Where are they now?

More than half of the school year has gone by, and your students have been learning so much—how to connect letters to their corresponding sound, compare quantities, complete activities independently, and cooperate with peers. As we head into the second half of the school year, it is time to check-in to see how your students have progressed across the year. While we are going to focus specifically on students’ self-regulation and social skills, you will likely want to do the same for students’ math skills!

This week, we encourage you to revisit how you rated your students in self-regulation and socials skills on the CBRS from the Fall and ask yourself, “Where are they now?” Are there students who have made leaps and bounds in their skill development to share and take turns? Are some students still struggling to follow classroom rules?  By looking at how you rated your students in the fall and comparing to their skill development at this point in time, you can better individualize your instruction and provide extra scaffolding to students who need it. This way, you can make sure that all of your students are receiving the supports they need to be as successful as possible in school.

Self-Regulation and Social Skills Check-In

1. REFLECT by looking back at students’ self-regulation and social skills scores from the fall and thinking about where their skills are now. What have you observed and learned about your students? How have they grown in their social-emotional development? It may be particularly helpful to fill out the CBRS again and compare your current responses side-by-side to those from the fall. For a refresher on these skills, see the Self-Regulation and Social Skills overview guides.

2. IDENTIFY which students are still struggling to regulate their actions and emotions and/or interact with their peers and/or teachers.

3. OBSERVE the behavior of the students who you’ve identified. See Guide to Observing Children’s Behavior for tips and strategies on how to best make use of this time and how to use this information to be intentional moving forward.

4. PLAN what efforts you can take to help scaffold students’ individual needs. Consider revisiting the different self-regulation and social skills strategies and activities in the Recommended Resources section of your VKRP portal. Consult with your school team to get ideas and/or decide if a student needs additional assessment or support. See below for a few ideas and suggestions!

For a student who…

Is easily distracted and sidetracked…
– See Guide to Using Cues and Visuals for simple ways to redirect their attention
– See Guide to Modifying Activities and Environments for ideas on how to create an environment that reduces distractions

Is very active and/or has trouble controlling behavior…
– See Guide to Using Reinforcement for ways to support positive behavior
– See Guide to Using Cues and Visuals for simple ways to cue behavior
– See Guide to Playing Games for ways to practice behavior regulation

Struggles to follow directions…
– See Guide to Using Effective Commands for ways to encourage compliance
– See Guide to Allowing Choice for ideas on how to help them feel that they have a say

Has difficulty sharing and/or taking turns…
– See Guide to Supporting Friendship Skills for ways to promote use of prosocial skills
– See Guide to Promoting Problem-Solving for conflict resolution strategy ideas
– See Guide to Using Reinforcement for ways to support prosocial behavior

Is easily upset or overwhelmed…
– See Guide to Handling Emotions for ways to encourage emotion identification and regulation

Struggles to join-in activities with peers…
– See Guide to Peer Pairing for a way to encourage and facilitate positive peer interaction
– See Guide to Supporting Friendship Skills for ways to promote use of prosocial skills


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext.

Numeracy: Number Comparison and Ordering

A Closer Look…  

Source: Erikson Institute

Comparing numbers is a student’s skill to determine whether one number is more than, less than, or the same amount as another number. Or, whether the number of objects in a set has more, less, or the same as another.

Ordering numbers is a student’s skill to arrange a group of numbers from largest to smallest, or smallest to largest. To do this, a student first has to be able to compare amounts, so one part of this skill really builds on the other.

In order to compare and order amounts, children need to understand some key concepts:
1. Understanding language used to compare and order
2. Knowing how to use counting to compare and order numbers
3. Using “number after” knowledge

1. In order to make comparisons and order things, children have to be familiar with the language we use to do this. When a student sees two groups of objects, they need to know words like “more”, “less”, “larger”, “smaller”, “greater than”, and “less than”. When it comes to ordering numbers, students have to be familiar with what we call “ordinal words”, which is just a fancy way of saying words that represent position or rank in a sequential order, like “first”, “second”, and “third”.

2. To compare and order, students also need to use counting. Students need to understand that as we count higher the number words later in the sequence represent larger quantities. It sounds logical but without being able to count the objects in two groups and know that, for example, seven represents a greater quantity than five, we can’t successfully compare and determine which one has more or less.

3. To compare numbers more quickly and efficiently, students need to apply the third key concept, using “number after” knowledge. All this means is that a student can enter the counting sequence at any point and specify the next number instead of counting from one. So, when we ask a student “What comes after 8”, the student can immediately say “9”, instead of having to count from the beginning.

Students who understand these three concepts can efficiently answer the question, “Which is more, six or nine?” They know what more means, they know that 9 represents a greater quantity than 6, and they can do it quickly if they know nine comes after six in the counting sequence.

Supporting Students’ Comparing Skills

Some students will be able to compare groups of objects simply by subitizing, or quickly looking at each group, and knowing how many there are in them, and then use their knowledge of the number sequence to determine which group has more or less. Click here to see a video of a student with a solid understanding of number comparison. Notice in the first example, how he subitizes the number of blocks the teacher has, and quickly makes a set with the same number. Later, he is even able to tell the teacher how many more blocks she has than him.

Early on, children are able to visually compare two groups of objects and determine which has more. But, this only works when the groups are small (e.g., 1 apple versus 2), or really different from each other (e.g., a pile with 1 toy truck and a pile with 10 toy trucks).

However, sometimes students will need to compare two groups that are more similar in size (e.g., a group of 7 and 8), or, groups that are both large (e.g., a group of 12 and 15).

One way to support students’ ability to compare is to encourage students to use matching – pairing one object from one group to one object in the other group until all the objects in one of the groups has been matched. Now students can see that the group with objects left over has more. As students’ skills grow, they will be able to tell you how many more or fewer one group has than another, as the student in the video did. These are students’ early addition and subtraction skills at work.

Click here for additional strategies to support students’ understanding of Comparing and Ordering numbers!


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext.

Understanding and Identifying Emotions

It’s a familiar scene in the kindergarten classroom – you’re working on writing by helping a student narrate his drawing when all of the sudden you hear, “GIVE IT BACK!” from across the room. You look up to see Ella, red-faced with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Moments like these – where emotions take center stage – happen often in the kindergarten classroom. Students are working hard to learn new skills while also needing to be more self-sufficient than ever before. What if there was a way that we could not only help students ‘get through’ these moments, but turn them into learning opportunities to promote social-emotional development? Below we describe two strategies that give you a framework for helping students manage their strong emotions and also help encourage children’s own understanding of emotions.

Click on this image to open a full-sized, printable version!

 Feelings Chart

Before children can manage their emotions, they must be able to identify what they are feeling. Encouraging students to connect their feelings to language helps them make sense of their experience.

  • What is a Feelings Chart? A Feelings Chart is a visual representation of different emotions, typically with pictures and/or text.
  • Why Should I Use It? Using a Feelings Chart is one way to help make the abstract concept of ‘emotion’ more concrete, hands-on, and meaningful for your students (not to mention fun!). In addition, the more that you incorporate emotion language throughout the day, the more familiar and comfortable students will become using it.
  • How Can I Use It? Display the Feelings Chart in a prominent classroom location so that you can easily reference it. There are lots of ways to use a Feelings Chart throughout the day. For example…
    • Have a “Feelings Check-In” at the same time every day (e.g., snack time, morning meeting), where you ask each student to identify what emotion they are feeling (and why). This helps them get into the practice of thinking about and reflecting on emotions.
    • As you observe students experiencing specific emotions throughout the day (positive and negative), pause and encourage them to identify what emotion they are feeling in-the-moment. Take it a step further by prompting them to also identify why they are feeling a certain emotion.
    • See Introduction to the Feelings Chart for a suggested activity to kick-off using the Feelings Chart in your classroom.

Feelings Thermometer

Click on this image to open a full-sized, printable version!

Once able to identify what emotion they are feeling, it is important for students to measure the intensity of their emotion. Recognizing when an emotion is starting to get “bigger” is key to 1) preventing that emotion from escalating further and 2) recognizing when it’s time to take a step back or calm-down.

