Your emotions are contagious…. try to keep them from spreading -Guest Post by Amelie Doucent RVS Psychologist

I was recently part of a group of Rocky View staff who completed training using the Mandt System. On paper, the purpose of the Mandt System is to build healthy relationships, prevent and de-escalate conflicts and decrease aggression in our schools.

One of the take-home messages during the training was that emotions are contagious. Some of us absorb or “catch” the emotions of others really easily. It happens to me all of the time. When I go into a meeting where people are feeling unsupported, frustrated, out of control or burnt out, I can’t help but feel those same feelings when I leave that meeting. If I haven’t built up immunity after years of working in the “business of emotions,” I’m sure other people are susceptible.

I remember the first time I was faced with a “non-compliant” child. I was a 17 year-old day camp leader. It started off as a pretty straightforward situation: one of my day campers refused to change back into her clothes after swimming. In that moment, I remember thinking, “she is making me look bad; I have to show her that I am in control.” Although I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I was probably feeling anxious, angry and out of control. I don’t know why she didn’t want to change; maybe her towel was too wet or she wanted to wear her purple tights. Nevertheless, my emotions escalated and her emotions rose to match. It turned into a huge scene and I never found out what the problem was.

The bottom line is that because we care and we want to be good at our jobs, emotions often get caught up in the mix, whether we realize it or not. During the Mandt training, the facilitator’s key phrase was “affirm your emotions and choose your behaviour.” In other words, if a student refuses to work on math, you would say to yourself, “I’m feeling really, angry, frustrated, annoyed (insert emotion), but I’ am going to calmly try to find out if this student is having trouble (insert action).”

When you are able to affirm your feelings, you will be better equipped to regulate your emotions. If you are able to be calm and composed, the student will likely feed off those emotions. You will also be able to step back and give the student some needed space. People calm down when they feel safe and secure; that doesn’t happen when they feel physically crowded, blamed or persecuted. Once everyone’s emotions have decreased a few notches, the student will be more available for learning and problem solving.

In the moment, it’s not easy to affirm your emotions and choose your behaviour but it will certainly pay off if it decreases the likelihood that someone gets emotionally or physically hurt.

Follow Amelie on Twitter at @AmelieDoucet1


Taking an Opportunity to Build Resilience- Helping Children Grow After a Natural Disaster

Once children and youth are physically safe, another important fact to consider after a natural disaster such as a flood, is their emotional well-being.

It is important for adults and children to recognize that natural disasters provoke a range of strong emotional reactions, and that these emotional reactions are normal and expected. Children and adults experience and display these strong emotional reactions in a range of ways, and no particular way is better than others.

As an adult, there are several actions you can take to ensure that your children recover quickly from this disaster. In every crisis is danger and opportunity. Now that the danger has passed, we want to take the opportunity to create stronger, more resilient children who can bounce back from these negative life events quickly.

In particular, remain calm and reassuring. Children take their cues from adults, especially young children. Acknowledge the loss or destruction, but emphasize the community’s efforts to cleanup and rebuild. To the extent it is possible to do so, assure them that family and friends will take care of them and that life will return to normal.

Acknowledge and normalize their feelings. Allow children to discuss their feelings and concerns, and address any questions they may have regarding the event. Listen and empathize. An empathetic listener is very important. The easiest way to show your child that you are empathizing is to paraphrase what they say and name the emotions that they are feeling. Let them know that their reactions are normal and expected. Discuss your own emotional reactions in an age-appropriate manner and what you are doing to cope.

Encourage children to talk about disaster-related events. Children need an opportunity to discuss their experiences in a safe, accepting environment.  Provide activities that enable children to discuss their experiences. This may include a range of methods (both verbal and nonverbal) and incorporate varying projects (e.g., drawing, stories, music, drama, audio and video recording). Here are some tip sheets with activities that will help children process the recent events, and keep them entertained.

Promote positive coping and problem-solving skills. Activities should teach children how to apply problem-solving skills to disaster-related stressors.  Encourage children to develop realistic and positive methods of coping that increase their ability to manage their anxiety and to identify which strategies fit with each situation. Coping strategies include looking for the positive in any situation, “counting blessings”, and taking action to help (making cards for people affected, helping clean up etc.).

Emphasize children’s resiliency. Focus on their competencies. Help children identify what they have done in the past that helped them cope when they were frightened or upset. Bring their attention to other communities that have experienced natural disasters and recovered (e.g., The 2005 flood in Southern Alberta, etc.).

Strengthen children’s friendship and peer support. Children with strong emotional support from others are better able to cope with adversity. Children’s relationships with peers can provide suggestions for how to cope and can help decrease isolation. In many disaster situations, friendships may be disrupted because of family relocations. In some cases, parents may be less available to provide support to their children because of their own distress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Activities such as asking children to work cooperatively in small groups can help children strengthen supportive relationships with their peers. If possible, arrange for your children to see their friends frequently. This is important anytime, but is more important immediately after a natural disaster.

TURN OFF OR MONITOR MEDIA SOURCES. It is important to stay informed, but watching endless news programs/looking at photos online is likely to heighten your anxiety and that of your children. Young children in particular cannot distinguish between images on screens and their personal reality. Older children may want to watch the news, but be available to discuss what they see and help put it into perspective.
Links for further information:
Helping Children Cope after a Natural Disaster
Helping Children Cope in Unsettling Times
Simple Activities to do with Children and Adolescents with no supplies or limited supplies
Some information taken from the National Association of School Psychologists


Social-Emotional Learning- Friends for Life & Fun Friends

How To develop a safe and nurturing community, where we engage and challenge learners to think, to take risks, to collaborate and to become confident, independent, life long learners who contribute as resilient, caring, global-minded citizens.

Or programming for Social-Emotional Learning using a Continuum of Supports.

Or creating engaged, resilient, academically successful, collaborative 21st century citizens.


Social/emotional learning is a process through which students acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and constructively problem solve their way through challenging situations.  

  • Self-Awareness: identifying and recognizing emotions; accurate self-perception; recognizing strengths, needs, and values; self-efficacy
  • Self-Management: impulse control and stress management; self-motivation and discipline; goal setting and organizational skills
  • Social Awareness: perspective taking; empathy; difference recognition; respect for others. 
  • Relationship Skills: communication, social engagement, and relationship building; working cooperatively; negotiation, refusal, and conflict management; help seeking 
  • Responsible Decision-making: problem identification and situation analysis; problem solving; evaluation and reflection; personal, social, and ethical responsibility

SEL programming promotes the development and use of these SE competencies in the context of creating safe, caring, and supportive school, family, and community learning environments in which children feel cared for, respected, connected to school, and engaged in learning.


Multitiered problem solving models are the most effective and efficient way to address social-emotional needs. In Multitiered problem-solving models, interventions are linked to the social, emotional, or behavior needs of students. Approximately 17% of school-aged students require social-emotional/behavioural/mental health services. However, only 1% of these students receive such services in special education (Merrell & Walker, 2004).

A multitiered problem-solving model allows for early support before problems develop or worsen.

 Services provided through a multitiered model range from system-wide, preventative services that provide support for all students, to intensive, individualized supports for severely struggling students.

Multi-tiered problem solving models have the following common features:

  • They are evidence-based. Intervention strategies are selected according to their proven effectiveness, implemented with fidelity, and student progress is monitored through objective and validated measures.
  • They use a systemic multi-tiered problem solving and data-based decision-making approach to support the needs of all students.
  • There is a focus on prevention strategies that lead to positive behavior and social–emotional learning and high academic achievement.
  • They are culturally responsive.


Tier 1: Universal Support. All students are taught expected behaviors and reinforced for practicing them. All students are also taught skills related to self awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. At this level, data is used to identify school-wide needs and to directly teach positive social, emotional, or behavior skills. Typically, 80–85% of students in a school are successfully supported at this level.

Tier 2: Targeted Support. At the targeted level, groups of students are identified who struggle behaviorally, socially, or emotionally, despite systematic and evidence-based school-wide interventions. Teams review data to identify students and select appropriate interventions to deliver in addition to Tier 1 strategies. Staff select procedures to objectively and frequently monitor student progress. An extra 10–15% of students are successful in school when Tier 2 group level supports are provided in addition to Tier 1 supports.

Tier 3: Intensive Support. Students who continue to struggle behaviorally, socially, or emotionally despite high quality Tier 1 and 2 interventions require the most intensive and, sometimes, individualized intervention and progress monitoring. A team determines the need for more intensive supports, based on a variety of assessments and a lack of prior responsiveness to less intensive science-based interventions. Tier 3 interventions may require services from specialized personnel and wraparound planning.


