Sunday, 16 October 2016

Part 4: The Four Frames: Self-Regulation and Well-Being

The Kindergarten Program 2016: Unpacking the Front Matter - A Six Part Series

Part 4: The Four Frames: Self-Regulation and Well-Being

Welcome to Part 4 of my six part series, Unpacking the Front Matter of The Kindergarten Program 2016.

If you missed any of the other posts, you can read them here!

Part 4: The Four Frames: Self-Regulation and Well-Being

Let’s once again grab our Kindergarten Program 2016 (HERE) and get started!

The Frame: Self-Regulation and Well-Being

TKP 2016, p. 54
This frame is where you will find many of the expectations from the old Personal and Social Development learning area as well as basically the entire Health and Physical Activity learn area from the draft version of the program document. Essentially, this frame is all about communication, social skills and movement as a way of self-regulating and developing a sense of well-being.

This frame is a very exciting addition to the program document because it discusses some incredibly important material that wasn’t really discussed deeply in the draft version (or at all). As you might be aware, there has been an enormous push in the last few years in education, in society really, to become more informed about mental health and to discuss it in order reduce/take away the stigma that is attached to mental health.

This section in the program document discusses openly the need for educators to be well informed and knowledgeable about issues of self-regulation, well-being and mental health in order for us to be able to best serve our children and our school community in general.

What is Self-Regulation?

There are a few of misconceptions about self-regulation and what exactly that means. So let’s start off with some clarification:

Self-Regulation is not the same thing as self-control.

TKP 2016, p. 57
So what is it then?

“Self-Reg is a powerful method for understanding stress and managing tension and energy.” (Shanker, Stuart. 2016. The MEHRIT Centre.

“Children’s ability to self-regulate – to set limits for themselves and manage their own emotions, attention and behaviour...” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Self-regulation is best described by Dr. Stuart Shanker’s six elements for “optimal self-regulation.” They give a good idea of what self-regulation means: 

TKP 2016, p. 54

Who is Dr. Stuart Shanker?

Dr. Stuart Shanker is a big deal. He is the most important person in the world of Self-Regulation right now. His work in the realm of Early Childhood Education and self-regualtion has had an unprecedented impact. 

Remember that family of documents I mentioned in the first post of this series? (if you haven't read it, check it out HERE ) He contributed an article titled 'Calm, Alert, Happy' in the Think, Feel, Act document. (You can read it HERE)

·      he is the founder and CEO of The MEHRIT Centre (a resource rich learning centre to teach children, teachers and parents about self-regulation)
·      he is a professor at York Univeristy
·      he is an author of 5 books  (you can find out more about his latest book, HERE)   
·      he has 5 degrees from U of T and Oxford
·      he is very active on Twitter (check it out HERE)
·      he (through The MEHRIT centre and with other thinkers and educators) has a blog (you can check it out HERE)
·      Bonus… he is Canadian!!
 (The MEHRIT Centre, 2016.

Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life”, Penguin Random House Canada, 2016

For more information about Dr. Stuart Shanker you can visit his website HERE 

Why Self-Regulation?

Self-Regulation is an absolutely essential skill for young children (really for all people of all ages) to have. Specifically for children, “self-regulation is central to a child’s capacity to learn. It is ‘the cornerstone of development and a central building block of early learning’.” (TKP 2016, p. 54)

Not all children learn to self-regulate at the same time or in the same way, so we as educators need to be aware of this fact. “Being attuned to individual differences in children’s development of self-regulation… enables educators to establish the kind of nurturing relationships that strengthen children’s capacity for learning.” (TKP 2016, p. 56)

Sound familiar? This ties in very nicely with the Belonging and Contributing frame, emphasizing the diagram at the beginning of the document that shows how the Four Frames are interconnected. 