  • What is a Feelings Thermometer? A Feelings Thermometer is another useful visual that uses a familiar analogy of a thermometer to represent different levels or “temperatures” (small, medium, big) of an emotional experience.
  • Why Should I Use It? Just like with the Feelings Chart, the Feelings Thermometer is one way to make the abstract concept of emotion more concrete and understandable for students. Children (and adults, too!) don’t always have the words or ability to describe the intensity of an emotional experience, and having this simple visual to reference can go a long way in promoting their emotional understanding.
  • How Can I Use It? Display the Feelings Thermometer near the Feelings Chart, and when appropriate, reference the two in conjunction with one another – after identifying an emotion, prompt students to measure the intensity of that emotion. Take it a step further by asking them how they can tell an emotion is at a certain level.

Learning the skills needed for emotional regulation is just as important as learning the skills needed for math and reading. When students are able to recognize, identify, and manage their feelings, they are better able to actively participate and engage in your classroom!


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.

DEVELOPMENT OF COUNTING AND CARDINALITY SKILLS: HOW TO INDIVIDUALIZE SUPPORT FOR YOUR GROWING LEARNERS

A few weeks ago, we shared some suggestions for strategies you can use to support students’ growing understanding of counting and cardinality (link here). This week, we’re going to focus on how these skills develop and how you can individualize your support for growing learners who are developing skills at different rates.

How Do Counting and Cardinality Skills Typically Develop?

Around age four, we see students’ skills developing in both counting and cardinality, and they’re working hand in hand. Preschoolers can typically count to 10, and can count up to 5 objects arranged in a line. And, when they’re finished counting and asked how many there are, they can say 5 without having to recount. Not only can four-year-olds count a group of given objects, but they can also produce a group of up to 5 objects. Producing the correct number of objects is a complex skill because it requires coordinating both counting and cardinality! In order to arrive at the correct amount, students must use one-to-one correspondence and understand the significance of the counting as it relates to producing the correct quantity of objects (cardinality).

Source: EMAS Ginsburg

As students reach age five and head into kindergarten, their counting and cardinality skills continue to grow. They can often count to twenty and can produce a group of up to 10 objects. Some students can do these things with as many as 30 objects!  Most 5-year-olds have also developed some strategies to keep track of what objects have and have not been counted, like moving objects from one pile into another as they count.

As students move into first grade, they can count up to 200, and count backwards from 20. They can also “count on”, which means they can start counting at a number other than one. They can provide the “neighboring” number, which is the number that comes immediately before or after a given number (like knowing that fourteen comes before fifteen). And, they can count in groups rather than one-by-one (like counting a group of 10 objects by groups of 2 or by groups of 5).

Individualizing Supports for Students’ Counting and Cardinality Skills

The information shared above outlines the typical development of students’ counting and cardinality skills. However, not all students develop at the same rate and in the same ways. Here we focus on one of the counting skills students are developing: knowing number names and the counting sequence.

Students who are having difficulty learning the counting sequence may make several different types of errors including: saying the sequence out of order, skipping numbers, or using the same number more than once. Below we show examples of each of these types of errors along with strategies to support students’ understanding of the counting sequence.

Type of Counting Error Examples Remedy
SEQUENCE ERROR
Saying the number sequence out of order, skipping numbers, or using the same number more than once.

 

Struggling with the count sequence past twelve

“1, 2, 3, 6, 10” Practice reciting (or singing) the single-digit sequence, first focusing on one to ten, then later moving on to numbers greater than ten.
Skips 15:
“1…13, 14, 16, 17, 18.”
Highlight and practice exceptions, such as fif + teen. Fifteen and thirteen are commonly skipped because they are irregular.
Uses incorrect words:
“1…13, 14, fiveteen”
“1…18, 19, 10-teen” or
“1…29, 20-ten, 20-eleven”
Recognize that a nine signals the end of a series and that a new one needs to begin (e.g., nineteen marks the end of the teens.)

 

Recognize that each new series (decade) involves combining a decade and the single-digit sequence, such as twenty, twenty plus one, twenty plus two, etc.

