Sunday, September 17, 2017

Using Ice Cubes to Help the De-Escalation Process

I don't know about you, but some days it feels like big emotions rule my classroom. My students struggle greatly with emotional regulation, and one seemingly small scenario can create a day of mayhem in a moment's notice. 

While some students can regulate quickly, other students can take hours to get back to their baseline. Researching and studying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been such a wealth of knowledge for me as a teacher of students with significant emotional disabilities. Their strategies range in complexity, and I have found that some of their smaller, more simple exercises are not only easy to implement but incredibly effective.

Three strategies I use on the daily in my classroom include one material only: ice cubes! Find a way to get access to ice cubes because these strategies WORK.

1.) Chewing ice
Simple as that. I give my students full ice cubes, 2-3, in a cup. I have them sit in the calm corner and just chew on ice. This releases some anger (the crunching), plus the cold sensation allows their mind to focus on that feeling rather than perseverating on the emotion that caused them to escalate.

2.) Ice cube in your hand
Again, simple. I place one ice cube in the child's hand and tell them to hold it as long as they can tolerate it. I have some students that do NOT like this exercise, while others understand it and are more willing to participate. This exercise promotes mindfulness, as it pulls the child into the present moment as they focus (intentionally or unintentionally, your mind just does this!) on the very cold sensation and the melting process. 

3.) Ice cube in between your eyes
Equally simple but a little more "strange" compared to the other two. I really only use this strategy if a child is in crisis (we're talking extreme behaviors) and is willing to let me do it. I just take an ice cube and place it in between their eyes. Brain chemistry, body reactions, temperature response... all of those change during this very simple process. I have seen kids calm HUGELY in SECONDS after this strategy! Seriously amazing. But... really make sure your student is okay with this before attempting!

A few extra ideas? Baby wipes that are kept in the fridge for a child to wipe their face off & an ice pack wrapped in paper towel on the back of their neck. 

What do you think? Are you headed to buy ice trays now?! I hope so :)

Did you try some of these? Let me know in the comments how they worked for your students!


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Yoga, Movement, & Go Noodle in the Classroom

All kids need movement, our kids CRAVE movement. Allowing movement breaks is a proven proactive behavior management tool - get AHEAD of your kids and structure movement into your day!

Some of my favorite ways to incorporate movement are through yoga and GoNoodle. I interchange both throughout my day. Why? GoNoodle is a really fun, interactive way to give students a movement outlet. The buy-in is built in, I allow for choice (each child gets to choose one GoNoodle per day), and it gives both a brain break and a movement opportunity. Yoga on the other hand - also a brain and movement break, but it explicitly teaches mindfulness as well. I reiterate to my students daily that yoga and breathing exercises can go with them everywhere they go! 

How Do I Get Started with Yoga?
I love to start each school year off with a book that explains yoga to kids in a friendly manner. This year I used the book I am Yoga by Susan Verde. It's kid friendly and opens up doors for questions and conversation. 

I have also completed the 15 Day Yoga Challenge with my class, run by The Teachers Passport. She provides a yoga pose of the day with a matching affirmation, as well as really helpful visuals. This is a great intro to poses and mantras! Starting small with one pose per day is a great way for your students to build understanding in confidence in what yoga is. 

We have a 10 minute block in our schedule each afternoon to practice yoga poses and breathing from our Calm Classroom book. I schedule this after our lunch and recess block because its a time my students often need extra support in regulating. We use lights off and "calm spray" (AKA water and essential oil in a spray bottle!) to set the mood of relaxation. With repeated practice, it works!

What About GoNoodle?

GoNoodle really is THE BEST. I just love this (free) resource. When you first sign up, all the channels and videos can be overwhelming. For our class, we created a routine and stuck to it. It has been instrumental in helping us organize brain/movement breaks and tame transition time. 

When creating my schedule, I ensured that we did a GoNoodle before and a GoNoodle after each transition. Sound like overkill? Maybe. Does it work? YES! If my students are headed to PE at 9:45, and 9:40 we do a GoNoodle and when it ends, the class knows to line up at the door to head out. When the class returns from PE, they know they go right to their seats and wait for a GoNoodle. These times in our schedule can be NUTS (transitions = epic chaos), and this routine has really motivated and helped my students manage these times. 

At the beginning of each school year, I review the channels with the students. The first week, I pick each GoNoodle and vary the channels, energy types, duration, etc. This reminds students of all the options GoNoodle has to offer. After that week, I create a popsicle stick with each students name on it and put it into a cup. When it's time for a GoNoodle, I choose a student and they get to pick the activity we do! I make sure there is an opportunity for each child to pick an activity every day. This also increases buy in, as my students love the element of choice!

This could also be tied to a behavior system, homework system, morning work turn in - whatever! There are endless opportunities to create meaningful routines in your classroom.

My last tip? Create a system for physical space and boundaries on your classroom floor. GoNoodle and yoga activities require space - and often our students aren't the most savvy at identifying personal boundaries! Personally, I use SitSpots in my classroom. 

Each student has their own SitSpot that gives them a visual for space. This has greatly helped decrease my students moonwalking/dabbing/mountain posing into their peers and causing chaos!

Time to get your kids moving!