TKP 2016, p. 14


Developing Self-Regulation

“Some children will have begun to develop self-regulation skills before coming to Kindergarten, but many will not.” (TKP 2016, p. 56)

The program document suggests that there are 2 key things that educators can do to help develop self-regulation in children:
1. noticing and naming the learning of self-regulation
2. choice

As with all learning in Kindergarten, The Kindergarten Program 2016 has placed a lot of emphasis on the idea of noticing and naming the learning to help children identify their learning while they are exploring and playing. The same applies to self-regulation, “I noticed that you refocused. How did that help you?” (TKP 2016, p. 57)

The other pillar of The Kindergarten Program 2016 is choice. The topic of choice pops up in every section of the program (the word choice appears 65 times in the document). “Providing children with choice in the learning environment is a key to supporting their emerging ability to self-regulate. When children have access to a variety of materials, tools and spaces in the classroom, they gradually learn to select the ones that provide stimulation or a calming effect.” (TKP 2016, p. 57)

(TKP 2016, p. 57)
When helping children to develop their self-regulation skills, there are 5 domains, as described by Dr. Stuart Shanker in his book ‘Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self Regulation” (2013) that are outlined in the program document on pages 55 and 56. Here I have pulled one line of description from each of the domains, you can check out the rest of the description in the program document.

Biological: “can be described as the ability to attain, maintain, and change one’s level of energy to match the demands of a task or situation.” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Emotional: “refers to the ability to monitor and modify intense emotional responses, feelings and mood.” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Cognitive: “refers to the ability to monitor and modify behaviour related to mental processes such as memory, attention, the acquisition and retention of information and problem solving.” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Social: “refers to the ability to recognize, understand, assess and act on social cues.” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

Prosocial: “refers to the ability to emphathize with others and to demonstrate behaviours that lead ‘towards positive social activities.’” (TKP 2016, p. 55)

TKP 2016, p. 56

What is Well-Being?

Well-Being is connected to self-regulation because having the ability to self-regulate is a determinant of developing a sense of well-being.

TKP 2016, p. 58
Other determinants of health and well-being in a classroom are the learning environment and the educators. “Educators play an important role in promoting children’s well-being by creating, fostering, and sustaining a learning environment that is healthy, caring, safe, inclusive and accepting.” (TKP 2016, p. 59)

“The World Health Organization declared… that health is a state of complete physical mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
 (TKP 2016, p. 59)

The World Health Organization identified several factors that can have a “significant influence on a persons health.” (TKP 2016, p. 59) While “children have little or no control over these factors, it is important to be aware of them as contributing elements in a child’s development and ability to learn.” (TKP 2016, p. 59)

Determinants of Health (TKP 2016, p. 59)


Developing Well-Being

TKP 2016, p. 60
As discussed, many of the factors that determine health and well-being are out of a child’s control, but there are still many things that we can do in classrooms to help children to develop overall well-being. The areas that can be developed are cognitive, emotional, social and physical (in many ways this mirrors the development of self-regulation).

The following diagram shows how these 4 areas are all connected through environment/context with “an enduring (yet changing) core – a sense of self, or spirit – that connects the different aspects of development and experience (TKP 2016, p. 59)

TKP 2016, p. 60
On pages 60 and 61 there is an in-depth look at the different ways that these four areas of development can be enhanced and built upon in classrooms. The main theme of these development areas are choice, student voice, growth mindset, inclusion and responsibility.  I encourage you to look at the suggestions in the program document for ideas of how you can help to develop a sense of well-being in your classroom.

Mental Health

“Mental health touches all components of development. Mental health is much more than the absence of mental illness.” (TKP 2016, p. 62)

Mental health is an extremely important section of the document, which makes me a little sad that it is only half of a page. I feel that maybe this part of the document should have been more robust, but really the discussion of self-regulation and well-being is a component of mental health… so I suppose technically there are 9 pages on the topic… but still.

Mental health used to be a dirty word that struck shame into the hearts of many people and many families. Thankfully, this is slowly starting to change with amazing public campaigns and with school programming that are starting conversations with children from a young age to reduce/get rid of the stigma that follows mental health.

