanted to launch it out the window and my husband and kids wanted to move out. But after the first week it got easier and now I can use it no problems at all. And trust me....if I can figure it out...anybody can.


My second "made it" is not as fancy. I'm no "Van Gogh".


Here's proof:  I'm pretty sure most fine artists and painters don't use paper plates and Elmo cups filled with water to paint.  But....I'm on a REALLY tight budget right now (that's a story for another day).

So I found this piece of wood around the house. Don't tell my husband in case he was going to use it for something.  I needed a "Monday Made it."  You know how it is....


I spray painted the wood and then used the stencil to trace the words.  Let me back up and say that I didn't do this originally.  Don't be like Julie. I thought I was pretty fancy and could just whip out the paintbrush and ....yea. Not so much.  You should see the back of this piece of wood. But you won't. Because it's a hot mess. SO....I spray painted over that. With black spray paint. What mess? Don't be like Julie. Use a stencil.

So...anywhooose......draw lines with a ruler and then trace your words with a stencil and paint the letters with a fine tipped brush.  Once it was dry, I outlined it with a fine-tipped silver Sharpie. 


I know...it's such a masterpiece isn't it?  I don't think paint is my forte.  I'll stick with t-shirts, I guess.


My last "made-it" has been a labor of love. I have been working on my classroom d├ęcor theme for this school year which is going to be a black and white and bright set.  I hope to have it posted in my Teachers Pay Teachers store this afternoon. But here's a "sneak peak..."






What have you made this week? Won't you join us for Monday Made it?  Click the logo below to see what other fabulous creations other bloggers have created this week!








Monday, June 27, 2016

Organizing your Classroom Library with Paint Sticks


I have been waiting since March to do this!  I just made this fairy garden this week but I've had the idea since March.

I LOVE the summer when I can make all the things I have dreamed up, pinned, and or needed to re-do.  Sometimes it goes great.....other times..... it's a complete flop.

This project was a little of both.


I am so grateful to Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for hosting Monday Made It every Monday during the summer months. 



Last week, I made pencil shoes, this week...a fairy garden.



It looks easy, right?

How to Make an Inexpensive Fairy Garden

and it was...for the most part. Except for this part....

How to Make an Inexpensive Fairy Garden

I saw these bird houses on sale for $1 at Jo Ann's and thought they would made great fairy houses.  I should have stopped there.

I thought they would look great covered with rocks/pebbles.  Pebbles, Julie. Pebbles. Not rocks. 

I spent 10 minutes in the adhesive aisle.  I spent almost $7 on this


because it said it was used for wood, metal, leather, plastic, stones, glass, and more. Sooooo.... hello?!

Not so much....

I would have taken a picture but my fingers were stuck together and my husband was coming and I didn't want him to see the huge mess in the kitchen.  It was just downright embarrassing. 

Luckily, I had some moss in the house. I covered it up.

Unluckily, this adhesive did not come off my hands for about 3 days.  Seriously?!

4 days later...I found this

How to Make an Inexpensive Fairy Garden
at The Christmas Tree Shop. Slap to the forehead. Wish I knew about this stuff before. Oh well....next time...

The picket fence was from JoAnn's: $5
The Fairy was $7 from JoAnn's.
The larger stones were from my parents garden (shhh. Don't tell them.)
The chairs and tables were old doll house furniture of mine. When I say old....I mean....old. Trust me.  I have NO idea where they came from.

My classroom library is always a work in progress, it seems. My teacher books, I am trying out a new system.

Whoever designed these cabinets in my school should be subjected to bus duty and recess duty every day consecutively for a 6 month minimum.

These cabinets are like a foot wide.  It's just not practical. You can fit a stapler in there and maybe be able to shut the cabinet. It drives me bonkers. 

I believe shelf space should be for the students. For them to access books, manipulatives, and materials. So I took my teacher books off my shelves and moved them into my cabinets and that worked great

Until....I couldn't shut the doors.

Oh great! Now what?!  Well...don't tell the custodians but I jammed rearranged the books so they would fit and made to for the remainder of the school year.

Until....

I made these....

How to Organize your Classroom Library with Paint Sticks

I know....Martha Stewart....move over.  Home Deport gave me 50 of these for FREE.  FREE, people!!!!  I could have made them all pretty and spray painted them but I really don't have time for all that and I knew they wouldn't be seen anyway. So I used some Duct Tape and letter stickers and now I can organize my teacher books by topic and actually see where they go.

How to Organize your Classroom Library with Paint Sticks

I can also organize by theme.  Again...nothing fancy. But I think it looks nice.

How to Organize your Classroom Library with Paint Sticks

And the custodians are probably happy they won't have to fix broken cabinet doors anymore.  :)

What projects are you working on?  I love hearing about and seeing what others are making!