Teacher Self-Reflection and Support:  

  • Recognize your own feelings of stress and being overwhelmed.  Consider activities that help you feel calm and implement them within the classroom routine on a more frequent basis.
    • Yoga
    • Art
    • Music
    • Increase time outside
    • Go Noodle
    • Cosmic Kids
    • Meditation or breathe app
  • Be comfortable asking for help from your Team/Administration as needed.  
  • If you are leading a program, consider ways to support teachers such as:
    • Clear, consistent communication especially surrounding new policies/procedures  
    • Team building activities and opportunities to collaborate between teaching teams  
    • Encouraging emails  
    • Thank you cards in mailboxes  
    • More frequent breaks  
    • Time for reflection with administration to problem solve challenges as a team  
    • Establishing a process for requesting support  
  • Access mental health resources if you are feeling overwhelmed.

Focus on Emotional Literacy :  

  • Resources to Teach Emotional Literacy:
    • Feeling Buddies – A 5-step process self-regulation process to help children recognize their triggers, label their feelings and accept and manage emotions.
    • Zones of Regulation a framework and easy to use curriculum for teaching children strategies for emotional and sensory self-management.  The Zones approach uses four colors to help children identify how they are feeling in the moment given their emotions, level of alertness, as well as guide them to strategies to support regulation.
    • PATHS – a comprehensive program that promotes emotional and social competencies, reducing aggression and behavior problems in preschool through elementary school.
    • NCPMI - National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations allows programs to create their own SEL curriculum using free resources.
    • Breathe, Think, Do with the Sesame Street App, available for Apple and Android
  • Explicitly teach children to identify, understand, and express emotions
    • Free materials to build emotional literacy can be found at National Center for Pyramid Model Innovation
    • Emotion check in chart - Children can “check-in” by placing an indicator with their name or picture on how they are feeling throughout the day.  This provides teachers with an opportunity to talk about how feelings can change and provide strategies to manage changing feelings.
    • Use a mirror to teach children what eyes or body language look like with different emotions.
    • Use social stories or children’s literature to support understanding of emotions.
    • Provide opportunities for students to observe you use coping skills.  “I wasn’t expecting to change classrooms today, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, I’m going to take three deep breaths, does anyone want to breath with me?  My body feels calm, I’m ready to change rooms.”  Use visuals to help support these opportunities
  • Provide opportunities for students to observe you use coping skills such as talk aloud/narration: “I wasn’t expecting to change classrooms today, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, I’m going to take three deep breaths, does anyone want to breath with me?....My body feels calm, I’m ready to change rooms.”
  • Use visuals to help support these opportunities.

Predictable Routines and Schedules:  

  • Consider there will be new or unfamiliar routines for young children especially related to safety as well as state, and CDC guidelines.  
  • Routines should include posted visuals of what is going to happen throughout the day. Teach/re-teach:  
    • The sequence of activities and routines (as they may be impacted by health and safety guidelines).
    • The steps of transitions should include activities to keep children engaged (wait times may be longer due to cleaning and sanitation requirements).
  • Alter the typical expectations for attention and time-on task.  
    • Provide multiple prompts, cues and re-directs.
    • Anticipate possible:
      • Regression of self-regulation or impulse control
      • Lower frustration threshold
      • More frequent tantrums
      • Power struggles and need for autonomy
  • Revisit visual schedule and add in new routines (hand washing, toy washing, drop off routines).
  • Send home classroom schedule for families to review with children (visual schedule).
  • Provide social stories for the classroom and for families to review any altered routines (drop off/pick up, playground time, lunchtime, other groups activities that may have changed).
  • Provide guidance and support to children who feel anxious in the classroom through the changes.

Anticipate (misreading social cues, previously unrecognized behavior) :  

  • Children could be struggling to read your facial expressions  
    • Plan to use social media to introduce children to teachers wearing masks – Post pictures of the teachers/staff wearing masks with the questions such as: “Can you guess who?” or “Can you guess what emotion I am feeling?”  
    • Talk about emotions and use a variety of strategies to teach children to recognize emotions in themselves and others.
    • Validate children’s emotions by labeling them.
    • Model and label your emotions.
  • Children may come to the center with new challenging behaviors that weren’t there before.
    • Post behavior expectations or rules that are:
      • Positively stated
      • Include a visual
      • Limited in number (3-5)
    • Provide intentional instruction on the posted previously established and new behavior expectations/rules.
      • In large and small group activities
      • With individual children as needed
      • What does the expectation/rule look like and sound like?
    • Provide specific positive feedback to children on meeting expectations/rules.
      • Comment frequently on appropriate child behavior linking the behavior to the posted classroom rules/expectations.
      • Focus attention on teaching, reinforcing and pre-correction.
  • Separation anxiety and other forms of anxiety could become present (fearfulness/withdrawal from activities).
    • Use a visual schedule (posted at children’s eye level) to increase predictability
      • Review the visual schedule frequently throughout the day, including expectations for drop off routines
    • Allow and encourage transition objects and rituals
    • Create collages/family books with pictures of each child’s family members. Have collages/family books easily accessible for children to reference throughout the day.
    • Validate emotions – offer ideas of something they could do to feel better (Ex: draw a picture for mom, look at their family picture book, hold their transition object, etc.) .

Focus on Relationships:  

  • Focus on building relationships with children as though this is a start of a new school year.
    • Create points of connection throughout the school day.  
      • Greet children when they enter the classroom .
      • Plan check-in points throughout the day.
      • Get to know children and their interests/dislikes by engaging in extended conversations.
      • Consider multiple methods for on-going communication with the family.
  • Establish relationship continuity for children who have not yet returned to the program
    • Virtual classroom meetings (ex: Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet)
    • Recorded story time video
    • Mailing notes to the child’s home
    • Social media posts
    • Sharing at-home learning activities (ex: SeeSaw, FlipGrid, HiMama, Facebook Page, Instagram, Center Website)
  • Create opportunities to build connection between:
    • Staff and children
      • Show and share
      • Pictures from home
      • One on one time
      • Group projects
  • Staff and families
    • Offer virtual option to bridge the gap for families that cannot participate in the “live” classroom activities.
  • Children may be missing your facial cues/expressions. Be mindful of your:
    • Tone of voice
    • Eye contact
    • Proximity
    • Gestures

Drop-off Routines:  

  • Social Stories can be used to help teach the new routines/expectations for children returning to care. These stories can be modified, used in care, or sent home prior to the children returning to the program.
  • Schedule cards can be used to teach new routines.  Consider having these cards on a key ring to help support the transition from family to classroom.
  • Teach children the expectations for new routines like drop off by using dolls/stuffed animals.  “Help the bear put on his mask”
  • When possible allow children to hold on to comfort items for a longer period/allow access during the day.
  • If you don’t currently have a family wall or family book, ask families to send in pictures you can have available for children to view during the day.  
  • Share a picture with families of the child’s teacher in a  mask (can be shared via, app, facebook, website, etc.)
  • Share resources with families to help them re-establish morning routines at home.

© 2014 SPEC | Supporting Positive Environments for Children






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Download: COVID-19 sequence cards.docx