Thursday, January 23, 2014

Get in the ZONE

I know the SuperBowl is quickly approaching, but I'm not talking about the Red Zone here, guys!  I'm talking about emotional zones!  I am currently reading and implementing the Zones of Regulation curriculum in my resource classroom.  This is the best resource to come into my class since, well, EVER!

This is the first post for my new series of weekly posts.  You've seen Week 1: Reading, Week 2: Math and now Week 3:  Social Skills

Every morning, I teach a resource group for students that have difficulty with social skills, emotional/self regulation, and anger management issues.  Some of these students have been diagnosed with autism, ADHD, developmental delays and emotional/behavioral disorders, but the key piece that links them all together is their difficulty with managing social and emotional situations.  I am all about teaching reading, writing, and math, but one of my ultimate goals for my students is for them to be successful in the community outside of the school setting.  I want them to be independent and to pursue their goals with success.  I believe that is my duty (and honor) to help these students accomplish these goals.  To meet this goal, I have researched, used, and even developed my own social skill lesson plans, but the Zones of Regulation has honestly been a lifesaver.

I first heard of the book at the Autism Cadre that I attend through our Educational Cooperative.  One of our very own Occupational Therapists in my school district implements the strategies and lessons in this book.  It only took her describing one lesson and giving her testimonial of how it works with her most difficult students to convince me that I needed a copy right away.

Check out Zones of Regulation to get an overview of the book and program.

I began implementing the "Z of R" (that's what I'll call Zones of Regulation from now...that's a lot to type, friends) after Christmas/Winter break.  I have to be honest has taken me this long to get through Lesson 1.  I know!!  We have only been to school for 8 days since Christmas break!!  Thanks to that darn Polar Vortex and mounting snow days, we may not see much more of January in school.  Anyway...I have my kids for 15-20 minutes every morning and we began Lesson 1 in the book.  Lesson 1 is about introducing the Zones and labeling emotions and placing them in the correct "Zone."
Check it out!

Pictures from my classroom to come!  My plan was to go up to the school today to take pictures, but instead the snow returned.  It is officially a week since I've been to school!  Someday, when I finally get to return to school, I will update with my personal pictures.

Here are some pictures from online resources to give you an idea of the first lesson.

My students and I made posters for each color/zone.  We discussed what each zone means and labeled emotions (all pictures are available in the book) according to the zone it belongs to.  The goal is to be and work in the GREEN zone,  we want to be ready for learning.  However, it is normal for all of us to experience emotions in the blue, yellow and red zone.  The goal of lesson one is recognize the zone and to begin to see why it is important that GREEN is the optimal zone. My students and I had discussed about each emotion and there were times that certain emotions could go into more than one zone.  This is true!  You want the Zones to be personal to each student.  You want the student to be able to recognize his/her personal feelings and understand where that is compared to being "green" or ready to learn.  There were times that a student would say, "I can feel silly, but still be ready to learn."  I acknowledged this observation and we discussed how you can very quickly go from one zone to the next, without really thinking about it.  You want to be able to "be silly" or have fun, but still be able to pull yourself together to work and feel calm and ready to learn.  I explained that continuing to "be silly" would keep them in the yellow zone and potentially could send them on to the red if they couldn't control the sillies.  

Z of R also suggests that each student has their own notebook.  In the notebooks, the students will keep handouts from the program, individual schedules and social stories, and drawing or journaling that is kept throughout the program.  As we add to the notebooks, I will share what all is put into it.

This is really just a quick synopsis of the first lesson and a tiny peek into the conversations that we have, but it is so powerful!  The moment I realized that this program really works is when my student's teacher asked me, "What are zones?"  My student had began to discuss, in class, the zones with his teacher and what zone he was in.  I loved that!  I am slowly bringing my teachers into this, because it can be a lot to take in if you are not engrossed in the lessons.  I will be sending my teachers updates of what we are learning about the zones.  The book does come with a letter for parents and teachers to explain the process of the program.

One more thing...I have a Pinterest board dedicated to Social Skills.  There are some amazing resources on there, including other teachers/counselors ideas for using Zones of Regulation.  Check it out and follow me there!


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