Sunday, 31 December 2017

Most Read Blog Posts of 2017

Blogging is a great way to reflect and share my learning about education, self-regulation and other topics. Putting my ideas out there into the world wide web is a bit unnerving - will anyone read this? Will anyone respond? Will my thinking resonate with someone? Will it cause them to rethink or reflect on their own practice?

My main goal is not to generate a huge readership for the blog. I like to use writing as a way to think my way through things and decided why not share my wonderings and writings.  But it is gratifying to see the readership numbers grow when a post really resonates for some reason. So thank you to everyone who took a moment to read my blog posts and especially to those who responded.

My top three most-read posts for 2017 were:

3. Kindergarten Graduation Alternatives  It's interesting to me that this post was so widely read when it probably has a very narrow audience of kindergarten teachers and ECEs.  I shared several research articles about why kindergarten graduation is not developmentally appropriate and provided a range of alternatives that are more child-friendly. I'm not saying don't celebrate the end of the school year, but let's find a way to do it that is appropriate for five year olds.
Feedback on this post was divided.  Some people were so thankful to have research and ideas to share with their colleagues and administrators to help them in their quest to move on from kindergarten graduation ceremonies.  And others shared their belief that kindergarten graduation is something that parents and administrators expect and enjoy. That conversation took place as responses to my post of this blog on Facebook in the Ontario Kindergarten Teachers group so it wasn't captured on the blog.

2. Self-regulation: Not just for kids So much of what I read about self-regulation talks about how teachers and parents can help to teach students/children how to use self-regulation.  But what I've found is that learning more about self-regulation has changed my own behaviour and my understanding of those days when my self-control seems to have deserted me.  In this post, I shared an example of how my husband lent me his calm when I was too overwhelmed by stressors during a very long trip.  I had so many responses to this post that I wrote a follow-up post that generated just as much traffic.  If I combined the two posts, they would be my most read topic.

And the most read post of 2017 on the Opening Doors for Learning blog:
1. ETFO Kindergarten Conference - April 2017. I used Storify to summarize and share two days of fantastic learning at the ETFO Kindergarten Conference in Niagara Falls. I was sad when I got an email just a few weeks ago, letting me know that Storify is no longer going to be available after the May 2018.    Time to find a new strategy. What are you going to be using instead of Storify in the future?

Happy 2018 to everyone!  Thanks again for reading these posts, responding, sharing, retweeting and letting me know that you're out there!

Image from

Saturday, 30 December 2017

A Memory Jar Project for Home & School

Last year I saw this idea for a memory jar around New Year's Eve on several sites on the internet and all over pinterest.  The idea is that you start the new year with an empty jar. Each week you add a note about something good that happened and on New Year's Eve you empty the jar and read all the notes. I shared it with my husband, who wondered, "Why would you need a jar to remember what happened?"  Then life got busy, and I wished I had started my jar but I never did.

And so many wonderful things have happened this year. Big things - we sold our home, we moved to our dream home on the lake, my eldest graduated from university, moved home and quickly found a full time job in her field, my dad moved to a retirement home that he loves, my youngest ran with my hubby and I in her first half marathon.  Lots of little things, too. Seeing a bald eagle swoop over our yard as we sat outside eating dinner. Campfires. Going for a run on a day that was just perfect - not too hot, not too cold.

As a teacher, I was thinking this would also be a great project to do with a class. Although it might be better to start in September, it would still be a good project to start for the new year.  Each week students could brainstorm what ideas they want to add to the class memory jar. I think it would be interesting to see what events they would select as being 'most important.'  Then at the end of the year, you could review all the entries in the jar as a class. Some students might even be inspired to start a memory jar at home with their family. Perhaps all the notes could be scanned at the end of the year and a copy sent home with the students. Or perhaps each child could have their own jar (or maybe some other container) to create their own personal memory jar.

This year, I'm going to go ahead and start 2018 with an empty jar and add notes each week. I've already selected an antique mason jar from my Granddad's collection and placed it on the bookshelf in the living room where I will see it every day. Some weeks I may forget and not add anything.  Some weeks I may add more than one.  Maybe my husband will add a note or two of his own!  And next new year's eve, we'll read them all. Afterwards, I might just keep them in the jar or place them in an envelope and start a collection for each year.

For more ideas and information on Memory Jars:
Printables for your New Year's Jar
Make and Do Crew
The Suburban Mom

I don't have a photo credits  as the same photos have been used on so many sites I am not sure who the original credit belongs to.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Power of Words

Words allow us to communicate our thoughts and ideas with others, to question, to clarify, to explore, to wonder, to inform, to elaborate. Words can be used for poetry, for debate, for conversations and for arguments.  Words have power.

As I was scrolling through Twitter this morning, I read the news that Trump has banned the CDC from using seven words in any upcoming briefs for the budget.  WHAT???? This must be fake news. But it's not.  More and more I am reminded of Orwell's 1984 when I read and hear the news from the USA. In the novel, all the residents of Oceania are to speak "Newspeak."  The purpose of Newspeak is to ensure that everything that everyone says aligns with the ideas of the government.

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. […] Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. […] In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.[ 1984, pp. 45-6]

According to the Washington Post, Trump's seven banned words are:
Why?  Why these words? What is is that these words represent that is so repellent that the CDC may no longer use them. Dr. Loren Schechter, director of the Centre for Gender Confirmation surgery at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago was quoted as saying "I'm not sure what the ultimate rationale is for doing this aside from trying to erase certain types of people off the map," commenting specifically on the ban on the words "transgender" and "diversity." Rep. Don Beyer tweeted that "black women have a maternal mortality rate 300% higher than white women and Hispanics are 50% more likely to die from diabetes than whites. Banning the CDC from discussing diversity isn't just wrong. It's dangerous."
At one point in 1984, Winston understands the how of language control, but not the why.  O'Brien explains: 
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. […] Power it not a means, it is an end.” [ p. 211]

It will be interesting to see what the response will be to this announcement - from educators, journalists, and those who value free speech.  Some tweets so far (#CDC):

CliffsNotes on 1984 - Summary, Themes, Characters

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Self-reg & the Wolves of Yellowstone Park

I find analogies and metaphors help me to think about my learning differently and this video about the wolves in Yellowstone Park helped me to consolidate some of my thinking from last week about the difference between self-reg as a process and self-reg as a program. It beautifully illustrates the impact that one change can have, over time, on an entire system. One of the most important points, and this relates to the idea that self-reg is a process not a program, is that the change takes time.  Part of the appeal of one size fits all programs is that they often seem to create quick results but those results are seldom long lasting. A process, like Shanker self-reg, takes time to create impact but the impact is much  longer lasting.  

Another analogy, aside from the wolves in Yellowstone, is the idea of a diet.  I can go on the latest fad crash diet (eat nothing but grapefruit, juice cleanse, etc) and I will lose weight.  But it is not sustainable.  Instead, I have to do the hard work of learning about food, nutriution, diet and exercise so that I can achieve slow, sustainable, healthy weight loss.  And in that model, it shifts so that the goal is no longer weight loss but a healthy lifestyle. Developing a self-reg community in our classroom or our homes takes time, effort and energy; there are no quick fixes.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

What is the difference between Shanker Self-Reg and Zones of Regulation?

Many people ask, "What is the difference between Zones of Regulation and Shanker Self-Reg?" While my own understanding of self-regulation is still evolving, my short answer is that Zones of Regulation is a program for teachers to teach students about self-regulation that is based on students having self-control and being able to self-manage - to recognize what 'zone' they are in and respond to move themselves back to a zone where they are calm and able to learn.

Shanker Self-Reg is a reflective process that can be used by anyone at any age. While there are five steps, they are not linear nor cyclical but iterative. In Shanker Self-Reg, we reframe behaviour, our own and that of others, by asking 'why this behaviour and why now?' We co-regulate with others, acting as stress detectives to recognize and reduce stressors so that we can return to a state of calm. Rather than using self-control to regulate behaviour, it is self-regulation that makes self-control possible.

More information on self-regulation and self-control can be found here.

The Self-Reg Institute has a great series of videos on youtube including this one on What is Self-Reg?

For those who are seeking a much more robust explanation about the difference between the two programs, I recommend reading this article by Hopkins, Shanker and Leslie which explains it far better than I can!  Hopkins, S., Shanker, S. & Leslie, R. (2017). Self-regulation, self-control and the practice of self-regulation. Reframed: The Journal of Self-Reg, 1(1), pp. 58 – 75. 

Below, I've adapted a chart from their article which compares the two approaches to self-regulation on a number of factors. 

A comparison of Zones of Regulation® and Shanker Self-Reg®

Zones of Regulation®
Shanker Self-Reg®
Leah Kuypers (MA Ed,
OTR/L, ASD Res.) – 2011

Stuart Shanker (DPhil),
The MEHRIT Centre
– 2012

A systemic, cognitive
approach used to teach
self-regulation by
categorizing all the
different ways we feel
and states of alertness
into four concrete zones.

A method for
understanding stress and
managing tension and
energy; a process rather
than a curriculum or a

Definition of self-regulation
“the ability to do what
needs to be done to be in
the optimal state for the
given situation”
A life-long process
Successful self-regulation
via three
critical neurological
sensory processing;
• executive functioning;
• emotional regulation.

“how people manage
energy expenditure,
recovery, and restoration
in order to enhance
growth. Effective self-regulation
learning to recognize and
respond to stress in all its
many facets, positive as
well as negative, hidden
as well as overt, minor as
well as traumatic or toxic.”

