Story by Deb Seminary, contributing writer
When you hear the word “literacy,” you may think of reading and writing. But it is so much more. Literacy involves a wide variety of skills, including listening, speaking, comprehension, and problem solving. It is the foundation for lifelong success at home, school, and in the community.
Literacy requires the ability to remain calm and focused while learning. This ability, self-regulation, lays the groundwork for literacy. Self-regulation is a skill developed over time, and some children (and adults) may need more support than others when trying to concentrate on the task at hand.
Thanks to funds awarded through the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction developed a resource guide, ‘On the 5’s,’ to aid in self-regulation.
The guide provides numerous activities, ideas, and tactics that can be taught and practiced in short, five-minute intervals throughout the day. There are self-care ideas for caregivers, as well as an additional list of resources.
“The goal was to create a user-friendly guide for caregivers,” said Angela McSweyn, M.S., Early Childhood Special Education Coordinator. “It is not an instruction book, simply a tool that was designed to be shared with everyone - family, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and early childhood professionals.”
Kiara Crosby, Assistant Director of Northern Plains Special Education Unit, talks about how they use ‘On the 5’s.’
“We’ve used this resource as we collaborate with a variety of community partners including our county social workers, human services offices and have also shared them with general education and special education staff as well as school administrators,” she said. “This resource has also been valuable during our preschool parent meetings as we share ideas for helping all children with these useful tips and strategies. We have used the playbooks with our school staff as part of our staff development program as well.”
Susan Gerenz, who originally came up with the idea for the resource guide, developed a YouTube video that walks through why ‘On the 5’s’ was developed and how the strategies work.
“Sometimes, how to help is not easy to figure out,” said Gerenz in the video. “‘On the 5’s’ provides easy and effective “brain breaks” that are helpful for people of all ages, including caregivers.”
The work group that contributed to the guide included a variety of professionals, educators, and practitioners. Everyone took their area of expertise to develop the strategies, tips and tricks, calming techniques, and more included in the booklet.
“Sometimes parents will say, ‘my child acts so much better at school,’” said McSweyn. “That is because many professionals are often highly trained to meet the needs of all children, the strategies come naturally. ‘On the 5’s’ has tools that can be used at home or any setting. They are interactive and fun and can be implemented without a lot of planning.”
The response to the booklet has been very positive. It has especially been helpful for the early childhood community as children enter school for the first time and might not know how to meet new friends or focus on tasks.
“Communities and educators are asking for more, they are so happy to have it in their toolbox,” said McSweyn.
To find out how to get your copy of ‘On the 5’s,’ call the DPI’s Special Education Office at 701-328-2277. The guide can also be downloaded here. There is an assessment tool to track progress, if desired.