Improve student behaviours and attitudes

  • Studies show positive impacts from well-implemented SEL programs, including reductions in conduct problems, emotional distress, risk-taking behaviour, and aggression.
  • In review of 43 studies, SEL programs significantly decreased the number of suspensions and expulsions while improving school attendance, students’ attitudes towards school, and students’ grades.

Safe and caring

  • Classrooms filled with socially and emotionally skilled students are more caring and safe.
    • SEL Decreases Behaviors that Interfere with Learning. SEL programs decrease the prevalence of high-risk behaviors (e.g., violence, drug and alcohol use) that interfere with learning (Zins et al., 2004). Programs that foster engagement in school lead to reductions in problem behaviors such as drug use (Hawkins, et al., 2004), student misconduct and rebellious behavior in school (Gottfredson et al.), and violence and sexual activity in later life (Hawkins et al., 1999).

All learners achieve personal success

  • Despite SEL programs take time out of the school day, they enhance academic performance. In one study, students receiving SEL scored 11 percentile points higher on academic achievement tests, and attained higher grades. Even as grades were improving, behaviour, feelings about self, and emotional problems were improving.
  • Research shows that social and emotional factors are integral to academic learning and positive educational outcomes for children. SEL improves academic attitudes (motivation and commitment), behaviors (attendance, study habits, cooperative learning), and performance (grades, test scores and subject mastery) (Zins et al., 2004).

Nurture supportive relationships

  • SEL Helps Students Collaborate. Incorporating cooperative learning techniques into the classroom enhances the quality of student learning and academic performance. However, unless the students have good social and emotional skills the academic benefits of cooperative learning groups can be minimized or even negated (Munro, et al., 2006).

Relevant and connected learning

  • SEL Promotes Deeper Understanding of Subject Matter. SEL instruction is a particularly effective way of promoting both social-emotional and academic competence. When students are asked to use SEL skills such as perspective-taking and problem-solving to understand and analyze events or stories in class, learning improves (Elias, 2004).
  • SEL Increases Student Engagement in School. Student perceptions of teachers’ warmth and support, and of teachers as promoters of positive and respectful social interactions in the classroom, are significant predictors of student’s academic motivation, engagement, and performance (Blum, et al., 2000). Students who are emotionally connected to their peers, who have bonded with adults who value learning and expect high levels of academic performance, adopt the value of academic achievement and have a positive academic orientation (Hawkins et al., 1999).
  • Improving the social and emotional competence of students and the climate of schools advances the primary academic focus. SEL also ensures that schools will address a broader mission of educating students to be critical thinkers, good problem-solvers and caring, responsible, and engaged citizens. SEL learning gives students the basic skills they need to be successful in school and more importantly in life.

High expectations for all

  • The most impressive finding was students’ improvement on standardized test scores, which increased by the equivalent of 11 percentile points (Dymnicki, 2006).

SEL=21st Century Learning

Critical Thinking - Focuses thoughts and actions to secure responses that are supported by evidence;


Problem-Solving - Identifies strategies and tools that help analyze, develop, and refine solutions;


Innovation - Looks beyond the norm for solutions or opportunities that can overcome obstacles;


Communication - Seeks to understand, interpret, and express thoughts, ideas, and emotions;


Collaboration - Builds relationships and works in teams to achieve common goals;


Self-Directed Learning - Takes ownership of learning;


Global Awareness - Contributes to the sustainability of the environment and the community;


Civic Engagement - Commits to democratic governance, social participation, and advocacy;


Information & Media Literacy - Uses technology to explore new knowledge in an ethical and responsible way; or


Financial & Economic Literacy - Understands and evaluates critical economic issues. 


Only programs and interventions characterized as “S.A.F.E.” achieved significant gains. S.A.F.E. programs and interventions:

  • Use a Sequenced set of activities to develop SE skills in a step-by-step fashion;
  • Use Active forms of learning, such as role-plays and behavioral rehearsal that provide students with opportunities to practice SE skills;
  • Focus attention on SEL, with at least eight sessions devoted to SE skill development; and
  • Explicitly target particular SE skills for development, with skills identified in lessons’ learning objectives.

More intense programs of longer duration (multiyear) have greater effect than shorter, less intense programs. SEL should be started in preschool and continued through high school. 

Leadership (principal, district-level) support is a critical factor in high-quality implementation. Such support means that schools will likely have the resources and ongoing professional development they need to implement programs and that SEL is an integral part of overall school improvement efforts.

SE competencies improve more when classroom teachers were the primary implementers (as opposed to outside researchers or community agencies). 

Programs that focus on changing behaviors tend to be more effective when addressed in multiple settings, for example, school, home, and community.

Linking school programs to community locations and including parent training/information enhances the success of SEL programs.

Students achieved significant gains across all of the outcome areas studied only when the SEL program was well implemented and measured and research-based. Program effectiveness is compromised if staff do not conduct parts of the intervention, or new staff members arrive and are not prepared to deliver the program. 80% of children showing signs of anxiety disorder no longer display that disorder after completing the program. For children who are not clinically anxious, SEL programs significantly increases their level of self-esteem and reduces worry.


Fears are a natural and normal part of life. We all experience fear from time to time (e.g. Turbulence on airplane). Fear is essential to our survival – it stops us from getting hurt. When confronted with a life-threatening or dangerous situation (e.g a vicious dog) we automatically respond with the “flight or fight” response. Chemical messengers such as adrenalin  are produced which prepare our body for  a defensive reaction –e.g. muscles tense, heart rate increases supplying extra oxygen to the body, vision and hearing becomes more acute and focused. Fear allows us to run away as quickly as we can (flight) or attack back (fight). Fear is an appropriate reaction to REAL danger or threat

Developmental Fears

Fears of childhood  are “normal” aspects of development, and occur, almost without exception, among all boys and girls from all races, nationalities, religions, ethnic groups and socio-economic backgrounds. Humans are pre-programmed from birth to develop certain fears that have contributed to the survival of our species- children who possessed certain fears and avoided these objects and situations were more likely to survive. These fears are age-appropriate and usually transitory.

  • Each of the common fears is linked to a particular age period, e.g. Stranger anxiety (under 2 years)
  • Separation anxiety is common throughout the preschool years
  • 8 to 10 year olds may worry about death- become more aware of concepts related to time and are able to understand death as a permanent thing
  • middle childhood – fears shift to performance/school anxiety (e.g. taking tests, giving oral reports, performing in school, competence in sports)
  • Adolescence – social concerns- physical appearance and others’ perception of them, whether they are popular and have enough friends, larger global issues 

Fear vs. Anxiety

Children can understand that anxiety can be unhelpful and it is like having an alarm go off when you don’t need it. False alarms can become tiresome and annoying,  even distressing. It is like having your smoke detector over your toaster. The smoke detector may be working fine, but it is in the wrong place at the wrong time- unnecessary. It will be going off often- even when you don’t need it. With anxiety,  your alarm system or fear response is working fine (even over-working) and is being activated when you don’t need it.

Many children go through their day in a high state of arousal, which is exhausting and hinders performance and enjoyment in daily life. SEL programs help children learn how to turn off the fear  response and turn down their anxiety and physiological arousal.


Fends to be experienced in the presence of a real, immediate danger


Fear response in absence of or out of proportion to environmental threat

Tends to be associated with worrying about future or past difficulties. 

Is Anxiety Good or Bad?

Anxiety can be functional and helpful

  • motivating
  • prevents excessive risk-taking

Mild to moderate levels of physiological arousal can help you to perform optimally:

  • on tests
  • before a presentation
  • in sports
  • other performance activities 

Why Focus on  Anxiety?

Anxiety is the most common mental health concern for children

  • 10% of 8-year year-olds
  • 15% of 12-year year-olds
  • 21% 17-year year-olds

(Kessler, 2005; Offord, 1995; Great Smoky Mountain study, 1995)

Fewer than 1 in 6 will see a professional for any   mental health concern (Stanley, 2002)

When is Anxiety a Problem?

Firstly, the child experiences significant DISTRESS, which is out of proportion to the threat. It is more intense than is what is normally experienced by a child that age (e.g. severe stomachaches and throwing up or  separation anxiety distress persisting into middle of school year).

INTERFERENCE with a child’s or family’s life. A child or family’s relationships and daily functioning are impaired- interferes with child’s ability to participate in age appropriate activities and meet age-expected norms such as making and keeping friends and meeting expectations at school (e.g. regular attendance, homework completion, taking tests, giving oral reports)  Activities may become restricted e.g. avoiding going to a park because they are worried there will be a dog there or avoiding birthday parties because of shyness.

DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE- age inappropriate- appears in the wrong developmental period or persists past expected lifespan (e.g. trouble separating from parents in middle school)

DURATION – when the fear is not transitory, but lingers (eg. Separation distress persists whole year). Anxiety disorder – difficulties have existed for a period of 6 months or more

Anxiety- The Impact

Anxiety is a real and serious health problem. (causes significant personal suffering). Anxiety interferes with normal functioning (social isolation, underachievement, depression). Anxiety is highly co-morbid with other mental illnesses.  65-95% of children will be diagnosed with more than 1 anxiety disorder. 9% will experience depression. All children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder have an increased probability of substance abuse.

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem among children today (more than ADHD, or conduct disorders). Having an anxiety disorder increases the risk of developing other anxiety and mental health disorders. 15% of preschoolers suffer from atypically high levels of depression and anxiety

Anxiety is chronic – without intervention likely to lead to significant problems into adulthood.

Symptoms of Anxiety/Depression

The number one descriptor for anxiety is WORRY and AVOIDANCE. The number one descriptor for depression is SADNESS and a cognitive style of hopelessness and helplessness. Youth who are depressed tend to lose pleasure in things they previously enjoyed. They often withdraw socially, and may refuse to be with friends or participate in activities. Anxious youth want to socialize but are nervous and avoid social situations because of fear of rejection or embarrassment. Depressed youth often present with flat affect- no emotion, while anxious children demonstrate physiological arousal and physical complaints. Both anxious and depressed youth have low concentration, sleep difficulties,  and may appear irritable and uncooperative.

Symptoms of Anxiety


  • Worry (anticipatory)
  • Avoidance
  • Attention to threat
  • Fast/sustained physiological arousal
  • Psychosomatic complaints
  • Difficulty in resting and going to sleep
  • Shyness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Perfectionism

Symptoms of Depression


  • Sadness
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Social withdrawal
  • Early morning insomnia
  • Hopelessness and helplessness
  • Irritability
  • Negative memory biases
  • Poor concentration
  • Flat affect
  • Appetite changes


Risk Factors

  • Temperament Sensitivity
  • Threat-Focused Attention
  • Traumatic Life Events

Protective Factors

  • Attachment/Affection
  • Cognitive style
  • Family/Friends
  • Sleep/Exercise/Diet
  • School

Resilience = to spring back, or rebound. Or the ability to overcome adversity; achieving good outcomes regardless of life events or circumstances. 


  • Developed by Dr Paula Barrett (
  • 12 week course to be delivered once a week for 30 minutes in the classroom as a school based universal prevention program
  • Designed specifically for 4-7 year olds, positive, play-based program that focuses on increasing social-emotional competence and wellness
  • Effective in decreasing anxiety and behavioural inhibition.
  • Matches Alberta Curricula
  • Gives students skills to resolve conflict and teaches empathy to reduce bullying
  • Actively involves children, parents and teachers and teaches them practical, strategies for coping with stress, worry, fear and sadness.
    • Empathy and kindness toward others
    • Friendship and pro-social skills
    • Cognitive problem-solving skills
    • Being brave and facing feared situations
    • Behaving assertively
    • Identifying emotions in self and others
    • Relaxation and self-soothing
    • Self-regulation


  • 12 week course to be delivered once a week for 1 to 1 ½ hours in the classroom
  • Appropriate for ages 7-11
  • Matches Alberta curricula
  • Skills from the FRIENDS program are vital for 21st century learners.
  • Gives students skills to resolve conflict, and teaches empathy to reduce bullying.
    • Be a friend to ourselves and others
    • Recognize signs of anxiety
    • Positively manage our emotions
    • Demonstrate empathy for others
    • Use relaxation to calm down
    • Use positive, helpful self-talk
    • Change unhelpful to helpful thoughts
    • Solve problems
    • Look for the positive in situations
    • Build support teams

(CBT) forms the theoretical basis for the FRIENDS program. Cognitive behaviour theory focuses on thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

CBT provides strategies and skills that can be taught to help people feel better. The theory is that thoughts drive feelings, which drive behaviours, which then impact thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Attentional biases – anxious people tend to focus their attention on the negative aspects of a situation. Another cognitive feature of anxiety is negative memory bias – this refers to only remembering the bad things that happened in a situation.  An anxious child might at the end of the day dwell on the fact that the teacher yelled at them rather than other more positive parts of their day. 

Home Activities

Home activities are included at the end of each FRIENDS session. These are to help the students practice and show family skills learned. It also helps transfer skills to different contexts.

Parent Sessions

A 1.5-2 hour parent workshop is provided before the program begins. Parent involvement increases likelihood that children will maintain the resilience and coping strategies learned. It also builds awareness and helps the students to change habits with support from their parents.

  • Send summary sheets (tips for parents) home after each session
  • Invite parents to observe program sessions
  • Invite parents to a special classroom event featuring the student’s art, songs, games, puppet shows.
  • Send home a recommended book list that supports and reinforces the program concepts 


We know that anxiety creates distress for children and families.


Many of these families are not getting the help they need


We know strategies that can help

It is important that we teach these strategies to prevent disorders and other mental health problems.

These strategies enhance learning and social-emotional skills, help meet the needs of all learners, and build the skills required to be a successful 21st Century Learner


Most of this material is based on information gathered from the following SEL resources.


11 Highly Effective Teaching Principles in Reading- A Guest Post by Registered Psychologist Anne Glasgow

11 Highly Effective Teaching Principles in  Reading

The following article is a summary of: Understanding, Assessing and Intervening on Reading Problems by Laurice M. Joseph. PHD..A NASP Publication

Building on Schema and Prerequisite Skills

  • Involves activating students’ prior knowledge to guide their learning and ease their way in reading new content and learning new skills.
  • Prior knowledge could be acquired from their experiences at home, in their communities, or on a trip they took.
  • Teachers observe that children often forget previously learned words when new words are learned. Therefore previously learned words must be reviewed frequently.

Conducting Task Analysis

  • Involves ordering reading skills in terms of a step-by step progression for completing a task.
  • Don’t assume the student has learned the basic skills.  i.e. grade 3 teachers often assume the student has learned consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) sounds in words such as cup, dip, whereas in fact they have not because of lack of appropriate instruction or opportunities to practice these skills.

Using Explicit and Direct Instruction

  • Means clearly describing the skill that is being taught and teaching it as described.
  • Teachers need to teach skills directly, both simple and complex tasks such as reading comprehension.
  • Students then know what they are expected to learn and how they are expected to perform.

Demonstrating and Modeling Skills

  • Modeling is performing an action or exhibiting a behavior for others to imitate; demonstrating is describing or explaining an action or behavior when it is being performed.
  • Children tend to do what they have observed.
  • Children listen to the teacher while following along in a book.
  • Teacher demonstrates what she/he is doing while reading, i.e. I’m turning the page, I’m reading the first line from left to write then going to the second line starting at the left. Demonstrates sounding out words…c…a….t.

Actively Engaging Children and Providing Opportunities to Respond

  • Just allocating time for reading is not enough. Providing students with several opportunities to respond, such as oral storybook reading, receiving feedback from an instructor while reading, performing the reading skill after feedback and self-monitoring reading skill performance will promoting active engagement.

Providing Repeated Exposure to and Practice Reading

  • Repeated practice of reading the same word or passage leads to reading mastery.
  • Children with special needs such as those with cognitive delays or learning disabilities need more exposures and more opportunities to read than do children who are developing reading skills at a typical rate.

Giving Positive Reinforcement and Shaping Successful Reading

  • Positive reinforcers can be delivered in successive approximations as a way to shape reading accurately and quickly.

Giving Feedback

  • Feedback allows students to regulate the reading behaviors are performance.
  • Feedback can come in the form of verbal praise for successful performance or for efforts to successful performance. Feedback can also be in the form of correcting a mistake or error in this is called corrective feedback. For example when the child says the word can for Kane, the teacher may provide corrective feedback by saying “That word is Kane because it has an E at the end of the word.”
  • Feedback can be immediate which is right after children are reading the passage or it can be delayed after the child reads the entire passage and then the words that were incorrectly read are corrected. Some research has revealed that immediate corrective feedback is more effective for helping students improve their reading performance.
  • Children can be encouraged to check their own reading performance if passages or words are pre-recorded on tape or on some technical device and they can check their reading against the recorded version. Corrective feedback in general has been proven to be effective.

