Feng Shui at school??? The power of color, not necessarily coloring!

English: An RGB color wheel which denotes comp...

English: An RGB color wheel which denotes complimentary colors. When Red wavelengths are absorbed, green light is observed, for example. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I picked up a pocket-size book at a used bookstore called Feng Shui For the Classroom by Debra Kellar. I leafed through it and thought that her ideas were interesting. I always like to offer an eclectic approach when I lecture to school based therapists and teachers. My favorite part of the book (so far) has been about the power of color. Kellar suggests teachers should consider color. If they want art, music or creative writing involvement, serene dove-gray may get those creative juices bubbling.  If you have a chance to paint your classroom or therapy room this summer, run over to Lowe’s or Home Depot and pick up a pale yellow. According to Kellar, this is “the color of optimism, focus and mental stimulation”. “The paler shades promote active listening”.  Boy we could use some of that in schools today!!! Brighter yellows that resemble sunshine versus the paler shades can be overstimulating.  Sounds like a sensory processing suggestion to me…Kellar believes we can shift the energy in the classroom by the use of color. Reading times “are enhanced by cool colors and pastels”, no need to paint the walls different colors for different areas but rather use items such as “green leaves, a blue vase, purple flowers or a pink bowl” in your reading circle. Wow! can’t you see one student appointed to gathering the reading colors prior to reading group? Ha… the magic begins. Writing is always an issue for OT’s in the classroom and often not just for the mechanics but for the creative and cognitive content as well.  Keller calls this a “yang” activity and can be influenced by  warm and bright objects of reds, oranges and yellows. Maybe easy buttons on desks, a navel orange or even writing with a red pencil could help the writing process??? I know color influences me, when I choose the color of what I’m wearing for the day, when I enter certain classrooms or even which room in my home I choose to read. Obviously there are other variables such as natural light, furniture placement, and who is in the room with you! Ha Ha… not sure we can remove some negative people…maybe you could offer them your pale yellow sweater? So followers… think about color this week, notice your own habits and if you work with kids, (or have them in your home) notice behavior, demeanor and creativity. Let me know what you found in your laboratory!

Opening Limbic Systems or Catch that Kid and Reel Them In!

Fishing reel

Fishing reel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

—”Attention comes last, your brain will look at relevance and then attend….”  Martha Burns

It struck me yesterday how tired I was at the end of the day and as I reviewed how many students I connected with, I realized that I was opening limbic systems all day long. As the quote states… this is the way to attention and focus.  As therapists, teachers or parents we attempt to engage children in focusing and attending. Many of us intuitively attempt to connect with our students through inroads that we think will engage them in our tasks. “Oh Sam you are going to like this activity today, we will be driving our letters on this rope road with matchbox cars”. “What’s your favorite animal Charles, lets pretend to walk like that bear”, Alexa, I know you like history, why don’t we practice your typing skills as you copy this paragraph on the Incas?”From doing that, we create the bridge of social connection which in reality will be relevant to the child and therefore the attention will come. Unfortunately many classrooms today are filled to the brim with students. Teachers are often overworked and overwhelmed. Do all teachers get a chance nowadays to connect with each child everyday? We all have our moments of automatic pilot, but now knowing this tidbit about the brain and attention that comes from opening that limbic system,  my plan is that I’m going to bait my hook and go fishing! Here are some simple tips to gain information about your kids. If handwriting is the goal, do a quick-write where kids practice list making based on your questions. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? What do you want to be when you grow up?  If you had to stay home what would you be doing today? You end up with your writing sample but you also get the big fish of limbic system information! Think of yourself in a social situation where you don’t know someone, you are more apt to chat with people about your interests because that helps keep that connection. We know school work isn’t of interest to all kids, now your challenge is to engage them by making some kind to connection to their limbic systems! Get out your pole, know what bait you’re using and go catch a child in learning!

Being in the Moment

Aberdeen Library Snapshot Day 2012--A preschoo...

Aberdeen Library Snapshot Day 2012–A preschooler explores color vision during block play at Family Storytime. (Photo credit: Timberland Regional Library)

Yesterday was one of those days when I truly felt like a therapist. I was working with 3 and 4 year olds in their preschool. We were spontaneously playing with blocks. A structure was put up 2ft by 3ft with an opening in the middle. When I asked them to tell me about it I was told it was a TV. Two boys brandishing 8 inch long blocks pretended to play video games on the “TV”. It hit me at that moment that they truly were playing from their perspective and relishing in generalizing knowledge of activities they enjoyed. I would have never nor would have ever thought of this scenario! From a tutoring point of  view I encouraged them to pretend to be the characters in the video game and crawl into the “TV”. That is all it took and I watched as they angled their lithe little bodies into the mock TV. We then gathered a crowd of others who also liked the idea of being on TV and proceeded to enter through the block built TV. Sometimes it was knocked down, but quickly patched together. I broke into an off tune song “The Ants go Marching into the TV” and all took turns, adjusted their movements and experimenting with different approaches independently. From that, a group started trying to walk on flat blocks and we began to create a long balance beam. Those who were true pioneers of the activity decided to make it more challenging having others step over larger blocks on top of the balance beam. As a therapist, I was witnessing play in its own spontaneous, kid directed and developmentally appropriate way. Mind you… they included me, looking for reassurance, facilitation and kudos for a job well done. I thank them for that and I am grateful that I was able to witness the learning that occured.

Free book for 3 year olds…download it now!!


One thing I’m always talking about is developmental appropriateness. Many of my colleagues agree that we are seeing kids that are being asked to do tasks and activities well beyond their developmental level. Often coupled with that are developmentally appropriate activities that are left by the wayside in lieu to promoting reading and writing.  This book is written by a doctor and appears to be not only a book to read to a child but also offers a wonderful developmental milestone guide for caregivers that read it to the child. Enjoy!