School Name: Mouse Mountain Elementary
School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes
Inquiry Team Members:Jennifer Schroeder: firstname.lastname@example.org, Lauretta Hunter: email@example.com, Lilly Schulz: firstname.lastname@example.org, Chris Micklick: email@example.com, Cherilyn Sandback: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOII (focus on core competencies, OECD learning principles, etc.)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Other: personal and social
Focus Addressed: Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Teach learners to monitor emotions and use physical activities to calm themselves in order to enhance their ability to re-engage in learning activities.
Scanning: We have observed learners struggling with their learning due to difficulties regulating emotions and resolving feelings of frustration and agitation. Some forms of physical activity appear to be helpful for calming some learners so they can re-engage in learning. We have found that some students will ask for a break when they feel the need and some students require a prompt to take a break. Teachers have also observed that some children return from a break ready to learn. Children we are focusing on can name two adults who believe in them; however, are less able to explain where they are going with their learning.
We focused on 3 learners, however, 14 or more students accessed the circuit throughout the week. The 3 learners were interviewed individually and asked the 4 key questions at the beginning and end of the school year. At the end of the year, students said that using the circuit or board games helped them to stay calm, be more focused, and be good. Students were able to return to class. For some students the affect of the break lasted for an extended period and for others another break was required after a shorter period (could all return to class for 30 minutes or more). The process was child centered and adapted where needed to best support individual needs. Students recognized that when they were calm they were better able to stay focused and learn. Students were learning to manage their time, regulate their emotions, and to positively interact with others. One student said, “I’m being respectful and not hurting people.”
Focus: We want our learners to develop more independence to recognize emotions, use strategies to manage emotions, and take some responsibility for their physical and emotional well-being. We want to become more knowledgeable about how we can provide supports that facilitate proactive self-regulation to enhance learning.
Hunch: Last year we worked very hard with two students who we knew had experienced severe trauma and were having difficulty with resiliency, focusing, and managing their emotions, all of which significantly impacted their learning and that of their peers. We recognized that the traditional model of sitting, listening, and doing work at their desks, did not work for these students–they needed to be able to move. We tried a chin up bar, exercise bike, swing, wobble chairs, and time in the gym to provide movement breaks. We noticed that the chin-up bar could be calming but the swing could actually get them more “revved up.” We believe some activities may be more effective for calming and that different learners may need to explore what works best for them.
New Professional Learning: Continue to examine the effects of trauma. What other things can we do to provide the mental/physical break of the circuit within the classroom? How can we help students become more independent when using the circuit? How can we help students recognize their emotions and needs. More consultation with our OT to more effectively use equipment and resources.
Taking Action: Students were identified by their classroom teachers as learners who were struggling to stay focused in class, had difficulty completing independent work, and who had trouble managing their emotions when they became frustrated. In consultation with the school counselor who had seen a trauma room in action in another school district and the OT, we set up a set of 10 activities (eg. exercise bike, Beano swing, mini trampoline, weighted ball, balance boards, quiet reading/colouring area….) which provided a sensory break through heavy work and quiet activities. Students each had a card with their name on it which they would use to choose 4 cards of the activities they would like to do. A timer was set for 2 minutes for each activity. At the end, the students returned their cards to the choice boards and went back to class.
Students enjoyed having an opportunity to make choices for activities. They respected the timer and needed few reminders about cleaning up and returning to class appropriately. For one student, the circuit lost its appeal and he decided that he wanted to play board games for his break. It was recognized that while the circuit as a sensory break was what made a difference for most kids, it was probably the one on one interaction with the adult during this time that also had a huge effect: serve and return: the same effect as was achieved from playing a board game.
Checking: In order to judge the success of using a circuit break to help students regulate their behaviour we used anecdotal comments from the classroom teachers.
Teachers said that before a student went for a break, they noticed that they showed signs of anxiousness, grouchiness, and whining. They would refuse to do work, say they couldn’t do the work, and seemed tired.
When the students returned from their break, teachers noticed that they seemed more settled, were calm and were ‘lighter on their feet’. They would come in asking what they needed to do, were more compliant, ready to listen and seemed happier.
The three learners’ answers to the four questions showed that they had seen the value of the break to help them with their ability to learn. At the beginning of the year one student spoke of knowing that they knew how they were doing because the teacher told them, but at the end of the year they said, “coming to the circuit helps me to learn; to focus.” Another student said at the beginning of the year that, “on the swing I stay straight up and if it swings and I stop and try again.” At the end of the year she said, “I practice, and I get calm and I get more focused.”
Reflections/Advice: Everyone agreed that having the circuit available for students helped them to be more regulated and ready to learn. We’ve also learned that students who were not originally identified as needing a circuit for regulation can also benefit from its use by improving their core development, their attitude towards themselves, and their self concept. The plan is to continue and hopefully expand the use of the circuit next year. We talked about the calming effect of doing the activities. Next year we hope to add conversations about how the students feel before they start the circuit and how their feelings change by the end. Our OT has made some suggestions for how we might expand the benefits of the circuit by walking lines.