Central Tenets
Aims to teach students
how to become more
aware and independent
in: controlling their
emotions and impulses;
managing sensory need;
improving ability to
problem-solve conflicts.
In doing so, aims to
“teach students to
figure out what zone
is expected in given
circumstances. If their
zone doesn’t match the
environmental demands
and the zones of others
around them, you will
be teaching strategies
to assist in moving to
expected zone.”

Involves understanding
the triune metaphor
of the brain, the stress
response system, and
learning to manage
brain-body energy
and tension with these
guiding values:
Shanker Self-Reg® is a
universal platform (not a
targeted intervention or
behaviour management
Self-Reg is a process not
a program; ALL people
are capable of selfregulation,
no matter
the age, stage, or ability
Each individual, family,
culture, and community
holds unique Self-Reg
There is no single set
way to do Self-Reg;
There are no quick fixes; Self-Reg is a continual
and reflective process;
Self-Reg is for everyone, it
is not just about children
and youth;
The well-being of children
is inseparable from the
well-being of critical
adults in their lives.

Tools taught and Practiced
Sensory supports
Calming techniques
Thinking strategies
The Shanker Method®
Dynamic System of the
5 Domains

Intended Audience
Two to four students
with the same cognitive
abilities working with
one facilitator or eight
to ten students working
with two facilitators;
from 4 years old at or
above average intellect.

Everyone (all ages,
cultures, contexts).

Anyone (parents/
therapists [OT]).

Anyone (all ages,
cultures, contexts).

How Self-Regulation is Assessed/Tracked
Check-ins (or
communication boards)
Informal observation of
student behaviour
More formal observation
of student behaviour,
including data collection
and point sheets

Rubric for Self-
Reg Competencies
(educators assessing
Rubric for personal Self-
Reg (adults)
*Further assessment
tools in process of
being created*

Theoretical Underpinnings/Influences
Cognitive Behaviour
Central Coherence
Theory (Frith, 1989)
Systemizing Theory
(Baron-Cohen, 2006)
Social Thinking (Winner,
The Alert Program
(Williams &
Shellenberger, 1996)
The Incredible 5-Point
Scale (Buron & Curtis,
“Phases of control”
(Kopp, 1982)
(Dawson & Guare, 2009)
SCERTS Model (Prizant,
Wetherby, Rubin,
Laurent, & Rydell, 2006)
Theory of Mind (Frith,
Enactive Mind approach
(Klin, Jones, Schultz, &
Volkmar, 2003)

The Triune Brain
(Maclean, 1990)
Child development
(Greenspan, 1997)
(Schore, 1994)
(Porges, 2011)
Psychology of parenting
(Baumrind, 1967)
Secondary altriciality
(Gould, 1977; Portmann,
Homeostasis / fight-orflight
(Cannon, 1932)
Dynamic Systems
Theory (Fogel, King, &
Shanker, 2007)
(Waddington, 1942)
Coregulation (Fogel,

Tools/Resources Available
The Zones of
Regulation®: A
Curriculum Designed to
Foster Self-Regulation
and Emotional Control
The Zones of
Regulation® CD,
including 35 full-color
and black-and-white
The Zones of
Regulation® App
Exploring Emotions App

Self-Reg: How to Help
Your Child (& You)
Break the Stress Cycle
& Successfully Engage
with Life (2016)
Calm, Alert and
Learning: Classroom
Strategies for Selfregulation
The Shanker Self-
Reg® Tool Kit for
Parenting Magazine
Consultation for parents
and educators
Self-Reg eSchool
(Parent Portal, Portal
Plus, Foundations
Courses, Facilitator’s
Courses, Master Classes,
webinars, workshops,

Framework/Program Research
Described as “practice
based on evidence versus
an evidence-based
practice” (Retrieved from
Two research studies
completed and two
research studies in

Research in progress in
five areas:
The 5 Domains of Stress
Transition Conditions
Between Positive &
Negative Stressors
Reframing Scientific
Self-Reg in Practice
Review of Self-Reg

Basic Steps of Framework/Program
18 sequenced lessons,
30–60 min./lesson
RED: extremely
heightened alertness and
intense emotions
YELLOW: elevated
emotions and alertness
GREEN: calm alertness
and optimal learning
BLUE: low state of
alertness and down

The Shanker Method™:
Reframe the behavior
Recognize the stressors
(across the five domains)
Reduce the stress
Reflect: enhance stress
Respond: develop
personalized strategies to
promote resilience and

 From: Hopkins, S., Shanker, S. & Leslie, R. (2017). Self-regulation, self-control and the practice of self-regulation. Reframed: The Journal of Self-Reg, 1(1), pp. 58 – 75.