Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on teaching advice.

Mindful Education and Teaching Emotional Intelligence Begins with the Learning Environment

 A big part of mindful education and teaching emotional intelligence
begins with the learning environment. 
Setting up a space where students can find peace and unwind is key.  In my private practice, this spot is my
“zen table” and the surrounding cushions, bean bags and tactile toys.  Here students can dip their fingers
into one side that is filled with lentils and colorful rocks and let the stress
of the day dribble from the tips of their fingers, or they can venture to the
other creative side that is filled with mung beans and magnets.  I got this beautiful table on Overstock
a number of years ago.  They call
it a TV table, but it makes the perfect centerpiece for a relaxation station.  If you want to make your own “zen space” you can also use big tupperware bins, an old chest, or even a wooden box.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask!!


10 Ways to Help Students Cope with Making Mistakes

One of the most valuable things we can teach
children is how to cope with making mistakes.  Making mistakes is a human
quality that all students need be comfortable with.  They need to know
that if we didn’t make mistakes, there would be nothing to learn. 

However, most all students strive for the
recognition of a perfect score on assignments and tests.  Even a single
mistake can create anxiety and disappointment.  Unfortunately, perfect
scores continue to be rewarded and mistakes frowned upon.
So what can we all do to help?  Here are
ten suggestions:
    1) Be comfortable admitting when you make a mistake.  Show
students that it is okay to be wrong and that you can use it as an opportunity
to learn.   
    2) Make sure to point out what a student has done right on an
assignment as well as what was incorrect. 
    3) Always give your students the opportunity to fix mistakes so that
they can learn from them and correct any misconceptions.
    4) Communicate to your students that their mistakes can help you to be
a better teacher because it helps you to uncover the areas that need more
    5) If more than 50% of your students get a test item incorrect, throw
out that item out.  For those that got it, you can offer them extra
credit.  You can always then make sure to teach the concept in your next
lesson and then include the item on the next test.  
    6) Thank your students for making errors and mistakes.   
    7) Instead of telling a student that they are wrong or incorrect, tell
them that it was a nice try, or that they are close to the right answer and see
if they can amend their response independently.  
    8)  Recognize a student’s effort and guide them to the right answer so
that they can be correct.
    9) If a student provides the wrong answer, ask them why they gave you
the response that they did so you can analyze their misconception.
    10) Keep a positive attitude when students make mistakes.    
     I’d love to hear your recommendations and thoughts on this matter!!

Careless, Lazy and Unmotivated are Three Labels that Should be Banned from Education

Kids never strive to be careless, lazy or
unmotivated and referring to a student in this way never helps a
situation.  In fact, many kids that hear these labels again and again can
develop a sense of learned helplessness. 
I’ll never forget a student of mine coming into
one of our sessions in a terrible frame exclaimed, “I’m careless and
unmotivated!”  He slid a graded assignment across the table in front of
me.  Red marks cut across his work and in bold, scarring letters and
exclamation points the teacher had told Jake that he had made many careless
Even though Jake’s grade was an 88, it took me almost
an hour to convince him that he was not careless and unmotivated. Jake had
learning disabilities as well as ADHD and I knew the errors that he had made
had nothing to do with care or effort.  The poor guy was so detached and
dejected, he hadn’t even evaluated the mishaps, and when he finally looked at
them, he could see that they were all unintentional.
 At the end of our session, I pointed out to
Jake that his teacher had misspelled careless.  She had spelled it
“carless.”  I exclaimed, “How careless of her,” and winked at Jake. 
 I then pointed out that this wasn’t really a careless mistake, it was
simply an oops.  “School is a place where we should be comfortable making
an oops and then learning from it,” I proclaimed. 
I took the paper out into the waiting room and
showed it to his mother.  I then asked her to do me a favor and make an
appointment with the teacher.  “Hand the assignment back to the teacher”,
I recommended, “and point out how careless it was for her to have misspelled
this word.  Then pause for a short while and say, ‘That’s how you made my
son feel.’”
So please take care to erase these negative
labels from your lexicon so your students can feel safe to make mistakes and
then learn from them.
If you have any thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear your thoughts!!
All the best, Dr. Erica Warren, Learning Specialist and Educational Therapist  www.goodsensorylearning.com and www.learningtolearn.biz

Five Specific Ways to Integrate Mindfulness into the Classroom

Mindfulness in education is a rising topic of discussion.  Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with and aware of the present moment, as well as maintaining a non-judgmental approach to ones inner experience. It helps to develop emotional intelligence and it teaches students to pay attention on purpose.  What’s more, mindfulness can help improve test scores, classroom behaviors and stress management.
So how can teachers integrate mindfulness into the classroom?

