Monday, October 30, 2006

Calming for Halloween

Halloween is a very exciting day for most students. They may be tightly wound with the anticipation of the evening's events. This is not a day to miss recess! Here are some other activities that usually have a calming effect:

- Play a listening game, try to identify the sounds you hear
- Dim the lights
- Take a break and have the students push against the walls
- Play quiet music (drumming, environmental sounds)
- At snack,drink from very tiny straws or coffee stirrers
- Drink applesauce or pudding from straws
- Take slow deep breaths
- Sit in bean bag chair
- Jump in place with hands on top of head, pushing down
- Give directions by singing
- End with the expected routine
- Speak in a whisper
- Curl up and rock like an egg on the rug

Why Heavy Work?

Having a classroom of students at different levels of alertness can be a particular challenge to teachers. Some students are underaroused: looking sleepy, appearing uninterested and yawning. Others are overaroused, ready to run a marathon, but not ready to sit, listen or write. There is one surefire activity to address the needs of all these students. It is known as HEAVY WORK. When children engage in focused, heavy work activities, they arrive at a "just right" state.

Mary Sue Williams and Sherry Shellenberger developed "How Does Your Engine Run? The Alert Program for Self Regulation." They use engine terminology to help kids understand if their bodies (engines) are running low, high or just right. Why is heavy work effective to both calm and alert students? In their book, Take Five! Staying Alert at Home and School, they offer this explanation:

"...the bottom part of the brain (brainstem), the back part of the brain (cerebellum), along with many other areas of the brain are stimulated through heavy work to muscles and joints (activities that involve pushing,pulling, lifting, hanging, climbing, tugging and towing). When engines are in high gear and participate in heavy work, a message is sent to the rest of the brain and body that says, "Chill out...Calm down...We are not in danger here. We can relax and focus." When engines are in low gear and participate in heavy work, a message is sent to the rest of the brain and body that says, "Be alert! Wake up! We need to get going and Focus!"

So when in doubt, provide heavy work activities for your class. Look for a future post on specific activities you can do in your classrooms and in other school environments.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Come to Your Senses!

National Sensory Awareness Week is October 25 - 31, 2006

We are all sensory beings. We rely on a variety of sensory input to help us attend and function within work and play situations. How about that cup of tea that gets us to write a report, the clicking of a pen that allows us to gather our thoughts, the doodling on paper that lets us listen on the phone? Children need these same supports during their school day to keep them in the "just right" place for learning. Allow your students to hold a small ball of putty in their hands during rug time and notice what better listeners they are!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Vertical Surfaces

Look around for vertical surfaces at home and in your classrooms. A common one in the classroom is a large filing cabinet...ideal for students to stand and work on magnetic activities. At home, use the refrigerator or back of a door.