Stops at a certain number:
“1…20” (stops)
“1…20” (starts from 1 again). Click here to see a video example of this type of counting error where a student stops at twenty-nine.
Recognize the decade term that begins each new series (e.g., twenty follows nineteen, thirty follows twenty-nine, and so forth). This involves both memorizing terms such as ten, twenty, and thirty by rote and recognizing a pattern: “add –ty to the the single-digit sequence” (e.g., six + ty, seven + ty, eight + ty, nine + ty).
Table Reproduced from D. Frye, A. J. Baroody, M. Burchinal, S. M. Carver, N. C. Jordan and J. McDowell, Teaching Math to Young Children, A Practice Guide (NCEE 2014-4005) (Washington DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2013).

Click here for a more complete table that includes other common counting errors, and strategies for scaffolding learners who might need more support with the development of their counting and cardinality skills.

Knowing what students’ typical development of counting and cardinality skills looks like, and signs that a student might be struggling with their development of these skills, will help you provide appropriate supports for all learners.


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext.

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and RELATIONSHIPS!

In the hustle and bustle of busy school days it’s easy to lose focus on what decades of research reveals is a critical component of the recipe for a child’s success in school—a strong teacher-child relationship.  A student who is connected to a teacher who is supportive, accepting, and sensitive gets more out of school each day. In fact, research shows that a child’s relationship with their kindergarten teacher can have a lasting impact on their school success many years later, particularly for children who may struggle academically and/or socially. In this article, written by Tes, Bridget Hamre, an Associate Professor at UVA, talks about the importance of teacher-child relationships.

teacher and child working together
Source: istock/dolgachov

As you know, a strong teacher-student relationship doesn’t happen overnight.  It is built over time through multiple, moment to moment interactions.  Some children naturally form positive relationships with their teachers. Think about the students in your classroom: which students take initiative in starting conversations with you, ask you for help, tell you about their lives?

boy looking confused
Source: iStock/michaeljung

Some children, however, need extra support to connect. Think again about your students: which students become frustrated in the classroom but don’t seek your support, which students do you have to frequently redirect or give constructive feedback to, which student’s drain your energy during the day? These are the students who most need to be strongly connected to their teachers and who are most likely not to have the strong connection they need.

What can you do to help a student connect to you?  One effective strategy is Banking Time. Banking Time is a simple intervention where you spend short regular intervals (10 minutes, 2-3 times a week for 6 weeks) interacting with a student so that you and the child can learn about each other outside of the busy demands of the school day. Research has shown that spending this time with children who struggle to regulate their behavior (i.e., students who are very active and impulsive, become frustrated easily, and are sometimes argumentative) improved their behavior as reported by teachers and parents, and improved the stress students experienced as part of the school day (as measured by the hormone cortisol).

teacher and child playing together
Source: iStock/kate_sept2004

In Banking Time, teachers let the student lead the interactions and use specific techniques such as observing and commenting on the student’s behaviors and feelings. You can learn more about Banking Time in this short summary document and if you think this might be something you want to try, you can download the Banking Time Manual.

When teachers are responsive and sensitive to a child’s needs, it sends the message that their teacher values and respects them, they are safe with their teacher, and they can rely on their teacher when they need help.


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext.

Supporting Self-Regulation with Cues and Visuals

example of visual cue
source: istock/SerrNovik

We all rely on cues from our environment to help us regulate our behavior — from to-do lists, to alarms, to roadway signs! Cues help students manage their emotions and behavior, and internalize classroom rules. Cues can be verbal (e.g., spoken words or songs) or non-verbal (e.g., physical gestures or visuals)—what’s most important is that you customize them to fit the needs and interests of your unique classroom.

Tips for Using Cues and Visuals:

Teach the meanings of cues to your class and provide frequent reminders for their use.
Make them positive by focusing on the behaviors you expect your students to display rather than the behaviors you wish to reduce.
Acknowledge students when they use the cue or visual to help guide their behavior.

See Guide to Using Cues and Visuals for more tips and suggestions!

VERBAL CUES
Using rhymes or call-and-response phrases can help make cues fun and easy to remember. Choosing a specific song is another great way to signal to students that a transition is coming, or to remind them of a rule without having to fully explain the rule each time.