Scaffolding Skills

  • Scaffolding reading behaviors means providing the necessary supports and gradually removing the supports as children exhibit reading behaviors independently.
  • Scaffolding can include providing prompts guided practice, giving feedback, providing supportive materials, demonstrating, modeling, and shaping through reinforcement for successive approximations.
  • The teacher who provides scaffolded assistance may not supply the correct reading of the word when an error is made but instead may provide a prompt, such as “examine the word carefully and tell me what sounded begins with….,” or use analogies to help students read words, such as “This word sounds a lot like… “
  • Scaffolding or guided practice can be embedded within the instructional materials themselves, such as when vowels are written in boldface print to teach children to read vowel sounds.

Teaching to Mastery

  • Effective teachers teach to mastery just as a coach trains his players to win. Teaching reading skills to mastery means teaching until children read at a proficient level. Proficient means reading effortlessly and fluently and gaining meaning from the content.

Promoting Generalization of Skills

  • Providing the children with opportunities to perform the same reading skills in multiple contexts.
  • Educators can promote generalization of skills by creating activities that require children to perform the same reading skill in multiple contexts. For instance, educators want children to read words in isolation as well as in the passage of the story. Children must know how to read a particular word in an out of context.
  • Over learning not only leads to maintaining reading skills but also facilitates generalization of reading skills.

Example of a Teacher Ron to Read Using the 11 Highly Effective Principles in Teaching Reading

The teacher checked out the book from the school library because she was interested in finding a book written at Ron’s instructional reading level. She also wanted one that he would be highly interested in, and she discovered after talking to Ron that he plays baseball and watches the game on television. The story was about a baseball player. Before Ron was asked to read a story on his own, he listened and followed along in his book as Mrs. Yoder, his teacher read the story. Mrs. Yoder demonstrated the use of word decoding strategies as she encountered newly introduced vocabulary concepts in the text. She then provided a tape-recorded reading of the book and asked Ron to listen to the model on the tape while he fallowed along in his book.

Afterward, Ron read the story orally to Mrs. Yoder. She supported (scaffolded) Ron’s attempts to read the story by promoting him to use word analysis strategies when he encountered words that were unknown to him. If Ron did not read a word or read a word incorrectly, Mrs. Yoder provided the correct reading of the word. She also printed all the words Ron had read both incorrectly and correctly on flashcards or index cards. While Ron was reading the story, Mrs. Yoder offered frequent verbal praise for words read correctly and for efforts made to read words accurately. After Ron finished reading the story, Mrs. Yoder and Ron played a “Go Fish “game that required Ron to read the words on the cards in order to find a match from Mrs. Yoder or from the deck of cards with the words printed on them. Then Mrs. Yoder and Ron played a game of “Hangman” using the words. Once the games were completed, Mrs. Yoder asked a peer to drill Ron on reading the words using flashcards. Ron was then asked to read the passage again, and the process was repeated until he read the story with 100 percent accuracy on two consecutive trials. Ron charted his accuracy level daily. Once he mastered the story, he was able to choose from a selection of privileges, such as extra break period.


Kids and Sexuality- A Guest Post by Amelie Doucet, Registered Psychologist

Many people believe that there is a dramatic sexual awakening during puberty.  Yes, hormones do surge and bodies will change during adolescence.  However, human sexuality is a gradual process that begins in childhood.  As children grow, their sexual knowledge and beliefs begin to develop long before they hit puberty.  The best way to handle sexuality is to provide accurate, age-appropriate information in a safe environment.  Ideally, many of these conversations will happen at home between parents and their children.

But what happens when sexual behaviour and questions come up at school?  The following information is intended to help answer some of these questions and provide some resources that school staff can pass on to parents.

What is normal sexual behaviour?

Many children demonstrate a wide range of sexual behaviour before they reach puberty.   In typically developing children, sexual behaviour and curiosity should be balanced with curiosity about other aspects of life.  In other words, questions and behaviour related to sexuality should not consume most of the child’s time.  Some examples of typical sexual behaviour in children are as follows[1]:

 Preschool Children (less than 4 years)

  • Exploring and touching private parts, in public and in private
  • Rubbing private parts (with hand or against objects)
  • Showing private parts to others
  • Trying to touch mother’s or other women’s breasts
  • Removing clothes and wanting to be naked
  • Attempting to see other people when they are naked or undressing (such as in the bathroom)
  • Asking questions about their own and others’ bodies and bodily functions
  • Talking to children their own age about bodily functions such as “poop” and “pee”

Young Children (approximately 4-6 years)

  • Purposefully touching private parts (masturbation), occasionally in the presence of others
  • Attempting to see other people when they are naked or undressing
  • Mimicking dating behavior (such as kissing, or holding hands)
  • Talking about private parts and using “naughty” words, even when they don’t understand the meaning
  • Exploring private parts with children their own age (such as “playing doctor”, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” etc.)

School-Aged Children (approximately 7-12 years)

  • Purposefully touching private parts (masturbation), usually in private
  • Playing games with children their own age that involve sexual behavior (such as “truth or dare”, “playing family,” or “boyfriend/girlfriend”)
  • Attempting to see other people naked or undressing
  • Looking at pictures of naked or partially naked people
  • Viewing/listening to sexual content in media (television, movies, games, the Internet, music, etc.)
  • Wanting more privacy (for example, not wanting to undress in front of other people) and being reluctant to talk to adults about sexual issues
  • Beginnings of sexual attraction or interest in peers

Simple information about child sexual development can be found on the National Traumatic Stress Network website on the following information sheet:

Often, when children participate in sexual behaviour or talk, it means they need more information.   The handout above provides information for parents about “what to teach and when.”   Parents and teachers should not roll-out all of the information in one, grand speech.  Rather, it should be an on-going dialogue.  The situation and the child’s questions should guide the conversation.  Age-appropriate safety information should also be conveyed in these conversations.

What do I do if I see “normal” sexual behaviour?

School staff are usually quite accustomed to correcting the myriad of behavioural issues that come up at school on a daily basis.  However, when the behaviour is related to sexuality, embarrassment or anxiety may interfere with the adults’ ability to respond appropriately.  Adults are often caught off-guard by the openness and curiosity of children in relation to sexuality.

Just because a behaviour is considered “normal,” does not mean that it is appropriate at school.  When children are “caught” exhibiting sexual behaviour, there are a few important things to keep in mind.  Although it may feel uncomfortable to the adults, talking about sex is a good opportunity to teach children about boundaries and important distinctions (e.g., private versus public behaviour).  Similar to any other inappropriate behaviour, it is important to be calm and firm.  Here are some suggestions for dealing with “normal” sexual behaviour:

  • Speak in a direct, matter of fact way with an even tone of voice.  Be careful to avoid shaming, blaming or becoming angry at the student.
  • If more than one student involved, it may be appropriate to speak with each student separately.
  • Ask open-ended questions if you are unsure what happened (e.g., “What happened?” “Who was involved?”  “What was happening before I saw you?” “How do you feel about what happened?” “How did you learn about that?”).
  • Pay special attention to each student’s emotional state.
  • Describe the specific behavior that is cause for concern (e.g., “I saw you pull down your pants and show your penis.”).
  • Communicate your concern about the specific behaviour and how it makes other people feel (e.g., “When you show your penis, it makes other people feel uncomfortable.”).
  • Talk to the student about private versus public behaviour (“Pulling down your pants is something that you do in private.”).
  • Document the incident.
  • Tell appropriate school administration.
  • Inform parents so they can have a private conversation with their child.  Convey that the behaviour is not a cause for concern (if you feel that the behaviour was developmentally appropriate).  It may be helpful to direct them to information about sexuality in children.

Sometimes “normal” sexual behaviour involves more than one child.  It is important to note that the behaviours are considered normal if:

The activity is developmentally appropriate (their knowledge and behaviour should reflect what most children know at their age).

  • The activity is mutual or voluntary.
  • The children know each other.
  • The activity is spontaneous and unplanned.
  • The activity is easily diverted.
  • The children do not seem anxious or upset (they may be embarrassed).

It is important to note that the response procedure may differ depending on the school and the age of the children.

The British Columbia Ministry of Education has created a document to help school respond to specific situations.  It may be helpful in developing a response plan:

When should I be concerned?

 Normal sexual behaviours do not typically continue in public if they are clearly addressed and corrected.  Deficits in understanding and/or impulse control may make it more difficult for children with disabilities to correct their behaviour.  For example, some students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cognitive Disabilities and Attention-Deficit /Hyperactivity Disorder may have more difficulty.

