Executive Functioning Linked to Dramatic Play

I recently had the privilege of working with some amazing teachers at Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK. We discussed the benefits of dramatic play for children and the critical role of children developing complex play within dramatic play experiences for the development of their executive functioning capabilities.EF

PreK and K teachers are first and foremost teachers of social and emotional skills, self-regulation, attention, engagement, persistence, thinking symbolically, and cognitive flexibility. If students do not first learn these skills, then the academics and life with always be a struggle.

Research links dramatic play activities with the support of the teacher to  move students to more complex play as one of the best strategies for developing social/emotional and executive functioning skills.

The teachers developed visual analogies to help us always remember the link. Here are pictures of their insightful analogies. Thanks, Union Teachers!

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Cozy Corner/ Safe Spot Strategies

Designing a Cozy Corner (or Safe Spot):

A cozy corner or safe spot is a place in the classroom in which students can relax, calm their minds and bodies, and gather themselves back together to be ready to learn. It is a place in the classroom that is calming and that has a low sensory load. The use of the cozy corner must be taught at times when students are in zone of being ready to learn. We cannot teach students during times of dysregulated behaviors. Therefore, practice when to use the safe spot and what to do there before emotional dysregulation occurs.  For specific ideas of teaching the use of a cozy corner/safe spot, see Cozy Corner Feeling Board and Strategies.Journey into Early Childhood Cozy Corner Strategies and How to Set Up the Corner Effectively

Key Considerations:

1. Choose an area of the classroom that is out of the mainstream of traffic but that is also visible by the teacher at all times

2. Choose an area that feels cozy (some children like a tighter feel in order to calm down) but also make sure that the area has more than one exit (children who have experienced trauma will not be able to calm down in an area in which they feel trapped)

3. Soft furniture- add some softness to the area even if it is just a couple of pillows.

4. Be mindful of the colors that you use (this is true for the entire classroom as well.) Natural colors led to a sense of calm. Remove the bright primary colors- use them only to help a learning concept pop out.Deep Breath Free Download journeyintoearlychildhood.com

5. Items to add: sensory bottles (see journeyintoearlychildhood.com for directions), fidget toys and a couple of books on emotions or friendship, a Take Deep Breaths Board (free download), Teaching Deep Breathing to Calm the Mind and Body, and the Cozy Corner Feeling Board and Strategies).

6. Be mindful of aromas as they are often triggers for children who have experienced trauma, but you can try a sachet with lavender since it is calming scent.

Variety of Ways to Teach Deep Breathing journeyintoearlychildhood.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. The Cozy Corner or Safe Spot needs to feel safe! It is not a time-out or removal from classroom activities. It is a spot to de-stress and work on getting the mind and body calm and happy or at least, content.

7. Ask the student if they would like to take a break in the cozy corner or safe spot. Do not leave them there alone- make sure to go to them to follow-up and teach (not tell) the needed social skill or strategy.

8. Gift the student with your calm. Do not show anger, frustration, or crankiness. Model slow, easy breathing and calm, even voice.

9. Ask first before you touch a student.

10. Follow up with role-playing, modeling and LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of guided practice of appropriate social skills.

11. Teach deep breathing with cue cards (flower/candle, owl, bunny, bear, etc. as listed in the document or STAR breathing from Conscious Discipline).   Be mindful of colors (natural is best)- remove bright primary colors.

12. Again- this is a spot to feel safe- not to be reprimanded or punished. It is a place to talk through behaviors and learn/practice skills and strategies needed. Think connection- not correction. Think – “How can I teach the skill needed?”

 

Greeting Students Each and Every Day

TOP 10 Reasons Why to Greet Students at the Door  Each and Every Morning

Daily Greetings- The Importance of Greeting Your Students Each Day journeyintoearlychildhood.com
• Provides a smile and a reassurance that the teacher is glad the student came to school today, which sets the tone for a positive day
• Promotes a strong relationship between the teacher and student
Enhances a positive classroom climate
• Provides a moment of connection when you greet them by name- young children love to hear their name – let’s use them in positive statements
• Assists children with letting go of issues that may have occurred on the bus or at home- they are being welcomed to a new start to the day
• Promotes a sense of belonging and trust that school is a safe place
• Provides social and emotional support
• Demonstrates and models of how to greet others, how to use kind words, and how to be respectful
• Provides a proactive, preventive technique to reduce challenging behaviors
• Starts the day for the teacher with LOTS of smiles and positive interactions!

Tips:

  • Greetings must be delivered with sincerity and genuine care for the students. If you rush through greetings, the students will not feel valued or respected which may lead to challenging behavior.
  • Use the student’s names
  • Provide options that include touching as well as include no touching to meet the needs of all students
  • Use eye contact

FREE DOWNLOAD journeyintoearlychildhood.com

Click here for two versions of greetings

Click here for additional versions of greetings

 

(note: If you send me an email stating that you have signed up to receive my blog each week, I will send you the seven different versions for free.)

Student Jobs to Assist with Clean Up After Free Choice Play Centers

  • Let the students take control over clean up…Jobs for Clean Up Time journeyintoearlychildhood.com
    • “Shift Manager” This student provides a 5, 3 and 1-minute warning prior to clean up.      (can also signal other transitions throughout the day)
      • Following the 5-minute warning, students are not allowed to retrieve any new items or move centers. They need to remain in the center in which they are currently for the last 5 minutes of play.
    • “Quality Control Inspector” This student inspects all areas and cleans up any remaining items.
    • “Floor Sanitation Monitor” This student picks up scraps from the floor and/or reminds students to throw away their scraps throughout the day, especially after play centers.
    • “Celebration Coach” This student provides an award to another student (a gold slip, a high five, a fist bump) for being the most efficient, yet respectful, during clean up. (respectful clean up = cleaning up quickly while still treating materials and friends with respect, using gentle hands and kind words) This student can also be responsible for finding and celebrating respectful behavior throughout the day.

CLICK HERE: Classroom Jobs that Support Free Choice Play Center Clean Up

  • clean up job cards journeyintoearlychildhood.com
  • Do you have one or two students that clean up time is overstimulating?
    • Allow the student to be a “Clean Up Supervisor.” As soon as he/she cleans up 5-10 items (depending on student’s needs) in the center in which he/she was playing, they get a clipboard with all the students’ names and travels from center to center to find 5 children who are experts at cleaning up for the day. The “Supervisor” can reward those five with a High Five or Fist Bump at the end of clean up time or announce the names for the whole class to give a silent cheer.
    • Allow the student to complete another job that consists of heavy pressure or heavy lifting such as taking a stack of books to a neighbor teacher or wiping all tables with a spray bottle of water and a rag (or just a wet rag).