Examples of Verbal Cues:

• Call out “Macaroni and Cheese!” and have your students respond by saying “Everybody Freeze!” as a signal that they have paused and are ready to listen.
• To signal that it is time to clean up: take the words of a familiar song and replace them with reminders, such as “Twinkle, twinkle little star, it’s time to clean up where you are!”
• To promote good listening skills, remind your students to “SHINE”, which stands for: Sit up straight, Hands folded, In your own space, No noise, Eyes on the speaker. A visual depiction of this acronym will also help students remember each part.

VISUAL CUES
Visual depictions of rules or activities serve as reminders of how to complete every day activities, such as participating in group lessons, using learning materials at different centers around the room, or washing hands properly. Incorporate visuals that help with emotional self-regulation, such as emotion charts, and steps or strategies for calming down and problem solving during moments of frustration.

Examples of Visual Cues:

• To remind students of the morning routine: print or draw images to represent each task (e.g., hang backpack, put folder in desk, read a book or write in journal, sit for morning meeting) and position them where children will see them as they enter the room.

• To provide problem-solving strategies: Draw or print images to remind students of strategies to use when they experience social conflicts. Here are some examples:

printed strategy reminders
Source: http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/resources/strategies.html

• To remind students of the steps for completing an activity: print cards with numbers on them, and cards with images to represent simple tasks such as “use a pencil”, “color”, “cut”, and “glue”. Place the images next to the numbers to show the order. If you use magnets or Velcro stickers, these cards can be rearranged and reused for countless activities!

And remember, if you create a visual and hang it in your classroom but don’t use it, it will not be meaningful for children!

Finally, we often think to use cues and visuals at the universal or classroom level. But, creating individualized cues and visuals for a student is an excellent way to provide the support a particular student needs to engage fully in the classroom.


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.

Accessing Your VKRP Resources

The VKRP Resources include evidence-based strategies and activities to support your students’ math, self-regulation, and social skills.  There are tips on “common errors” and how to support students to correct them.  Many activities include ways to extend and provide more challenge to students.

However, we all know the key to using resources is being able to FIND them.  Follow the steps below to enter your VKRP Resources portal.

  1. Log into your PALS K-3 account and click on the VKRP tab.
  2. A On your VKRP landing page, one way to enter the Resources portal is by clicking on “My Resources” in the lower right corner.

2.B   Another way of accessing the Resources is through your VKRP Reports. In the picture below you can see an example from the Classroom Overview report. Click on any of the links under the Recommended Resources section (whether checked or not) and you will be taken to the Resources dashboard.

    1. Once in the Resources dashboard, access any of the math or social-emotional resources by clicking on their respective name on the top menu bar of the page. Or, to quickly access a full list of ALL activity and strategy guides, click on the “Activity Guide” tab.

vkrp resources navigation

Refresher on Resource Dashboard Structure

VKRP resources for math are provided at the subdomain level (numeracy, computation, patterning, geometry & spatial sense), while social-emotional resources are provided at the domain level (self-regulation, social skills).

What Resources Are Available

Once in the desired Resource tab, you will see the first three sections:

  1. What is it: A brief definition of the sub-domain or domain skill area.
  2. Key Skills: In-depth Guides about each key skill including how it develops and how to support the skill throughout the school day.
  3. Activity Guide: Links to free-standing activities and to websites with additional activities and strategies for that domain or sub-domain.

resources example

The VKRP Team is continuing to explore research- and evidence-based resources to expand the content available for you within the VKRP Resources portal.

We also want you to know that your feedback makes a difference. We use your insights, along with input gathered at trainings, workshops, and from administrators, to plan the next phase(s) of the VKRP work. If you haven’t already, please consider sharing your insights (link below). Our team THANKS YOU for your participation in VKRP!

2017 VKRP Teacher Feedback Survey


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext.

Three Strategies for Supporting Counting and Cardinality Skills

Why are Counting and Cardinality Skills Important?

Young students are eager to begin using their early numeracy skills. There are simple ways you can support these developing skills and ensure students practice them throughout the day.

Counting and cardinality are essential numeracy skills that we use daily when we count out change to pay for our morning coffee or count the number of students present in the classroom.

