My last post was from the beginning of January. Then I blinked, and we’re already halfway through April. Also, during that blink, I took a trip with my husband to Alaska, visited family in Michigan over Spring Break, taught about 58 social skills lessons, administered two STAAR tests, wrote about 20 progress reports, attended 41 meetings, one field trip, and one kindergarten rodeo. Things have definitely been busy. The Alaska trip was amazing. I missed my students, but my sub was really wonderful and took care of things at school extremely well. We spent most of the trip in Juneau, which is where my husband was tuning pianos. It was breathtakingly beautiful.We got lots of snow and were surrounded by ocean and mountains. One of the highlights was when I unexpectedly saw a family of killer whales jumping and breaching in the water while I was spending some quiet time on the beach. Then below the dock where I was standing a pair of otter heads poked out of the water, and a bald eagle flew over the whales. It was kind of an overwhelming amount of nature all at once. Alaskans are really spoiled. Except in Juneau they don’t have a Target. So, I guess that’s one thing we’ve got going for us here. By the way, when I said I was spending some quiet time on the beach, I was wearing layers and layers of clothing, jackets, mittens, hoods, hat, cowl, gloves, mittens, boots, and a snow skirt. It was cold, but I loved it!
Meanwhile, back at school, we’ve been learning…
Social Skills News
kindergarten & 1st grade
We spent a few lessons reviewing whole body listening. We have a mantra that we chant with corresponding signals that we learned from The Biscotti Kid. Eyes watch, ears listen, voice quiet, body calm. We read a book about children who went to the zoo together and took turns taking the group to visit their favorite animals. At each stop, the book shows the children not listening with their whole bodies and the impact that has on the animals and other children. Then the children notice what they’re doing and start listening with their whole bodies. It’s amazing how much my students soaked up this message like little sponges. I’ll often hear them say to one another “Uh oh! You’re not listening with your whole body.” After whole body listening, we moved on to a topic that I’ve had a lot of teachers request I go over. Using a tissue to clean your nose. We watched a video demonstration and read this social story multiple times. Then we practiced, practiced, practiced. It brought a strange pleasure to my heart when one of my kinder friends suddenly announced to me in the middle of his classroom, “I need a tissue!” and ran over to take care of his business. Feel free to print the story for use at home. Our most recent topic has been emotions and feelings. We’re learning the vocabulary of different emotions and how to recognize and name them. This is such an important skill, and I’ve been really impressed by how quickly the students have picked it up. A couple of students make a point to tell me regularly how they’re feeling, “I’m feeling happy!” “I’m feeling sad.” Our next steps are to recognize those emotions in others and what to do with that information (next steps for moving past the hard feelings). Here’s another social story we’ve started using to help in that process.
2nd & 3rd grade
I’ve discovered that my 2nd & 3rd graders absolutely LOVE role-playing, so I’ve been incorporating it as much as I can in our lessons. We did a lesson on how to work through a disagreement and reach a compromise. I created a script where two teachers were having a disagreement. In the first conversation, the characters disagreed and got upset with each other. In the re-do, they were able to reach a compromise. The students enjoyed pretending to be teachers and putting their acting skills to work. Another day we talked about choosing our reactions and acted out different common scenarios, while choosing the best way to react to the situations. One of my favorite series of lessons was about staying on-task. Many of my students tend to be day-dreamers. They can give the appearance of being on-task, but if you ask them what they’re thinking about they’ll give you an answer that is completely unrelated to what they’re supposed to be doing. So, I introduced a system of categorizing their thoughts to help themselves notice when their thoughts are getting off-task. We use 3 questions to make the categories: Am I doing it right now?=on-task. Is it a flim-flam thought? (something fun or silly)=can wait until later. Is it important?=Yes, but it can wait. Here’s a visual I created to capture the categories. Another topic we covered was poisonous and antidote thoughts. Poisonous thoughts are negative self-talk we use when we’re feeling bad about ourselves because of our mistakes or choices. Poisonous thoughts make us feel worse and make it hard for us to keep trying to make positive steps. So, we want to notice these thoughts and replace them with antidote thoughts. Antidote thoughts are more positive (not in a fake Pollyanna kind of way) but help bring in another positive perspective. This social story will give you an idea of how we engage with poisonous and antidote thoughts. The last couple of weeks we’ve been revisiting the Zones of Regulation. Students I worked with last year are already familiar with this framework, but it’s a really helpful way to talk about feelings and emotions, especially for kids who can’t always put their feelings into words. The Zones of Regulation (blue, green, yellow, & red) group emotions into 4 categories. Depending on which zone you’re in, you may need different things. If you’re in the blue zone (sad, tired, shy), you may need something to meet a physical need (more sleep, snack, some movement) to help increase your energy to be ready to learn. In the green zone (calm, happy, ready to learn, good listener), you’re in the optimal state to learn and get things done. The yellow zone (frustrated, annoyed, silly, energetic, excited) is when you may need to slow yourself down (unless you’re engaging in an activity that requires that type of energy). A student may need to self-advocate and ask for help or a break. The red zone (anger, rage, elation, yelling) is represented by a stop sign, because the energy of this zone can lead to hurtful choices. We really emphasize that all of the zones are normal. It’s okay to be in any of the zones (including the red zone). It’s important to feel a range of emotions and tune in to how you’re feeling so you can self-regulate and figure out what you need. If you’re interested in learning more about the zones, there are lots of great videos you can find on the internet just by googling “zones of regulation.”
4th & 5th grade
In this group, we’ve continued to explore topics around emotions, especially anger, and learning about tools and strategies for coping with those feelings. Then we carried this into poisonous and antidote thoughts, as well as learning about the Zones of Regulation (see summary of “2nd & 3rd grade” to learn more).
I can’t believe there are only 6 weeks left of this school year! It always flies by so quickly. People keep asking me if I’m ready for summer, and I’ll be honest, there’s a part of me that is. But most of me is looking at everything there is still left to do and learn this year, and that’s where my focus and energy need to be. So, those summer “flim-flam” thoughts will just have to wait.
Thanks for reading!