“What happens at school can have a significant influence on a child’s well-being. With a broader awareness of mental health, educators can adopt instructional strategies that contribute to a supportive classroom climate for learning, build awareness of mental health, and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.”
(TKP 2016, p. 62)

The number one strategy that the document supports for building a supportive classroom climate is self-regulation.

“When educators allow children to self-regulate – to cope with stressors, and recover – they are enabling them to develop resilience, a powerful protective factor with respect to positive mental health and emotional well-being.”
(TKP 2016, p. 62)

If you haven’t had a chance yet to read any of Dr. Stuart Shanker’s work then I strongly recommend that you do. As is illustrated by this section in the program document, self-regulation is incredibly important (actually, self-regulation appears 129 times in the program document).

A child’s academic and social success, mental health and well-being are all connected with and dependent on the ability to self-regulate. This is not something we can ignore.

The Overall Expectations 

TKP 2016, p. 154
The overall expectations, conceptual understandings (kind of like the big ideas) and the specific expectations can be found on pages 154-180.

These pages are structured the same way as in the old draft version with:

1. Overall Expectation

2. Conceptual Understanding (big idea)

3. Specific Expectations
Children: Saying, Doing, Representing
Educators: Responding, Challenging, Extending

Going Forward

There is a fabulous list of indicators for developing well-being and a sense of self.  I encourage you to read them as they may be really helpful.

TKP 2016, p. 62
At the end of the section there are some really great reflective questions that may be helpful for considering how you are developing well-being in your classroom and with your families. 


TKP 2016, p. 63

Let’s talk,


Sunday, 9 October 2016

Part 3: The Four Frames: Belonging and Contributing

The Kindergarten Program 2016: Unpacking the Front Matter - A Six Part Series

Part 3: The Four Frames: Belonging and Contributing

Welcome to Part 3 of my six part series, Unpacking the Front Matter of The Kindergarten Program 2016.

If you missed any of the other posts, you can read them here!

Part 3: The Four Frames: Belonging and Contributing

Let’s once again grab our Kindergarten Program 2016 (HERE) and get started!

What is Belonging and Contributing?

TKP 2016, p. 47
The first of the four new Frames is Belonging and Contributing (BC).

When you read the overall expectations and the specific expectations for this frame you will notice that it is a lot of the old Personal and Social Development, Language, Science and Technology, Health and Physical Activity and The Arts mixed together.

The expectations from these old learning areas are brought together into this frame to focus on:
- developing a sense of self and an identity
- standing up for themselves and others
- care and respect for the environment
- being a member of a community and exploring aspects of diverse communities
- expressing/communicating their thoughts around these topics/issues verbally, non-verbally and through the arts

The Rationale for this Frame

TKP 2016, p. 125

In order for children to have a positive experience at school where they feel safe, comfortable and valued, we have to develop a strong sense of belonging and contributing in our classrooms.

The key way that we can do this is through the development of relationships, particularly, positive relationships with themselves, each other, educators, families and the community. “Educators who are aware of the importance of these relationships adopt a style, in their interactions with children, that ‘builds connections.’” (TKP 2016, p 47)

“Relationships are fundamental to children’s personal, social and emotional development… and relationships within the classroom community provide a critical early environment for that development.” (TKP 2016, p 47)

Building Connections with Families and the Community

“Young children make sense of the world around them through interactions with other children, their parents and other family members, educators and members of the community in which they live.” (TKP 2016, p. 108)

The Belonging and Contributing Frame puts a lot of emphasis on learning about/with families and the community as part of building a sense of self and a sense of place.

As a whole, The Kindergarten Program 2016 very heavily emphasizes the importance of family and community connections by not only dedicating an entire section to this topic (3.2 Building Partnerships: Learning and Working Together p. 108 – 114) but the word family occurs 97 times and the word community occurs 100 times in the program document.