Students’ early counting skills are an important predictor of later abilities. In fact, students who can recite and count to 20 in preschool have the highest math skills in first grade. Counting and cardinality are foundational skills related to many other important math skills that we want children to master, like understanding order and sequence.

A Closer Look:  What is Counting and Cardinality?

Counting is telling how many things are in a group. This may seem simple, but it is actually fairly complex. Counting involves a variety of skills and concepts including:

  • providing the sequence of number words in order. For example, “one, two, three, four, five”
  • one-to-one correspondence, or the understanding that one number word represents one object that is being counted, and
  • conservation of number, which means recognizing that the number of objects being counted stays the same, regardless of how the objects are arranged.

Now let’s look at cardinality. Cardinality is knowing that the last number word named when counting a group of objects represents the total quantity of objects in the group. So, when we count 1,2,3,4,5 blocks, we know that “5” represents the number of blocks we have in this group.

Together, we use counting and cardinality daily to help us count efficiently and accurately, and know how many things we counted.

There are several ways you can support students’ counting and cardinality skills. We’ll explore three of these ways below.

Strategies to Support Counting and Cardinality Skills

1. “Keeping Track” Strategies

These strategies help establish one-to-one correspondence, and reduce counting errors like counting an object more than once, or missing an object while counting.  You can help students to keep track of what they have counted by encouraging them to move objects from one pile to another, touching each object as they count it, or putting a mark next to the items that have been counted.

Source: EMAS Ginsburg
2. “Keeping Track” Strategies Extended

When young learners are ready to count larger quantities, you can support them in using a more advanced keeping track strategy, like grouping items into 2s, 5s, or 10s, that can be skip counted. For example, if you give students a group of 30 chips to count, you can encourage them to create groups of 5 chips and then use skip counting to arrive at 30, rather than counting by 1’s.

3.  Ask “How Many” Questions

Once a group of objects has been counted, we want students to understand that the last number said represents the total number of objects in the group (cardinality). One way to support students’ understanding of cardinality is to ask “how many” questions. After children count a group of objects, ask them to answer questions about how many objects are in the group, and emphasize how the last number counted tells you how many there are.

Source: earlymath.erikson.edu

Follow this LINK to see a teacher working with students on their numeracy skills as they take attendance. In this clip, the teacher is using all three of the strategies described above. In the beginning of the clip, she helps students to skip count using groups of 5 that she created on the attendance chart. In the second part of the clip, the teacher asks a student to count his classmates to verify that there are 20. He uses a “keeping track” strategy by touching each student’s head as he counts. When he’s done counting, she asks a “how many” question by saying, “So how many of us are there in total?”  (link source: earlymath.erikson.edu)

These are simple strategies that help students grow in their understanding of counting and cardinality, especially early on as they are developing these skills. They also can be easily incorporated throughout the day.

For tips on integrating these skills throughout the school day click HERE to link to the VKRP Guide for Counting and Cardinality.  NOTE:  Another way to access this VKRP guide and many others is by logging into your PALS account, visiting the VKRP tab, and clicking on “My Resources” in the lower right hand side of the VKRP main page.


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.

Two Simple Ways to Support Social-Emotional Development

Developing the abilities to self-regulate and use prosocial skills are critical developmental tasks for kindergartners, but it is not always easy! As a teacher, you can play an important role in promoting these skills. Being intentional in how you direct and respond to students can go a long way in not only building these foundational social-emotional skills, but in fostering your relationship with students as well. The following two strategies are simple, yet extremely effective ways to cater your daily interactions with students to help shape and guide their behavior and development of social-emotional skills.

Catch Them Being Good!

While it is natural to pay more attention to students’ negative behaviors, be sure to acknowledge the positive behaviors your students display, too. In fact, child development experts recommend giving 5 positive statements for every 1 negative or constructive statement. Your students want your attention, and when they are acknowledged for doing something positive, they will be more likely to repeat this behavior in the future. (See Guide to Using Reinforcement.)

iStock/Steve Debenport

Examples of Using Positive Reinforcement:

  • During small groups: “Emma and Kyle, you two make a great team! It makes me happy to see you two sharing and taking turns.”

