Making Individual Regulation Activities Effective
by Dr. Rick Robinson
In our previous blog, “Making Regulation Activities Effective” we ended our conversation with the notion that a “one size fits all” approach to student regulation is not optimal. Let’s talk about what that means and how we can approach this issue in a mindful and effective way.
First, let’s think a bit about the ways we self-regulate and how that compares to our friends and family. For example, we may find it relaxing and regulating to read a book, do a cross-word puzzle, or play bridge with friends. These same activities can actually be dysregulating for those who tend to choose bike-riding, or splitting fire-wood as a way to regulate themselves. Second, what regulates us on one day may not be as effective as on another. We may actually prefer to go jogging, as opposed to reading a favorite book, on one day versus another day.
The same is true for our students…
Here are some ideas that you may find useful as you work to help all students maintain an optimal state of regulation so they can access learning in all domains:
• Individualizing classroom regulation activities requires the development of a classroom climate that defines “fair” as each student getting what they need, as opposed to the same thing. A classroom climate that endorses this understanding of fair is also fertile ground for students to develop an appreciation for diversity and to develop empathetic understanding of their peers.
• Within this classroom climate, we try to select regulating activities that meet the needs of the majority of our students. We then create our own mini-catalogue of those activities, including the context where we have used them effectively and whether they helped students “up-regulate” (energize) or “down-regulate” (calm).
• Observe those students who are often reluctant to engage in the classroom regulating activity, or do not engage at all. It is important to encourage and support student engagement without compelling them to do so. Consider our own regulation preferences and ask the question, “If I am forced to engage in an activity, would it help me calm down or get energized?”
• With the mindset “this is a matter of skill, not will” for our observations, we can make guesses regarding a lagging skill that could make an activity difficult for a student. For example, a student with large motor skill deficits may struggle to follow a video where an actor is hopping on one foot. Or a student with a history of abusive treatment may not feel comfortable closing her eyes and sitting still during a relaxation exercise. With these clues we can scaffold, or adjust the activity, in a way that will allow our student to take advantage of the group activity.
• Lastly, keep an eye open for regulating activities that a student may independently select, or engage in, at other times during the school day. With a classroom climate that understands fair as we noted above, we can encourage our reluctant student to use a variation of their self-selected strategy during the classroom activity.
With a regulated educator, classroom regulation activities, and individualized engagement strategies, we can decrease disruption and increase instruction. In the third installment of our blog series on making regulation activities effective, we will talk about several ideas to help students increase their resilience in the area of regulation.