Keeping Our Brain and Body In The Group!
At the start of a new school year, many of our kids have trouble adjusting to classroom routines. This is particularly true for children just beginning pre-k or kindergarten. After a long summer of running around and freely playing with friends, it’s to be expected that our kiddos might have some trouble focusing their attention during stories, circle time, centers and even play.
Sure, you can repeatedly say to your children “pay attention” or “look up here,” to help them focus, but what lesson is that teaching them? Instead, I like to teach my students to keep their “body in the group,” and their “brain in the group.” These are popular phrases used in Social Thinking lessons, as well as other fantastic social skills websites because these phrases do more than get a child’s attention. They teach our kids how and why they need to stay focused during group activities.
But these phrases aren’t only useful in the classroom. Parents can use these phrases to help their kiddos learn to stay together when they are out in the community together. Before food shopping, going on the subway, or playing at the park, parents can remind their children that they need to keep their brain and body with the group to stay safe. Parents can also help their kids practice staying on-topic during dinner and daily routines. If your kiddo changes topic at the dinner table, or loses focus while getting ready for school, remind him to keep his brain in the group and gently guide him back to the topic or activity he should be focusing on.
Here’s a little bit more about how I teach brain and body in the group :
Body in the group: This phrase literally teaches our kids that their bodies need to be turned towards others around them during group activities. I explain that I know they are focused on the activity - whatever it may be - when their body is in the group. But when their body is away from the group, I know their brain is focused on something or someone else.
During circle time this means their faces, shoulders, and legs face the teacher, their mouth is quiet, their hands are still, and so on.
When playing with a group, this means their bodies are close enough to the group show their friends they are playing WITH them, but not too close to make others feel uncomfortable.
When talking to another friend, this means their shoulders and hips are facing their friend, and their eyes are observing their friends and their environment.
Brain in the group: This phrase is more abstract, and requires more teaching for most of our literal-thinking kids. But by teaching them this phrase, they begin to learn that when we are in a group, our brains should be thinking about the same topic as the others. Most young children will need help understanding how they can keep their brains in the group. They may also need frequent reminders or ‘brain checks,’ especially in the first few weeks of school
I teach my students that their eyes show me what their brain is thinking about. If their eyes are looking at the teacher, this shows me that their brain is thinking about the teacher. If their eyes are looking out the window, this shows me that their brain is thinking about the playground, the birds outside, etc.
During circle time, we practice focusing our eyes on the teacher, which means their brains are thinking about what the teacher is saying.
When playing with a group, we practice looking at their friends and the shared toys, and sharing the same play scheme.
When talking to another friend, we practice looking at each other and the same interesting object, and focusing on 1 topic.
A great tool to help teach this is shared-thought visual, such as this one from Dynamic Duo: