In preschool this week, we have instituted something called “The Choice Wheel.” Think ‘Wheel of Fortune’ but generally the trend is that we end up with emotional regulation skills rather than money. [And personally, I think that in many/most cases, the value of money is lost for people who have zero emotional regulation skills. Just a thought.]
I wish I could take credit for the brilliance of this idea, but like we teachers always say, why reinvent the wheel? I first heard about this at a seminar I attended before the start of this school year. [This is a great place to insert 1) attend professional development, and 2) you don't always have to implement all the new things you learn the day after you learn them.] So the other night I sat at my dining room table, with a blank $.34 poster board bursting with opportunity and my favorite scented markers [what's better than drawing with a lemon-scented marker? hello!] and came up with The Choice Wheel.
If you take a look, you will see 4 sections. My class is really young– mostly threes turning four, and so I decided that fewer choices would be easier for these guys.
On the left, we have “Take a balloon breath” and “get a drink of water.” In our class we practice taking balloon breaths often as one of our breathing exercises, so my kids know this ritual. Also, we have a water fountain in our room [which is AWESOME!] so the kids can get water as they need. We have songs for both breathing exercises and drinking water. Naturally.
Moving clockwise to the right, you see “Walk away.” This is a chance for kids to leave a frustrating situation where other students might not be changing their actions or when a child might feel like he needs some space.
Next we have “Share or take turns.” Sharing is a really interesting idea to me. Do we, as adults, always share? Sitting at Starbucks [where I currently am writing this and drinking coffee and watching snowfall... so brilliant...], would I share my coffee with a stranger who might come up to me and demand my drink? No, I probably would not. I bought this coffee and therefore, I think it should be considered my coffee.
Shift your focus and picture this situation. Preschool child 1 comes up to you in tears exclaiming, “Preschool Child 2 will NOT share the play dough with me!!” Your reaction? “Child 2, you must share with Child 1! Give her your play dough.” Well, up to this point in preschool time, poor little Child 2 was just playing with play dough, minding her own business, unaware that Child 1 even wanted play dough. So, as a result, Child 2 was bullied by Child 1 to give up her play dough, and Child 1 manipulated you to get what she wanted.
Hmm. [I know this does not always happen with every teacher. But it's easy to gloss over a situation with "Just share!" and not take advantage of a teachable moment.]
Now, back to the coffee illustration: is all the coffee in Chicago mine? No. All the coffee in this particular Starbucks? Nope. But is my coffee, technically speaking, my coffee? Yeah. So, should children learn the value of sharing? Absolutely! But they should also learn how and when it is appropriate to share. All of that to say: in our class, if there is enough, we share; and if there is only one, we take turns. [Set yourself up for success here-- the first few weeks/months of school, put out things you have plenty of. Don't set out one very cool fire truck on the first day of school and expect 22 3-year-olds to share it. Set out a bunch of similar trucks and teach them.]
Finally is “Bugs and Wishes.” I touched on this before in my post bugs and wishes where you can read more. Essentially, this is a tool we use in our class to teach kids how to stand up for themselves. This provides kids with the words to use to essentially say “No!” and “Stop!” Kids say “It bugs me when you do that, I wish that you would stop.” We use plastic bugs and magic wands to practice this [Target comes through yet again :)].
We are taking time this week to read various books to reinforce the different concepts. And, of course, we are practicing, practicing, practicing!