 Sexual behaviours are always cause for concern when the student does not respond to adult correction or there are complaints from other students.  Concerning behaviours often include some of the following characteristics:[2]

  • It is a behaviour that is beyond the child’s developmental stage.
  • It is a behaviour that involves threats, force or aggression.
  • It involves inappropriate or harmful use of sexual body parts (e.g., inserting objects).
  • It involves two children of widely different ages or abilities (e.g., one child has a cognitive or learning disability).
  • It provokes emotional reactions in the child (e.g., anger, anxiety).
  • It interferes with typical childhood interests and activities.

These situations should always be addressed by meeting with parents and members of the school team.  The learning support team (e.g., School Psychologist, Family School Liaison) should also be consulted.  In addition, professionals outside of the school board may be involved.  Planning should consider the physical and emotional safety of the student, as well as other students and staff.

Problematic sexual behaviour is not limited to any particular background or group of children.  Concerns can occur regardless of age, sexual orientation, culture and living circumstances.  Some children who have sexual problem behaviours have abuse histories, while others do not.

When should I contact Child and Family Services?

It is our responsibility as adults to contact Child and Family Services when we think that a child has been harmed or is likely to be harmed.  Generally speaking, “harm” includes situations where there might be abuse or neglect.  It is always important to use your judgement and speak with colleagues if you are unsure.  Please feel free to consult with your school administration and your learning support team when these concerns arise.  Child and Family Services should be contacted if you feel that a child’s problem sexual behaviour may indicate that the child needs protection.  You should also contact child and family services if you suspect that other children (e.g., in the home or neighbourhood) may be at risk of being sexually mistreated by the student with the problem sexual behaviours.

[1] This information was provided by the Child Abuse Committee of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network in partnership with the National Centre on Sexual Behaviour in Youth (April 2009).

[2]  This information was provided by the Child Abuse Committee of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network in partnership with the National Centre on Sexual Behaviour in Youth (April 2009).


Sleep, Your Child and Learning

Sleep is a vital function for life. Without adequate sleep, children learn less, are more accident prone, and more irritable. Inadequate sleep is also linked with lower immune functioning and higher rates of illness. Many school problems are related to inadequate amounts of high-quality sleep. Sleep is when learning is consolidated into long-term memory, so without adequate sleep learning is compromised. Sleep also has restorative and repairing functions for your body. Some other ways children benefit from sleep include:

  • Improved sports performance
  • Improved academic performance
  • Helping control body weight
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved concentration
  • Reduced chance of developing diabetes

School-age children often resist going to sleep, delaying bedtime as long as they can. Being consistent about bedtime is vital to help ensure your child is alert, happy, and ready to learn.

Sleep is divided into two types: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep (NREM). NREM sleep consists of several stages, from drowsiness through deep sleep. In the early stages (Stages 1 and 2) your child can wake easily and may not realize that you have been sleeping. However, during deeper sleep stages (3 and 4) it is very hard for your child to wake up. If you do wake your child they will be confused and disoriented. In NREM sleep your muscles are more relaxed than when you are awake.

REM sleep is much more active, and is essential for converting experiences into long-term memory. Breathing and heart rate change quickly, your child’s eyes move rapidly under their eyelids, and control of their body temperature is limited- they do not sweat or shiver if it is too hot or too cold. Nerve impulses from your brain are blocked at their neck, temporarily paralyzing their bodies. REM sleep is where they dream.

Individual sleep needs vary. Kindergarten age children need about 11 hours of sleep each night, decreasing to 9 hours by Middle and High School. The most important indicator of a child getting enough sleep is if they wake feeling refreshed. If a child is hard to wake in the morning, it’s a pretty good indication that they aren’t getting enough sleep.

Young Children

For kindergarten and lower elementary children, the bedtime routine should be short- about 30 minutes. This included bath, teeth, story, a goodnight kiss, then lights out. Any longer than this means that your child is delaying sleep, and likely won’t get an adequate amount.

Many children who are sleepy or tired act exactly the opposite. Some overtired children appear completely wired. Overtired children are often impulsive and moody. If you think your child is overtired, move the bedtime back by 15 minutes each week until they are waking refreshed. Chances are, your child will protest at this earlier bedtime. However, parents are the ones who set bedtimes, not children. Pick this battle. Be prepared to die on the hill of earlier bedtimes. The long-term benefits of adequate sleep far outweigh the short-term pain of a few nights of tears and tantrums.

Tips for young children:

  • Establish a regular bed time and don’t vary from it
  • Use a relaxing routine at bedtime , try a warm bath, and always read a story.
  • No food/drinks with caffeine six hours before bedtime.
  • Make after-dinner playtime a relaxing time as too much activity close to bedtime can keep children awake.
  • No screens on,  or music playing while your child is going to sleep. White noise, like a fan might be helpful though.
  • Make sure the temperature in the bedroom is comfortable and dark- tin foil on windows can help darken a room.
  • Limit noise in the house.


Very few teenagers get 9 hours of sleep during the school year and are constantly in sleep debt. With the hormones of puberty comes a sleep phase delay that means teens fall asleep later and wake later. Compounding this, overtired teens often feel more alert in the evening, thus making it more difficult to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Teen sleep debt can cause a variety of problems, including irritability, impulse control, attention problems, and perhaps most immediately worrying, these problems are associated with a higher risk of car accidents. Sleep disturbances or deprivation shows up in school as excessive sleepiness, lateness, academic and behavior problems, inattention, irritability, hyperactivity, and impulse control problems.

Sleep Debt: refers to the effect of not getting enough sleep night after night. For each hour of sleep missed one night, the effects add up each night, increasing the harmful effects of lack of sleep. If your child stays up late one night, they need to make up at least most of the sleep debt the next night by going to bed earlier to “pay off” their sleep debt.

The correct amount of high-quality sleep is one of the single most important things you can do to ensure your child is ready for learning. Establish a healthy sleep routine that ensures your child wakes refreshed each day.

Tips for Teens:

  • Exercise everyday, early in the day
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Create a good sleep environment
  • Use your bed for sleeping only
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs,and cigarettes
  • Put your electronics to sleep an hour before bed
  • Store and charge your electronics in your parent’s bedroom

Sleep tips for elementary age children

An excellent website for child sleep information

Sleep tips for teens

A short Mayo clinic video on teens and sleep

Psychology Today’s resources on sleep

Common sleep problems in Elementary and Middle School

Night terrors are very common in children. They normally occur as a child moves from a deep sleep into a lighter sleep phase (something that happens several times a night). Most children experience night terrors between 4-12 years old. Night Terrors can take on a variety of forms such as  when your sleeping child screams like they have just been bitten by a zombie. Some children will sit up in bed, and open their eyes as if looking right through you. After a little while they will lie back down and go from this light sleep state into a deep sleep state. Rarely, children will seem panicked, and will try and leave the house. Waking them doesn’t really help, guiding them back to bed works best, and chances are they won’t even remember it in the morning. In general, night terrors aren’t a big deal, although it can sure seem like it at the time.

Sleep Walking is also fairly typical in 8–12 year-olds. Generally, a child will sit up in bed with their eyes open, but still asleep- seeming to look right through you, or may walk around the house, even carrying out activities such as brushing their teeth. They may talk, but don’t normally respond intelligibly if you talk to them. Children normally outgrow sleepwalking by age 14. Safety and injury prevention is the most important thing with regards to a sleepwalking child. If you have a sleepwalker, keep doors and windows closed. Using the baby gate for across the stairs may help. The Canadian Sleep Society suggests a bell on your child’s door to so you can hear if they leave their room sleepwalking.

Bed Wetting: 1 in 20 ten year old children wet the bed. Bedwetting is thought to be due to developmental lag in neural systems that control feeling to the bladder. Bedwetting isn’t really physically harmful, although it can have pretty significant impact on self-esteem, and may limit social contact with friends- children often don’t want to go on sleepovers or overnight trips for example. Normally children grow out of bedwetting. There are also various methods of training children to become more aware of bladder sensations that may be effective. If a child who has been dry at night for a period of time starts to wet the bed, it may be due to a bladder infection.

Nightmares: Nearly all students have nightmares once in a while. Frequent nightmares are uncommon between ages seven and eleven. Frequent nightmares are usually due to emotional issues. If a child is having frequent nightmares, the best solution is to address the emotional issues during the day (not at bedtime). Crying and calling out happen after the nightmare when the child wakes. It is best to provide attention and support quickly. Children need reassurance- they are often very frightened. Show that you, not the nightmare are in control.

