Supporting students’ self regulation

Supporting Students' Self Regulation - Octavia and Vicky

**This post continues on from my reflection on learning about Self Regulation at a Learning 4 All conference with Jo Buttfield, from Kid Sense – a private provider of Occupational Therapy And Speech Pathology based in Adelaide, Australia. Read the original post here**

I learned a lot from the Learning for All workshop. Let’s not mention the fact that it’s over a year since I attended and I’m just now picking up where I left off. It was a really useful session and I don’t want to lose what I learned. Here goes!

When planning to support children with their self regulation teachers and parents should consider booking an appointment with an occupational therapist (OT).  OTs can prescribe students with a ‘sensory diet’ – a range of strategies to support that child’s particular needs.

However, educators can try many strategies without OT support, based on their observations of the child and discussions with their family. The one big key to all of this is that ANY INTERVENTION MUST ALSO BE SUPPORTED AT HOME for any meaningful success to be achieved. Parents and educators need to work together, along with OTs and other professionals.

Jo describes the sensory diet to kids as ‘finding the right fuel for your body’. What do you need to make it work?

  • For students who need touch:
    • try ‘brushing’ (you’re going to need an OT for help on that… I googled it but it’s complicated)
    • finding words/letters/numbers in beans/rice or other tactile materials
    • writing on clear perspex with liquid chalk to get that ‘smooth’ tactile input
    • drawing and painting
    • shaving cream
    • play dough
    • and any number of ‘fidget toys’ available from online shops

  • For students who need movement:
    • swings
    • crash mats
    • activities that involve lots of bumping into others (safely!)
    • digging
    • carrying (water/dirt)
    • setting up spaces for movement using masking tape or hoops in the classroom (e.g. star jumps, run on the spot, hop)
    • theratubing tied to chair legs for pressure/resistence
    • scooter boards
    • textured cushions
    • vibrating toys
    • chair push ups
    • running up stairs
    • playing on the play ground
    • obstacle course
    • other equipment available from online shops
  • For students who have oral sensory needs:
    • chew toys
    • bubble blowing
    • sports bottles
    • chewy tubes
    • whistles
    • straws (for blowing)
    • some available online
  • For students who need visual regulation
    • activities which narrow visual attention eg. hunting through a page of text for a particular word
    • glowing and spinning fans
    • light up toys
    • mazes
    • pop up tents with a torch (for reading)
    • iPads
    • a hole in a piece of card to focus attention when reading
  • For students who need aural regulation
    • noise cancelling headphones/ear muffs
    • music
    • chewing (reduces sound)
    • place them away from noisy doorways, teachers and fans/heaters
    • gradually increase sound tolerance over time with games, eg. music games where they are in control of the volume

The bottom line is that we need to give these kids what they need or they will find it in inappropriate ways anyway! Movement is one of the most likely sensory inputs to work for most children – it helps alert kids use energy and helps lethargic kids become alert.

Our regulation is SO important: regulation is contagious. The more controlled we are as educators the better the students’ regulation is going to be.

This is not an all-inclusive guide to self regulation, not by a long shot. This is just some of what I learned on one PD day and what I found most relevant to my situation in an early years classroom. To learn more about self regulation, try these links:

Who We Are… making inquiry global

the best teachers are those who tell you where to look but don't tell you what to see{buy this print – not sponsored}

Last week we continued our inquiry into Who We Are by adding a global perspective. After finding out about who we are and who our friends are, it was time for this class of five year olds to find out about children from around the world. That’s a pretty big concept for these kiddos!

We used a beautiful photography book called “Where Children Sleep” by James Mollison to hook into what we notice and what we wonder. Continue reading “Who We Are… making inquiry global”

Stop, collaborate and listen

Stop Collaborate and Listen

You’re singing along to Vanilla Ice now, right? My bad.

Three things that I have tried hard to focus on since our Partnership’s professional development with Martin Westwell are trying to Stop, Collaborate and Listen. Or otherwise referred to as slow it down, collaborate and become noticers.

For the five year olds learning in my classroom these strategies seem especially important and relevant.

I recently adapted a learning task for our new inquiry into Who We Are to incorporate some of the creative thinking for intellectual stretch strategies that I learned. Here’s what changed: Continue reading “Stop, collaborate and listen”

Get Comfortable with Not Knowing

get comfortable with not knowing

I got down and dirty in the classroom today. I tried changing how I teach. And it was HARD. Change is hard. I felt myself wanting to retreat back into my comfortable old teaching practices. The ones that I knew would be ‘successful’ or easy. Instead of doing that, I did what I ask my students to do every day. I pushed through the discomfort and I kept trying.

Don’t get me wrong. I change my teaching practice A LOT. I love learning new ways of doing things and giving them a go. Some things stick and somethings don’t. Sometimes change and learning comes easily and sometimes it means diving deep into the learning pit.

the learning pit

I reflected with a co-worker later in the day, someone who I often bounce ideas off and get a lot of inspiration from. As she walked away at the end of our chat she threw her arms in the air and said “get comfortable with not knowing!”.


After all, unless we are comfortable with not knowing, how will we ever begin to question? Don’t we need to give in to vulnerability if we’re going to grow, learn, change?

And that’s exactly what this blog is. Me, not knowing, and getting damn comfortable with it.

Do you embrace not knowing? Tell me about it.