  • During snack: “Wow, I love when my students wait so patiently for me to hand out their snacks. Thank you so much!”
Keep It Short and Sweet

Part of being a kindergarten teacher involves directing children’s behavior constantly throughout the school day. While this is unavoidable, it is important to recognize that the way you give instructions, commands, or directions can make a big difference in students’ likelihood of doing what you ask of them. Whenever possible, make sure your instructions are stated simply, clearly, positively, and assertively. (See Guide to Using Effective Commands.)

iStock/vgajic

Examples of Using Effective Commands:

  • Clearly: Say, “It’s time for recess! Everyone put on your coats and line up at the door.” Rather than, “Okay, time for recess!”

  • Positively: Say, “Please keep your hands to yourself, Charlie.” Rather than, “Charlie, stop hitting!”

  • Assertively: Say, “It’s time to clean up! Please put your toys in the bin.” Rather than, “Are you ready to clean up?” or “Can you put your toys in the bin?”

More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.

The Importance of Self-Care!

teacher working with students at computer
iStock/DGLimages

As an educator, you know that teaching can be extremely stressful. The profession requires you to teach specific academic content, respond to students with care and sensitivity, and communicate clearly and effectively with everyone: students, parents, colleagues, and administrators.  Given these stresses, it is essential to take time to care for yourself.  In fact, learning to balance the emotional demands of teaching with other professional and personal pressures is central to the teacher’s art, and vital to professional longevity.

Data from other caring professions (and teaching is definitely a caring profession) shows that mindfulness practices decrease burnout, increase compassion, and allow for more effective communication. In addition, work by Dr. Tish Jennings in the UVA Curry School of Education and her colleagues on the Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education project found that their mindfulness-based professional development had positive impacts on teachers in and out of the classroom (http://www.care4teachers.com/).

What’s going on in the brain?

thinking woman with question mark
iStock/SIphotography

We all now know that stress can have a negative effect on our health and wellbeing. When the body is in chronic stress (stress that is prolonged) the sympathetic nervous system is activated (what we call the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode) – our breathing and heart rate increases, our ability to properly digest food decreases, all of which can lead to muscle tension. This mode also increases the amount of cortisol in our blood, which leads to weight gain and suppresses our immune response. [how-stress-affects-the-brain]

Another fact about the brain — the brain continues to make new cells throughout your life (a process called neurogenesis) – even into old age. On average, a person makes about 1400 new brain cells (neurons) each day. Things that cause more neurogenesis include learning new things, exercise, and getting enough sleep. On the other hand, being constantly stressed, seeing life from a ‘glass-half-empty’ point of view, and not getting enough sleep can lead to decreased neurogenesis. [new-brain-cells-many-triggers-for-neurogenesis]

How Mindfulness Helps

lotus yoga position
iStock/DragonImages

How can we address this imbalance and get back to a more centered place? Mindfulness practices lead to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system – or the ‘rest and digest’ mode. It is in this state where we feel relaxed and calm, where our digestive systems operate as they’re supposed to, where our immune system is activated and healing can occur. [meditation-relaxes-your-nervous-system]

Simple Mindfulness Techniques to Try

Relaxation reminder to inhale and exhale handwritten in textured sand with selective focus bokeh effect
iStock/PeskyMonkey

There are several simple ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. One of my favorites is diaphragmatic breathing. Simply put, breathing like children do – instead of breathing from the top part of your chest, put your hand on your belly and as you breathe in let your belly distend into your hand. When you exhale it will naturally retract. Repeat three times, each time letting your belly fill up like a beach ball. This practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system and allows you to calm down and feel more centered.

Other practices for making new neurons, which restore and refresh you:  keep your mind open to new things, get out and go for a walk, and (best of all!) catch up on your sleep!

Susanna Williams, PhD
Faculty and Researcher
UVa Mindfulness Center
School of Medicine
School of Nursing
UVA Mindfulness Center


More questions? VKRP provides support via the online chat feature when you are in the system, via email vkrp@virginia.edu, and via toll free 866-301-8278 ext. 1.