Just like with parenting, I truly believe that taking on a united approach as a school team can prove to be so powerful and productive. I have been witness to this in my school this year, as we work as a team towards a shared approach in how we are teaching social and emotional learning, more specifically, self-regulation.
One of the most important skills educators and parents can teach their students and kids is the ability to self-regulate. Self-regulation is a person’s ability to recognize and manage emotions and behaviours appropriately and effectively. Although I’m sure that parents and teachers have been working to develop these skill in kids since the beginning of time, the term self-regulation (or self-reg for short) has really become quite the buzz word in the education and parenting world as of late. It also happens to be a topic that I really enjoy learning about.
I feel that over the last ten-ish years, teaching self-reg skills to students has become a significant part of a teacher’s job. We have realized that a child’s ability to self-regulate, directly affects their readiness to learn and experience success in school, as well as in other settings. Through the use of various programs and resources, this teaching has also become much more explicit and intentional. Research has taught us more, and as a result, we are better equipped to develop these skills in our students and children.
Throughout my teaching experience, I have had the opportunity to try (or at minimum hear about) a variety of self-reg programs and resources (Alert, The Incredible 5-Point Scale, How Does Your Engine Run? MindUp, etc). In collaboration with a school psychologist, I have also developed some of my own ideas, lessons and resources that I find helpful in teaching and developing these skills in my students and my own children.
Like with most areas of education, there seem to be different trends as far as which self-reg program is best. For a long time, many of my colleagues and I were most familiar with, and were mostly using The Incredible 5-Point Scale. Overtime, changes in staff resulted in a mishmash of programs and vocabulary being used in our classrooms and schools, making things more confusing for the students and adults than they had to be.
This year, in an effort to eliminate some of this confusion, and work towards a common vocabulary and a shared approach, we, as a school team, have decided to teach self-reg through the implementation of The Zones of Regulation by Leah Kuypers.
This program is a fairly simple approach to teaching self-reg and is quickly learned by adults and students, which made our vision of making it a shared approach more realistic and less daunting for staff.
To get started, at our first professional development day of the year, back in September, our student services team provided a brief explanation of the program and then presented the first lesson to the staff, just as the teachers would present it to their students. This meant that the first lesson was essentially planned for the teachers without them even having to consult the book (which by the way, lays out each lesson nicely too). We even provided the necessary materials for the lessons to those that asked and also offered to co-teach. There was really no reason not to try it out. Everyone seemed to be up and running with the program in no time
Once staff and students had a general understanding of the concept behind the program, teachers could easily personalize the follow up lessons to suit the needs and interests of their students. There are endless ideas for lessons. Don’t believe me, just check Pinterest! For example, some teachers at my school made links to the movie Inside Out, others made connections through books, and some simply followed the set lessons suggested in The Zones of Regulation book. Teachers at my school really took on the follow-up lessons independently, which to me meant that they saw value in the program.
As a student services teacher working with students from various classrooms, I immediately saw value in the program. It meant that any dysregulated student in the school that I might be helping at any given time, spoke the same language as me, as did their teacher when I brought them back to class. We have put up posters of the zones throughout the school, including in the office, so that we can refer to them with students as needed, no matter where in the school we are.
We also created an interactive board of the zones so that students can share their feelings without having to talk if they aren’t ready to. Many students love organizing all of the feelings in each zone on this interactive display, which in and of itself is quite regulating. I often find myself walking students over to this board as a starting point when they are having a hard time.
Our latest added resource is a zones toolkit that I created for teachers to keep in their calming corner or elsewhere in the classroom. It is a tool that allows students to identify which zone they are in, plan what strategy they will use, and reflect on how they feel afterward, essentially encouraging more student independence and helping kids progress from co-regulation to self-regulation.
To wrap up, while I feel that using a cohesive approach is what has helped us the most as a school team, I also happen to be very pleased with the program that we chose to get there.
I leave you with a few reasons why am I loving The Zones of Regulation program:
- The ideas and concepts are simple and easy to teach and understand.
- The vocabulary (basically four colours) translates easily between French and English which is helpful in the French Immersion school setting.
- It requires very little planning and preparation.
- It is appropriate across the grades.
- It is a positive approach (there is no such thing as a “bad” zone, but rather an appropriate time and setting to be in each zone).
- It aligns well with other work we are doing in our school (implementing Tier one of the Three-Block Model of UDL, Big Brain, Little Brain, You are a Social Detective, etc).
- Although there is an initial cost to buying the book, it can easily be shared, and once you have learned the program, it doesn’t require the purchase of any other specific and expensive resources.
- It is very easy to connect the zones to characters in everyday kids literature.