For our Open House/Curriculum Night this year we set out an invitation for parents and families to join us in creating a piece of collaborative process art to celebrate all of the beautiful families in our community that inspire and encourage our children. This collaborative mural was inspired by Suzanne Axelsson and her blog Interaction Imagination. You can read about it HERE

Parents and families are our most important allies in this program so we need to value their knowledge and welcome their experiences and expertise into our programs. I know it can be scary sometimes to open our doors to other people, but our families would absolutely LOVE to see what we do all day long. 

TKP 2016, p. 109

In the Building Partnerships section of the program document, there is a long list of suggestions for inviting parents and families to be involved in your program. Read these suggestions with a grain of salt. Not all of them will be practical for your setting or your context, but they are a starting point. 

TKP 2016, p. 110-111
One thing I hear a lot from educators is the difficulty that can arise when your school is in a community where both parents work long hours or our families are New Canadians where English is not their first language. Yes, this can make parental and family engagement difficult... but it is not impossible.

Never underestimate the power of technology!

In our classroom, we have a little mix of everything. We have English speakers, we have New Canadians learning English, we have stay at home parents, and we have working parents. This adds a little extra challenge when it comes to sharing… but we have found that Twitter has been our greatest tool for sharing with parents.

On our Twitter account, parents and families can stay current with our classroom adventures regardless of their work schedules. Twitter is highly visual so there is less issue with language barriers.

If language barriers are a difficulty in your space, use your parents as experts! Can some of your parents translate for you? Does your school have a settlement worker that can offer translators?

The school community is FULL of resources; we just need to make use of them!

TKP 2016, p. 49

The Role of the Learning Environment: The Third Teacher

Another driving force in the Belonging and Contributing Frame is the importance of a strong connection to space. As we just discussed, we can develop a strong connection to place by learning about/with our community, but we develop a connection to our space by considering the role of the learning environment, also referred to as The Third Teacher.

I have touched on this topic before in the past, if you are interested in reading about this you can read my post HERE

In that article I reference the work of the amazing Karyn Callaghan (you may recognize her name because she is EVERYWHERE in Early Childhood Education). If you are interested in reading her article "The Environment is a Teacher", you can read it HERE

She has been referenced in every one of the ‘family of early years documents’ including The Kindergarten Program 2016 (if you are unsure about what those are, you can read about them HERE in my post)

Our classroom in its initial set up in September

Some considerations for the Learning Environment: (TKP 2016, p. 29 – 34)
- educators should be working with children to display and share the children’s work  and learning in the space to celebrate students accomplishments and to provide opportunities for students to revisit and extend their learning about topics of interest

- educators should work together to create a ‘flow of the day’ that is flexible, works around school scheduling (ie. library, gym, lunch, recess times etc) to allow for large blocks of uninterrupted play with as few transitions as possible

- the environment is a living breathing space that should be changed in response to the needs of the students. Students should be involved in making changes.

- educators need to be mindful of materials in terms of what materials are made available, how many materials are available at a time, and how the children will be able to access the materials

- ‘the children’s voice’ should be evident (or at least taken into consideration) in all aspects of the space

- the learning environment extends outdoors as well. This means that children are exploring and learning from/with the natural world around them… this doesn’t necessarily mean doing inside activities outside because the weather is nice (not to say that we shouldn’t do this… but this isn’t the only way for children to learn outdoors)

TKP 2016, p. 35


Belonging and Contributing Overall Expectations 

TKP 2016, p. 125
The overall expectations, conceptual understandings (kind of like the big ideas) and the specific expectations can be found on pages 125-153.

These pages are structured the same way as in the old draft version with:

1. Overall Expectation

2. Conceptual Understanding (big idea)

3. Specific Expectations
Children: Saying, Doing, Representing
Educators: Responding, Challenging, Extending

Going Forward

Have a look at through this section and see how the expectations from the draft learning areas have come together to create this new Frame.

Where do you see the same expectations from the draft version?
What new expectations do you see?
How are you already providing opportunities for students to engage with the learning outlined in this frame?
What can you rethink, remove, replace from your program to be more in line with this new Frame?

Let’s talk,