Sleep-Onset Anxiety is a difficulty falling asleep due to large worries or fears. It is often caused by worrying about normal things that happened during the day, or due to emotional trauma. Sleep-onset anxiety is mostly seen in older elementary students. Strategies include calming bedtime routines, reassurance, or in extreme cases cognitive behavioural therapy.

Delayed Sleep-Phase  is a problem with sleep rhythms that leads to problems falling asleep at an appropriate time. This leads to difficulty waking in the morning. Such delayed onset leads to trouble waking, sleeping through the day, excessive daytime sleepiness, truancy and lateness, and of course, poor performance in school. Treatment can include gradually moving the child’s sleep routine an hour or so each evening until a better routine is reached, and maintaining good sleep hygiene including a consistent sleep schedule.

If you have concerns about your child’s sleep, a discussion with your family doctor is the best place to start.


Study Skills- Metacognitive Strategy Instruction

 Deliberately teaching metacognitive skills, or “thinking about thinking” can enhance a child’s ability to learn in all subject areas. Metacognition refers to a level of thinking that involves active control over the process of thinking that is used in learning situations. Planning the way to approach a learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating the progress towards the completion of a task: these skills are metacognitive in nature. Similarly, maintaining motivation to see a task to completion is also a metacognitive skill.

The more students are aware of their thinking processes as they learn, the more they can control goals, dispositions, and attention. Self-awareness promotes self-regulation. If students are aware of how committed they are to reaching goals, of how strong their disposition to persist, and of how focused is their attention to a thinking or writing task, they can regulate their commitment, disposition, and attention.

How to Teach Metacognitive Skills

  1. Preparation: Explain the importance of metacognitive learning strategies. Guide students to set specific goals for the task. Help students plan their time in order to accomplish the task.
  2. Presentation: Model the learning strategy. Talk about the usefulness and applications of the strategy explicitly. Develop a menu of strategies for many possible tasks. Illustrate your strategy use through a reading task with “unknown” vocabulary words. Teach the strategies to use (one at a time). Give instruction on how to use these strategies. Remind that no single strategy will work in every case.
  3.  Give students opportunities to practice the learning strategies with an authentic learning task. Ask the students to make a conscious effort using the metacognitive strategies while reading.
  4.  Evaluation: Give students opportunities to evaluate their own success in using learning strategies. Activities used to develop students self-evaluation can include self questioning, debriefing discussions after strategies practice, and checklists of strategies used.

 Modelling Metacognitive Strategies

Teachers can raise the level of metacognitive thought in their classrooms by modeling the processes themselves. Such processes include:

  • Thinking aloud when solving problems.
  • Mirroring student ideas back to them.
  • Rephrasing student ideas to include thinking words (planning, strategy, steps to be taken).
  • Clarifying responses and questions.
  • Having students include the “how they did it” as part of larger assignments.

 Think out Loud to Model Metacognitive Strategies

“Let’s see. I have five 1s in the ones column and one 10 in the tens column. I need to take away eight 1s from the ones column, but I don’t have enough. So now what do I do? I can’t do it with the ones, so now what? What do I know about the tens column? That one 10 is the same as ten 1s. So, if I take the one 10 and break it into its ten 1s and put them into the ones column, then I can take away eight. Now, is my answer reasonable? I will check it by adding the eight I took away and the seven that were left. 7 + 8 = 15!”

 General Metacognitive Strategies for Students

Teach students how to:

  1. Plan the way to approach a learning task “What do I have to do and how will I do it?”
  2. Identify: Students need to make conscious decisions about their knowledge. Guide students to list “What I already know about…” and “What I want to learn about….” As students learn, they will verify, and clarify, or replace with more accurate information, each of their initial statements.
  3.  Monitor their own comprehension “Did I understand ALL of that?” “Do I need more information?”
  4. Evaluate and debrief their progress “Have I done everything I need to…” Conduct closure activities that show how strategies can be applied to other situations. One such activity is guided self-evaluation, which can be introduced through individual conferences and checklists about thinking processes.
  5. Maintain motivation to complete a task. The ability to become aware of distractions and sustain effort over time also involves metacognitive functions. Teach skills such as covering your ears while you read to screen distractions, finishing the math problem before looking up from the worksheet. Break work into chunks, etc.

 Teach text-noting tactics:

  • Highlighting, underlining, circling, copying key words, phrases or sentences, outlining, diagramming.
  • Listing ideas: causes, effects, characteristics, etc.
  • Calling attention to confusion with a “?” in the margin.

 Teach mental learning tactics:

  • Rote learning of specific information.
  • Visualizing information.
  • Self-questioning and self-testing.
  • Mnemonics, chunking information, cognitive rehearsal.
  • Use personal strengths to better understand the content. If I am a good reader, I focus on the text; if I am good at figures and diagrams, I focus on those.
  • Inferring meaning: While learning, try to determine the meaning of unknown words that seem critical to the meaning of the content. (Ask for clarification, get a dictionary, use the context, or analyze the word).
  • While learning, consider and revise background knowledge about the topic. Try to link it to prior knowledge.
  • Distinguish between information that is already known and new information.
  • Note how hard or easy a text is to read and use extra time or effort to learn harder material.

 Reading Comprehension Metacognitive Strategies for Students

 Successful comprehension depends on directed cognitive effort. Students must purposefully invoke strategies, and do so to regulate and enhance learning from text.

Teach children to:

  1. Plan their reading: You may need to provide structure to start with.
  2. Students should read the table of contents first to help understand what the text is about and set the scene.
  3. Connect the current topic to prior knowledge. “An owl is a predator, like when we talked about lions being predators too.”
  4. Use Previewing, Predicting, and Vocabulary Study.
  5. Previewing text mentally prepares a student to receive information from written material. Discussion for fiction should center on whether the students think the story will be realistic fiction or fantasy and why, who the characters may be and how they will interact, what the problem in the story may be, etc. By focusing on story structure teachers give students a framework on which to place information from the text. Discussion of non-fiction should center on what students already know about a topic, what they would like to know; the structure of the book or article; and what information may be included.
    1. Set Reading Goals Use the preview discussions to help students generate questions about what they want to find out from the text. For fiction, these questions will be centered on story structure, such as the characters and their goals and problems; for non-fiction, questions will focus on what students would like to learn about a topic. For both, chapter titles or subtitles may be rephrased as questions to help students set their goals for reading.
    2. Study Essential Vocabulary Words. Choose vocabulary words that are not easily understood within the text, but are essential to its understanding. Discuss the words in terms of their meaning. Link these words to prior knowledge the students may have about them, and decoding and word structure.
    3. Predict and Verify From the Text. Do this repeatedly before and during reading. Text is broken into chunks. For each section readers predict what will be in it, based on what has occurred before, and then read to verify their prediction, and then predict again.


 Teach general reading tactics

  1. Skimming a text to get a general understanding or to look for words students don’t understand can be a useful first step.
  2. Reading the text at normal speed.
  3. Slower reading often enhances comprehension as does re-reading selected text.

Math Metacognitive Strategies for Students

Teach the Mnemonic DRAW

    • Discover the sign.
    • Read the problem.
    • Answer the problem using lines and tallies or on scratch paper.
    • Write the answer.
  •  Add by counting on from the first addend or the larger addend.
  •  Use mnemonics.
  • Understand that two times any number will be even or that five times any number will always end in a zero or a 5.
  •  Use a finger strategy for multiplying numbers less than 10 by 9.
  •  Manipulatives are an excellent way for students to develop self-verbalizing learning strategies. Students should be encouraged to talk their way through each problem using manipulatives.
  •  Construct relationships between the new process and what they already knew.

Ask questions about math problems.

  • Comprehension questions (e.g., What is this problem all about?)
  • Connection questions (e.g., How is this problem different from/ similar to problems that have already been solved?)
  • Strategy questions (e.g., What strategies are appropriate for solving this problem and why?)
  • Reflection questions (e.g., does this make sense? why am I stuck?)

Taking the time to deliberately teach metacognitive strategies can improve student learning. Giving students the ability to think about their thinking, and be aware of their learning goals promotes a more authentic learning environment. If you are new to deliberately teaching metacognitive skills, the lists above would be a great place to start.


Parent Engagement and Difficult Conversations

Students, parents, and teachers benefit in multiple ways when parents are effectively engaged with their child’s schooling. However, some interactions between parents and educators can actually create more problems than they can solve. For example, a teacher seeking a parent’s help for a behaviour problem may not recognize the criticism implied when the teacher asks if there is anything wrong at home. Differing perspectives often create miscommunication and can hurt feelings. Developing a collaborative relationship to find and implement solutions to problems can help prevent miscommunication. A collaborative relationship means one that includes mutual trust and respect, bidirectional communication, sensitivity to the other’s needs, and demonstration of a commitment to the student.

