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Dec 17, 2018 |

“Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people.” Author Robert Fulghum made it sound easy in “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”  Kindergarten (and early childhood) teachers would help children master these important life skills. Children would learn at an early age to get along with their peers and control their behavior.

Most classroom teachers recognize that teaching these skills is not as simple as Fulghum made it sound. While some children develop them with ease, others struggle with self-regulation, perseverance, attention, or problem-solving. Fortunately, research in the area of soft skills by James Heckmann and others has led to a shift in education. These important skills are being more widely taught as we begin to learn how they are related to positive academic outcomes. Current trends include growth mindset, effective habits, and social-emotional learning.

As a result, many teachers are providing direct instruction in non-academic areas to ensure that their students are successful in school and in life. One important skill is self-regulation, which is  the ability to manage one’s movements, emotions, thoughts, attention, and behavior. Self-regulation allows a person to control impulses in order to react or respond to situations appropriately. There are many activities that can be incorporated into classroom routines to promote self-regulation.

  • Play games such as “Red Light, Green Light,” “Simon Says,” or “Mother May I.” These games teach children to pause before reacting. They provide opportunities to practice listening. Visit this website for directions on how to play these games and more.
  • Read books about self-regulation. Choose books that show different behaviors. Discuss how the characters acted and how they could have acted differently. Use these read-alouds to provide children with words for talking about feelings and behaviors.
    • “The Angry Dragon” by Michael Gordon
    • “When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang
    • “My Mouth is a Volcano” by Julia Cook
    • “Waiting is Not Easy” by Mo Willems
  • Teach kid-friendly breathing techniques. Show children that breathing can help them calm down or refocus their attention. Start by using breathing exercises with the whole class. For example, when transitioning from an active task to a quieter one, model a breathing exercise for children. Have them copy you. When children have learned several, begin prompting individual children to use breathing at needed times. The goal is for children to use breathing independently to regulate their behavior.
  • Talk about problem-solving. Use think-alouds to show children how you solve simple problems throughout the day. For example, “We usually use a red marker to color our thermometer, but I cannot find it. That is a problem. I can solve it by looking again for the red or choosing a different color to use.” Also, use problem-solving as a compliment. “Rosa, I like the way that you helped solve a problem in stations. You and Jenny both wanted to use the blue dough cutter. You solved the problem by taking turns.”

Self-regulation is a vital skill. Most adults are not even conscious that they are using it. But for children to master it, they need opportunities to talk through and practice the techniques that allow them to manage their own thoughts, words, and actions.

How do you promote self-regulation in your classroom? Add a comment below to share your best practice. We will select a few original ones to shoutout in a future Education Solutions blog post.


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NCFL Partners

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Toyota Family Learning Program

Toyota, one of the nation's most successful corporations, began a partnership with NCFL in 1991. In addition to a commitment of more than $50 million, Toyota has also contributed a wealth of in-kind support — including advertising, planning and management expertise — to form one of the most progressive corporate/nonprofit partnerships in the nation.

Three major programs have been developed through the Toyota partnership based on the family literacy model of parents and children learning together. These models have influenced federal and state legislation, leveraged local dollars to support family literacy and led to successful programs being replicated across the country.

Read more about Toyota's commitment to communities

Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation began partnering with NCFL in 2006. A signature effort of this partnership is the National Literacy Directory, a resource that launched in 2010 and strives to reach the 35.7 million adults ages 18-64 who do not have a high school diploma by guiding them to better-paying, more stable jobs.

The National Literacy Directory contains over 10,000 educational agencies located across the United States and has a dedicated toll-free number to help support those wanting to pursue educational opportunities in their communities.

Dollar General also provides support for development of NCFL’s innovative family learning resources centered on financial literacy and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time®.

Go to Dollar General Literacy Foundation's website

PNC Grow Up Great

PNC Grow Up Great believes deeply in the power of high-quality early childhood education and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community organizations to enhance children's learning and development.

PNC Grow Up Great has partnered with NCFL since 1994 to advance early literacy and learning resources for vulnerable families. Current efforts supported by PNC include a collaborative initiative in two at-risk Detroit communities that engages families to support vocabulary development for children under age 5.

NCFL's work is also featured on the PNC Grow Up Great Lesson Center website. The Lesson Center includes over 100 free, high-quality preschool lesson plans and research-based instructional techniques and strategies. All lesson plans contain Home/School Connections printouts, in English and Spanish, to help families extend and reinforce the learning at home.

PNC Grow Up Great

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

NCFL has partnered with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation since January 2016. The Foundation is currently supporting a dynamic two-generation family engagement initiative that expands NCFL's Family Learning model into select Head Start programs nationwide. NCFL's model presents an innovative way to support Head Start programs in meeting outcomes aligned with the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.

Visit the Foundation website

Better World Books

Better World Books selected NCFL as its domestic literacy partner in 2005 and has raised more than $1 million to support NCFL’s work and donated more than $15 million to support literacy and education efforts worldwide. Better World Books is a triple-bottom-line online bookstore, working equally for people, planet and profit. Each book purchased powers literacy across the world.

Better World Books’ support of NCFL has provided books and workshops to families after Hurricane Katrina, donated large book donations to literacy programs and families nationwide and fueled innovative family literacy and learning programs and resources in libraries, schools and community-based organizations. In addition to their work for literacy and education, Better World Books diverts books from landfills and offers carbon-balanced shipping.

Better World Books

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2013, NCFL began a partnership with the Gates Foundation to ensure that our network of students, teachers, and families thrive among recent shifts in standards-based education. NCFL will leverage the unique strengths of our award-winning Wonderopolis® platform to build upon the growing teacher network that uses the resource for core daily instruction and as a basis for professional growth.

Foundation Website

Goodling Institute

NCFL has partnered with the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University since 2001, working collaboratively to further research, professional development, and policy efforts for family literacy and intergenerational learning.

The work of this partnership includes, but is not limited to, a strong research strand at NCFL's national annual convening, the Families Learning Summit; advocacy for family literacy and learning to further support for and inclusion of family-focused education in new and ongoing legislation; and dissemination of the latest research, resources, information, and professional development opportunities for literacy and learning practitioners and advocates, including the Certificate in Family Literacy provided by the Goodling Institute.

Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at Penn State University