Self Regulation in Kindergarten

It is May and I am so proud of how responsible the students are with their backpacks. All the snacks are packed away and the backpacks put aside during our wide area games with no adult reminders. A perfect example of self regulation!

It takes time to build self regulation. As discussed in my book, Outside Our Window- developing a nature primary program, creating time for children to work together, solve problems together and play together will all contribute to a child's ability to self regulate.

I like to begin the first week of school and build stamina through self regulation is my primary learning intention. Using clear intentions, I work with the children on helping them to understand how school works, what their job is and what my job is. I also look for every opportunity to build independence for them. I encourage them to help each other solve problems, share resources and work together to discuss an idea.               

A second important strategy that I use in those first six weeks is building stamina. I begin with where the children are and we build our stamina just like a muscle,, working on it every day and                     growing it. For example, if they can only sit for two minutes than I choose a very brief and entertaining story for three minutes and then send them off. If I want them to turn and talk to a partner then I model and ask a very simple question that is easy for them to answer "what flavour ice cream do you like" to provide practice and build stamina. Over time as their stamina grows I increase the challenge, length of book, discussion question... to match their stamina and embed success in the program.

The third strategy is specific feedback. I clearly state the learning intention and then provide specific feedback so that they know what they are doing, why and how they are doing. 

Finally, although this is the bumpy piece that makes adults uncomfortable, I let them make mistakes and then coach them through it. I don't fix it for them. For example, if a student tells another he cannot join into the activity, I will help him practice his response and send him back to try. Often they discover that it is just a misunderstanding and that the student assumed that is a rule or can't imagine how to include him in their game.

Building self regulation takes time, practice, communication and intentional planning. But it is one of the most joyful moments when you look around and realize that they have matured into a very capable, happy and collaborative group of five year olds!


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