We Must Demonstrate How to Regulate! Part 1

Lately, my 3 and a 1/2 year old son has been tattling on anyone who is not doing what is expected. Right away I thought, “Great! My child is a tattler! Once he enters kindergarten, he will be a teacher’s nightmare!” Then, it dawned on me that it’s a sign of him starting to self-regulate. Self-regulating others comes before a child actually self-regulates them self. This is part of the process of developing self-regulation. During the next two posts, we will explore self-regulation and how we can support the development of self-regulated learners.




Self-Regulation is the ability to control one’s body and self, to manage one’s emotions, and maintain focus and attention (Shonkoff & Philips, 2000).

Self-regulation starts developing in early childhood and proceeds in 3 stages:

Stage 1: At this stage, children are regulated by adults. The external adult regulation provides expectations for behavior and oversees the children as they learn and employ the expectations themselves.

Stage 2: During this stage, children start to internalize expectations and exercise these to other people (tattling or pointing out the wrong done by someone else is a sign that a child is starting to notice both expectations and violations of those expectations).

Stage 3: At this stage, children freely apply expectations to themselves. Children may be able to prohibit themselves from doing something that violates expectations.

Self-regulation in the Classroom: 

Difficulty regulating oneself could lead to:

– Poor work habits

– Difficulty focusing

– Little motivation

– Behavior problems

Luckily, self-regulation can be modeled and taught in the classroom!

Self-Regulated Learning

Self-regulated learning is a process. A three-phase cyclical process.

Phase 1: Forethought Phase

During this phase, students focus on the expectations of the task,  the outcomes of the task and their interest or value they place on the task. Those early thoughts lead students to set goals and make a plan for approaching the task.

Phase 2: Performance Phase

At this point, students apply their plan to the actual problem or task. They monitor their plan to consider what is or is not working (or if the task is engaging or rewarding). Most importantly, students determine if they will need assistance, if they will complete the task, and what alterations need to be made to complete the task.

Phase 3: Self-Reflection Phase

During the self-reflection phase, students process through the outcomes of the task. They may process through the effort the task took, what worked and what didn’t work, and what plans would have been a better choice.

Self-Regulation in Elementary Schools (grades 1-5)

Self-regulation will vary with each student. Teachers expect students to follow expectations, complete tasks that contain multiple steps, and directions that need more memory control. Expecting so much can make self-regulation difficult.

Elementary students will require supports to successfully negotiate new learning tasks or social challenges. Luckily, as teachers we can be the support students in their need to continue their develop of self-regulation.

In upper elementary, teachers’ roles are less about helping students learn to control their behaviors/learning. It is more about overseeing and guiding students behaviors, learning and attention, so they can meet their goals. Due to influences of social pressure, peers and parents a teachers role to help self-regulation becomes more difficult. Even with these challenges, teachers can demonstrate and provided opportunities for students to develop their self-regulated learning.

In a future post we will explore (We Must Demonstrate How to Regulate! Part 2) ideas on how to support their students’ development of self-regulated learning.




Germeroth, C. & Day-Hess, C (2013). Self-Regulated Learning for Academic Success. ASCD. Print.

Zimmerman, B. Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner: An Overview. 2002. Theory Into Practice V. 41. N. 2. 64-70


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