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.

I finished my VKRP assessments… Now what?

If you’re like me, you might be feeling like fall is flying by. How is it already December?

I realize that many of you finished your VKRP assessments and went directly into your PALS-K assessments, leaving little time to explore your VKRP data. You may have asked yourself, “What does all of this data do for me?” The answer is: A LOT! The data you collected can help you identify where your students need extra support, and the VKRP reports include links to resources that help you provide it!

Here are 3 steps for exploring the data you collected.

#1. Access Your VKRP Reports

You can access your own reports from the VKRP landing page in your PALS account.

  • On the VKRP landing page, you will find VKRP Reports under the View Results column on the right side of your screen.
  • The Classroom Overview is the best place to start.   It shows scores for your entire classroom in math, self-regulation, social skills, and literacy. (You can sort any column by clicking on the header.)
  • You can access other reports from the menu on the left side of the Classroom Overview. To see student level reports, you can click on individual students’ names or scores.
  • For a quick overview of the VKRP reports, visit the VKRP YouTube channel and watch the first section of the VKRP Reports & Resources Overview 2017 video https://youtu.be/nhu_5fwtp6s

VKRP classroom overview report

#2. Look for Patterns in the Data

Now it’s time to think about what you see. On your Classroom Overview Report, you can easily see who is At or Above Benchmark (in green) or Below Benchmark (in red).

Ask yourself…

  • What’s happening in the classroom?
  • Where are students doing well?
  • Where do students need support?
  • Is support needed for the whole classroom in any area?
  • What about individual students?
  • Do students below benchmark have anything in common?
  • Do any stand out as needing more support?
  • Why might that be?

#3. Access VKRP Resources

After looking at your data, it’s time to take action! Based on your data exploration – you are likely asking yourself: What can I do to support my classroom as a whole? What can I do for individual students?

VKRP reports include a Recommended Resources section based on your classroom’s scores! You can easily access them by just clicking on the domain/subdomain name in the list.

Recommended resources listed on your Classroom Overview(below left) are based on your entire classroom’s scores . You can see recommendations for individual students by clicking on their names to see their Student Overview report (below right).

classroom overview available resourcesstudent overview available resources

VKRP resources include information on key skills, strategies for supporting those skills, and a great variety of suggested activities! For more information on the VKRP Resources, watch the remainder of the VKRP Reports & Resources Overview 2017 video (https://youtu.be/nhu_5fwtp6s).

Now you know the 3 steps for making the most of your VKRP data!


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.