 1) Teachers must practice mindfulness in their own lives.  If a teacher does not have the time to meditate and listen to his or her breath and thoughts, they can be mindful or present even while doing household chores.  For example, instead of quickly watering the plants while chatting on the phone.  One can pull themselves into the present and find the joy of offering plants sustenance.  Notice each plant and appreciate the beauty and contribution it makes to your home.

2)  Define and discuss mindfulness with your students.  Review the following vocabulary:

     ·      Imagination:  Imagination is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.
     ·      Visualization: Visualization is the ability to create imaginary images within ones own head.  The mental pictures allow an individual to “see” past experiences, ideas or even future projections. 
     ·      Metacognition – Metacognition refers to the act of thinking about thinking, or the cognition of cognition. It is the ability to control your own thoughts.
     ·      Mindfulness: Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with and aware of the present moment, as well as taking a non-evaluative and non-judgmental approach to your inner experience.
3) After recess guide your students through a mindfulness activity to calm their  senses.  Ask the students to sit for 3 minutes with their eyes closed.  They should notice their breath, release any thoughts and relax into their bodies.  You can start at their feet and work up to their head, asking them to be aware of their body and allow it to fully relax. 

4) Before a test, offer a mindful activity to help your students release any stress in their bodies.  Have the students take deep breaths and ask them to visualize a peaceful place of their choosing.  As they breathe in, have them imagine peace and knowledge filling their lungs.  As the breathe out, have them imagine that all negative thoughts such as doubt or concern will leave their bodies. 
5) After a classroom or social conflict, have the students sit in a circle facing one another holding hands.  Ask them to close their eyes and imagine that they are all one entity.  As they breathe in, have them imagine that they are pulling positive energy, forgiveness and loving kindness into the group.  As they breathe out, have them release any negative energy that they may feel.  You can make it specific to the situation.  After the activity, ask for volunteers to share any complements or appreciation they would like to offer to the group or an individual.  Have all the other students listen mindfully. 
Mindfulness works best if time is allocated daily.  Remember these activities will only take a few minutes and it can help your students to develop emotional intelligence, metacognitive skills, compassion, and confidence.  Finally, it will also help to nurture a sense of community in the classroom.


10 Ways to Teach Planning, Time Management and Organization

Teaching students planning, time management and organizational skills is necessary in the classroom as well as at home.  Although some find executive functioning to be quite obvious, there are those that need to learn the process.  Here are 10 recommendations:

© 2012 Good Sensory Learning

  1. Provide verbal, written and even electronic reminders.
  2. Let students select their preferred calendar option.  There are daily, weekly and even monthly calendars.  In addition, a calendar can be maintained on electronic devices, computers, wall charts, as well as printed planners.  
  3. Offer a calm, supportive and mindful environment.
  4. Avoid name calling.  Using terms like “careless” or “unmotivated” only creates negative energy, frustration and helplessness.  
  5. Provide short breaks.  Schedule “unstructured time” in your daily routine.
  6. Offer a structured and organized environment with clear expectations.
  7. Set an example and show how you plan, manage time and organize materials.
  8. Praise and reward self initiation.  In the beginning, recognize any movement in the right direction.
  9. Schedule time, post routines and communicate expectations around the house or classroom.
  10. Provide structure, by offering support and guidance.  In the beginning, do the process together.
To learn all these strategies and more you can purchase my recent publication Planning Time Management and Organization for Success: Quick and Easy Approaches to Mastering Executive Skills for Student. 
Good Sensory Learning