Making Regulation Activities Effective
By Dr. Rick Robinson
Happy New Year to all! We hope that the holiday break provided each of you with time for connections with friends and family as well as rest, relaxation and renewal. Now that we are all back in the classroom and have had a chance to re-connect with students, and review and practice routines and procedures, it is a great time to make sure regulation activities that work well are in place.
In recent blogs we talked about several important strategies you can use at school to help you metabolize stress and regulate yourself. Maintaining a regulated state will inturn help you provide students with regulation opportunities that have the best chance of keeping them in their “thinking brains.”
Here are a few hints that may make things work more smoothly:
1. Selecting Activities
• There are a number of resources available that will assist you in collecting a menu of potential activities. Check out on-line resources (e.g., “Go-Noodle”), regulation curricula (e.g., “Zones of Regulation,” “The Alert Program for Self-Regulation”) or lists/categories (e.g., “Doodles, Dances & Ditties”). In our work with school districts, developing and sharing regulation menus within and across grade levels has been extremely helpful.
• Identify activities that have you have already noted work with most students in the class-you may already have some great clues.
• Make sure when you are choosing an activity you clearly decide whether your goal is to “up-regulate” (energize) students or “down-regulate” (calm) students. Meet students where they are. For example, when students come in from recess or back from PE, you may need to start with an activity that is energizing but a bit less so than what they were just doing. A calming activity may then be more effective if you have helped students “gear down”.
II. Leading Activities
• It is vital that you are the leader for regulation activities. Check your own state of regulation-make sure you are in a space to pay close attention and tune in to the level of arousal and behavior of your students. This can help you adjust your timing during an activity, or even the activity you had planned to use.
• Be very precise in your regulation routine. Use your standard attention cue, track students to make sure they are attending, and then provide clear, concise and specific directions, For example, “Please stand up, push in your chairs and take one step back from your chair.”
• After the activity, be equally precise in your routine for students returning to their chairs and tables or desks-we like to have our termination routine mirror our start-up routine.
III. A Couple of Cautions
• Being aware of the number of dysregulated students in the activity is important. Dysregulated students bounce of off each other and become even less regulated. In these situations, increase the precision in structure and routines, and note where students are located in the classroom during the activity.
• The greater the dysregulation of students at the start of the activity, the longer it takes to transition students into a successful regulating activity. Extended “warm-up” activities like “belly breathing” can be useful.
• Remember that poorly structured motor and/or sensory activities can be over stimulating; i.e., they can actually be dysregulating, moving students farther away from accessing their thinking brains.
• Lastly, a “one size fits all” package will not be effective; the approach needs individual differentiation.
With that last point in mind, our next blog on regulating activities will focus on working with students who struggle to regulate when provided with activities that work for most students in your classroom.