Bringing Up Sensitive Topics With Parents

One of the most common sensitive topics for parents and teachers is regarding referrals for extra supports such as Family Support Liaison Workers, Psychologists, the Mental Health team etc. We don’t want referrals for extra services to be a surprise to parents. Therefore, it is important that, in partnership with the parents, teachers have had problem-solving conversations regarding the issues that have lead to the referral prior to the conversation about the referral.

If there are areas of concern, ensure that parents have been told about these immediately after they occur, so there are no surprises when you meet to discuss these concerns with them. Communicating frequently, honestly and openly develops trust and builds collaboration.

Here’s an example:

“Denise didn’t hand in those last two assignments. Do you have any insight as to why she wasn’t able to complete the work? This doesn’t seem like her.”

Followed by:

“As you know, Denise’s schoolwork has been slipping recently. She hasn’t handed in the last three assignments. She seems quite teary in class, and has been going to the bathroom a lot. One of her friends mentioned that she is worried about her. I am trying to figure out what I need to do differently. I’m wondering if we can problem-solve to figure out what is going on for Denise so we can get her back up to her normal standard of work.”

The next step might be:

“So I have implemented the strategies we discussed last time, but Denise continues to struggle. I’m worried that this is a sign of something bigger. One of her friends mentioned that she might be cutting herself. She seems REALLY sad. I feel like getting some expert advice would really help me out to get her back on track. What do you think about getting Denise some extra support by having her seen by our school Mental Health Therapist?  We both want Denise to be as successful as possible and I think that we would really benefit from the Mental Health Therapist’s input on strategies that will help get Denise back on track.”

If you feel that this would be a difficult conversation to have with the family, or you feel uncomfortable discussing mental health concerns, please call your school’s psychologist. They will be able to coach you on ways to make such a conversation as successful as possible.

Tips for Maximizing Parent Collaboration in Uncomfortable Conversations:

  1. Use “I” statements to take responsibility for solving the problem. “I would like to seek expert help, because I am not sure what to do next. Using “I” statements like this limits possible misunderstandings that you are blaming the parent. Enlist the parents help with “We/Us” statements. “Can we work together to figure out a plan for Denise?”
  1. The parent is the expert on their child. Ask for their advice. “You are the real expert on Timmy here, what do you think needs to happen to make him more successful?” Parent engagement is maximized when educators ask them for information.
  1. Use empathic techniques to maximize engagement:
    1. Paraphrase what the parent has said to you. “So just to make sure I got that, Timmy has said to you that he is being bullied on the playground, and you think that this has made him reluctant to come to school. OK, I will check that out”.
    2. Acknowledge the feelings the parent has communicated to you. “I would guess that you are feeling concerned with Timmy’s lack of progress and angry that nothing has worked. Is that right?”
    3. Agree with the parent where you can, we are trying to forge a collaborative relationship. “I agree that Timmy has been sadder at school recently.
    4. Find points of common emotional understanding. “I’m worried about his reading too.”
    5. Ask how the parent has been experiencing the issue. “Do you see this at home? Or is this just a school thing?”
    6. Remind the parent that they are an important part of the collaboration. “What you said is really important.” “Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with me, I think I have more information about some next steps for Timmy now”.
  2. Use a strength-based approach when discussing the student’s abilities and skills.
  3. Use matter or fact language when describing behaviours. Describe what was observed. “On Wednesday morning Timmy threw a chair that hit Judy” rather than “Timmy is violent and dangerous”.
  4. Prior to meeting with the parents, let them know what the agenda is going to be. Parents need to be prepared for discussions as well. Ask parents if they have any items or concerns they wish to discuss.
  5. If you take notes during the meeting it can be helpful to inform the parent(s) that you would like to take notes and the purpose of these notes.  It is also important to offer to provide a copy of the notes to the parents afterwards to ensure that everybody has the same understanding of the meeting. If a parent is invited to a meeting and all professionals are taking notes on their laptops, it is important to think about how this maybe perceived by the parent and how it may impact the development of trust and engagement . It is helpful to ensure that the laptop is not positioned directly between ourselves and the parent(s) – positioning it off to the side allowing for no barriers between ourselves and the parents creates a more open and inviting exchange.

Communication Skills For Engaging Parents

Skill Description Examples
Attending to nonverbal communication

· Increase your awareness of body language, tone, etc.

· Notice nonverbal communication of all the participants, including your own.

· “I noticed you were wringing your hands.  I’m wondering if you are uncomfortable with what I just said.”

· “I’m worried that I might be talking too fast and I feel like I may have interrupted you.  What more did you want to say?”

Listening to understand and reflect

· Be quiet and listen.

· Avoid giving your personal experience or opinion.

· Offer an empathic response.

· “It sounds like you’re pretty upset over what happened on the playground with Bill.”

· “You seem really worried about David.  Tell me more about what you are seeing with his reading.”

Modeling the collaborative role

· Resist the role of expert; ask for others’ input before giving your ideas.

· Avoid labeling, jargon, laundry lists, etc.

· Use effective questioning to elicit ideas from others.

· “Were there any other ideas that you had for helping Jane with her schoolwork?”

· “Sometimes I find it hard to get him interested in class projects.  What have you found at home that really sparks his interest?”

Searching for strengths and positive qualities

· When listening, identify strengths of the speaker.

· When talking, emphasize the positive; highlight the parent’s contributions.

· “He knows 24 of the 26 letters of the alphabet by heart.  You have spent a lot of time helping him learn them.”

· “I can see that you have worked very hard to help Johnny be so respectful.”


· Reconstruct a negative statement to have a positive meaning.

· “Johnny is very energetic” instead of “Johnny is very hyperactive.”

· “Jane really likes to be in charge rather than “Jane is very controlling.”

Delivering negative information

· Limit the amount of negative information delivered at any one time.

· Be calm and communicate openness to other views.

· Be brief; ask for a reaction after a few sentences.

· “Jane seems to have a hard time getting started with her work, especially if it is math.  Have you noticed that yourself?”

· “Johnny has some trouble getting along with his classmates in the lunchroom and he sometimes gets into fights with other boys.  What are your thoughts about that?”

Receiving negative information

· Actively listen and try to understand the main concern and speaker’s goal.

· Reflect both content and emotion.

· Do not defend yourself.

· “I can see that you are really upset about Johnny’s math grades, and you think that he has been unfairly treated.”

· “It sounds like you are angry about what happened on the playground.  Tell me more about what happened.”

Blocking blame

· Use strategies to stop participants from blaming.

· Validate other viewpoints.

· Refocus the discussion.

· Summarize.

· “I can see where constant questioning would distract you from your other responsibilities.”

· “Here’s what  I think everyone has agreed on so far.  Where can we go from here?”

From: Minke & Anderson 2011

  Further Reading on Engaging Parents

A great resource for learning more about parent collaboration from Alberta Education with video examples.

Communicating with Parents: Strategies for Teachers

Family School Collaboration


Attention and the Classroom

Attention Difficulties in the Classroom

Here’s a summary of Thomas and Grimes’ 1995 chapter on Attention Difficulties:

Students with attention disorders without hyperactivity often fail to finish tasks, they are easily distracted, they have difficulty listening, concentrating, and organizing their work, they require supervision to accomplish tasks, and they frequently shift activities. Students with attention disorders with hyperactivity display these same characteristics. They are also described as having difficulty remaining seated, exhibiting excessive fidgeting, frequently calling out in class, being always on the go, and often acting without thinking.

Although children with ADHD are commonly considered to have problems paying attention, for the purposes of developing effective interventions, it may be more useful to think of the disorder, as Barkley (1990) has suggested, as a biologically based “motivational deficit.” Children with attention disorders appear to be insensitive to normal behavioural consequences, either positive or negative. Thus, the typical responses to behaviour in school, such as praise, reprimands, or test grades, tend to be ineffective in shaping behaviours of children with attention disorders. Viewing attention disorders in this light helps resolve some of the seeming inconsistencies these children display. Parents and teachers often comment, “But he has no trouble paying attention to things he enjoys!” (E.g., video games). They also note that the quality of work these children produce in school can sometimes be exceptional, leading them to wonder why such children cannot produce work of high quality all the time. A motivational deficit hypothesis would suggest that many of the problems these students encounter in school (and at home) occur because they have an inordinate amount of difficulty making themselves do tasks that are not intrinsically interesting to them.

