Thursday, November 8, 2012

While You Wait...

Speaking of waiting, you've waited a long time for my next post!  I don't know about you, but I have a hard time waiting.  No matter what we think about it, at some point in our lives we all have to wait.  We might as well learn how to handle it!  Whether it's at the doctor's office, grocery store, bank, or waiting for Christmas, you have to admit, it's hard to wait!  I have learned over the years to come prepared so that I have something to do while I wait.  Sometimes I bring a book or magazine or I might even find a new game to play on my phone.  When I'm waiting for a special event like Christmas I pass the time preparing for the holiday and enjoy creating memories along the way with family and friends. 

Once I had children of my own, I knew it was best to come prepared.  I never left the house without a little something in the car, diaper bag, or in the bottom of my purse that could help us pass the time if we had to wait.  Even though my children are now nine and eleven, I still keep dry erase boards and trivia cards in the van just in case we get stuck in traffic or practice runs a little long.  When I have something to do to help me make better use of my time, I am more likely to stay calm and enjoy my wait rather than become upset and allowing the "wait" to be in charge of my feelings.

I try to carry this same "always be prepared" attitude into my preschool classroom.  It pains me to see children waste time while they wait for others to finish various classroom activities.  My goal is to keep each child engaged and maximize their time with us!  In order to help set us up for success, I have arranged our schedule and special tools to help children with these transitions and "waiting time". 

This school year has been an exciting opportunity for me to fine tune more of my Conscious Discipline skills.  Arrival time was going so well, but when we transitioned to our School Family Meeting time the room errupted in chaos!  I reflected on why Arrival Time was going so well and I realized it was because the children had lots of structure and routine to help them feel safe.  This is the simplest idea, but it works like magic!  When it is time for the children to clean up the area where they were playing and transition to Family Meeting we added the following steps:

1. We set a visual timer that also gives an auditory cue by beeping when it's time to clean up.
2. Next, we taught the children to be a STAR instead of screaming or having a meltdown because it was time to clean-up.  STAR stands for Smile Take a deep breath And Relax.  Go to for free STAR printables.
3. Once they breathe, we play a song for them to clean up to.  The song is from Mr. Al and Dr. Becky Bailey's cd "Kindness Counts".  It is a calming tune and the children love singing along "It's in Every One of Us."
4. When they finish cleaning up their area they look to see if a friend needs help.
5. They go to circle and find a small fidget toy waiting on their spot for them to explore and play with until their friends finish cleaning up.  The best part is that during this time, they have the opportunity to practice sharing and interacting quietly with their neighbors using these small toys.
6.  Once everyone has arrived at School Family Meeting we sing a little song as we go around and collect the toys and begin our meeting.  The song goes like this:  "Picking up the tools and putting them in the basket, picking up the tools and putting them in the basket, picking jup the tools and putting them in the basket, it's time for circle to start."
7.  Success!  Now they know what to do "while they wait" in a classroom that is calm and peaceful!

Adding this simple routine and practicing it has made all the difference for our little class.
Conscious Discipline reminds us that pictures and routines bring safety and safety creates an optimal learning environment.  I have picture routine cards around the classroom to help MAP (Model, Add pictures, and Practice) the expectations for our routines. Here are samples of some of the pictures I have posted around our classroom. There are also routine cards for the toileting, hand washing, lining up, snack, self-selected reading time, and many more. The routines can be posted on the wall, made into a class book, added to a ring to take with you when you leave the classroom, or set to a song to aid in remembering.

I would encourage you to look around your classroom or reflect on different times in your day when it feels a little (or a LOT) chaotic.  Reflect on what routines and visuals you can add to that part of the day to help your children feel safe.  Model the routine, add visuals to it, and then practice it with your children.  In less than a week you will see dramatic results!

For more information on Conscious Discipline visit  Check out this video of Dr. Bailey and Shubert using Shubert's Picture Rule Cards.

Shubert's Picture Rule Cards