This also accounts for another characteristic of students with attention disorders: These students are susceptible to attention problems on tasks that they find difficult. While all people attend better to tasks that interest them, those with attention deficits show greater problems with tasks that are difficult, or uninteresting to them. It takes students with attention deficits a huge amount of effort and motivation for them to apply themselves to tasks that an ordinary student can accomplish with less effort and self-determination.

Another common characteristic of students with attention disorders is academic underachievement. Often these students have acquired basic academic skills but demonstrate difficulties with day-to-day classroom performance that stem from characteristics inherent in the attention disorder. Most often in written production, poor planning and organization, difficulty generating ideas, and problems sequencing thoughts. Some students with ADHD may also exhibit problems with reading comprehension—again, not because of skill deficits in either decoding or comprehension but because they have trouble concentrating on what they are reading sufficiently to grasp the meaning.

A significant number of children with attention deficits exhibit problems with a constellation of behaviours referred to as “executive functions.” Beside problems with sustained attention, executive function deficits may include problems with planning and organization, task initiation and follow-through, goal selection, anticipation of consequences of actions, and inhibition of impulsive responding.

It is important to recognize that all children with attention disorders (indeed, all children) bring a unique set of characteristics, both strengths and weaknesses, to any learning situation. While it is helpful to be aware of problems commonly associated with attention disorders, ultimately one must consider the specific needs of each child in order to develop interventions effectively tailored to those individual needs.

Suggested Strategies for Reducing Attention Problems

Written expression

  1. Provide assistance with prewriting activities (brainstorming/concept mapping)
  2. Allow use of computer or dictation for longer assignments
  3. Provide assistance with proofing, preparing final draft

Long assignments

  1. Break down long assignments into shorter ones
  2. Help develop time lines for longer assignments
  3. Reduce writing requirements by reducing length and allowing alternative methods of demonstrating learning

Following directions

  1. Provide written as well as oral directions
  2. Repeat group directions individually
  3. Have student repeat directions to show understanding
  4. Break down longer directions into smaller steps
  5. Build in incentives for following directions and for asking for help


  1. Preferential seating during whole class work
  2. Nonverbal signal from teacher to attend
  3. Quiet place to work during seatwork
  4. Cue for transitions
  5. Incentives for timely work completion

Incentive Systems. Children with attention disorders frequently do not respond to natural incentives, (positive or negative) that are effective with other students. Research has demonstrated that positive reinforcement is effective in addressing problem behaviours associated with attention disorders.

In its simplest form, a positive reinforcement procedure involves administering a reinforcer upon demonstration of an appropriate target behaviour. An example would be allowing a student to spend the last 15 minutes before lunch playing a computer game with a friend after completing all required morning seatwork. Simple reinforcement procedures, however, often are ineffective with children with attention disorders. Experts in ADHD (e.g., Barkley, 1993) offer suggestions:

  1. Ensure that reinforcers are administered immediately and frequently. Continuous reinforcement systems are more effective than partial reinforcement systems. Systems need to be designed to ensure that the reinforcer can be administered consistently.
  2. Build variety into the reinforcement system. Children with ADHD often crave novelty and satiate very quickly on specific reinforcers. This problem can be addressed by developing a reinforcement menu so that the student can choose from a variety of attractive rewards.
  3. Assume that whatever system is designed will require adjustments. That the system will require some “fine tuning” to make it effective should be communicated to those who implement the system, lest they decide too quickly that the system has failed and should be abandoned.
  4. Involve the student in helping to design the incentive system. Students often have good ideas about how the system can be administered, including how to keep records and how often and under what circumstances to give reinforcers. When the program needs to be revised, students often offer valuable insights into how it can be improved. When students are active participants in the process, they more likely to “buy into” the system. They also can learn valuable skills in task analysis, goal-setting, and self-monitoring.

Token economies. The use of token, reinforcers gives a teacher more flexibility in what rewards can be earned and when they will be given. By giving the student tokens (or points) for demonstrating appropriate target behaviours, the teacher gives immediate feedback regarding performance without having to give the reward right away. Such a system allows the child to earn a variety of reinforcers, since specific points values can be attached to each reward. This approach can be used with an individual student or with groups of students, with different target behaviours and reinforcers assigned to each student if desired. Reinforcers should include a variety of activity as well as tangible reinforcers. By building in group rewards, the aid of the whole class can be enlisted in helping the youngster achieve his or her goals, since all will benefit from the child’s earning rewards.

Response cost. With response cost, earned tokens are withdrawn when undesirable behaviours occur. This approach has been found particularly effective in increasing attention to task and work completion, and, as with many other interventions, it appears to be particularly effective when paired with medication.

Cognitive-behavioural interventions

Self-monitoring. These procedures involve training students to become aware of their own behaviour, with the eventual goal being for them to cue themselves to attend. The most common training procedure is to employ an audio track that sounds electronic tones at random intervals ranging from 15 to 90 seconds apart. When the tone sounds, students are instructed to ask themselves, “Was I paying attention?” Initially students are instructed to note their responses on a checklist. Eventually, they are weaned from both the checklist and the audio, but are instructed to note covertly whether they are attending. Visual reminders on student’s desks have also shown to be effective.

Self-evaluation. In this approach, students are taught to evaluate their progress on specific goals. For example: a teacher would have reading group members rate how well they attended or how much they participated during the reading group session.


With appropriate modifications, the educational needs of most students with attention disorders can be met primarily in a regular classroom environment. While behaviour modification strategies can be very effective in improving classroom performance and behaviour, altering the environment and making task modifications are also important. Research has found:

  1. Stories presented at a faster-than-normal rate of speech resulted in improved listening comprehension and decreased activity level.
  2. Using color to highlight important information increased accuracy and decreased activity level for students with ADHD.
  3. Tasks with a high degree of structure decreased activity level, compared to low-structured, more open-ended tasks.
  4. Requiring a motor response during activities resulted in improved performance, compared to more passive conditions.
  5. Providing brief, global instructions, instead of lengthy, detailed instructions, produced shorter task completion time and fewer requests for cues.
  6. Math and reading tasks presented in a low-noise environment created better performance and decreased activity levels than did a high-noise environment.
  7. Other Effective classroom modifications included
    1. Seating students preferentially
    2. Calling on the student frequently during class discussions
    3. Writing start and stop times for written work completion
    4. Using a kitchen timer as a motivator

Children with attention disorders, particularly if they have concomitant executive skill deficits, may need help getting started on assignments. This can be done by walking them through the first few items or talking to them about the assignment to help them get oriented. They often do significantly better when tasks are modified to respond to their deficit areas, including presentation of briefer tasks, building in breaks, allowing the opportunity to stand up and move around, and, as noted above, providing high within-task stimulation.

Other modifications for children with ADHD address the fact that they do better when they have frequent opportunities to respond and receive immediate feedback. Peer tutoring and cooperative learning approaches both build in greater opportunities for individual response and immediate feedback than do more traditional classroom structures, such as lectures and individual seatwork activities. Computers also offer great promise for children with ADHD, because computer software can be novel, entertaining, and interactive.

Modifications that address difficulty in written production include reducing writing requirements, allowing students to dictate or tape record assignments, and allowing for alternative means of demonstrating knowledge, such as projects and oral reports. Providing access to computers to complete written assignments is an essential modification for many children with ADHD.

Still other modifications address the fact that children with ADHD do more poorly with tasks they find tedious, difficult, or uninteresting. These modifications include reducing repetitive seatwork and making tasks and assignments as appealing as possible. Children with ADHD respond very well to activities with a game format or to lessons that are presented as problems to be solved, particularly if they have real-life applications. Project-oriented learning is ideally suited to the learning style of many children. Others respond to the opportunity to design their own assignments.

Giving these students choices in terms of what assignments they will do, how they will do them, in what order, where, and with whom they will complete the work can have a dramatic impact on productivity and task completion. Pairing children with ADHD with other students allows them to use complementary strengths. A child with ADHD may have very creative ideas but have trouble putting them down on paper, while another student may be skilled at organizing work and writing but lack imagination; by pairing the two, both can benefit and learn from the strengths of the other.

While we generally think about classroom and task modifications in terms of the learning weaknesses of children with attention disorders, the strengths these students have must not be neglected. It is critically important to identify skills, and talents, to find ways to encourage their development, and to ensure that these students are recognized for their accomplishments. Children with attention disorders tend to receive negative feedback in greater quantities than their classmates. Special efforts must counteract these threats to self-esteem by finding areas where these students can shine.