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Children sit next to each other on a classroom carpet. One child has her hand extended, thumb raised.


Amanda Gooch

Amanda Gooch

August 1, 2023

Welcome back to another incredible beginning to the school year. We are starting the year strong with Conscious Discipline. Conscious Discipline utilizes everyday events to cultivate emotional intelligence through a self-regulation program that integrates social-emotional learning and discipline. Let’s take some time to review the Conscious Discipline Brain Smart Start and what that structure looks like in the classroom.

The Conscious Discipline Brain Smart Start of the day consists of four activities: An activity to UNITE, an activity to CONNECT, an activity to DISENGAGE stress and an activity to COMMIT. Conscious Discipline designed this combination of activities using current brain research in order to promote an optimal learning state. The Brain Smart Start should be conducted in the classroom daily.

Let’s review these four components that make up the Brain Smart Start:

1. Unite: The activity to unite as a School Family involves everyone doing something together. It builds connection, fosters a sense of safety and releases endorphins. These activities can be combined, for example, a School Family chant involving music and movement with a partner would both unite and connect.

2. Disengage: The activity to disengage stress involves deep breathing and stretching. It prepares the brain for cortical learning and turns off the stress response. The four core calming activities used in Conscious Discipline to help disengage are S.T.A.R., Balloon, Pretzel and Drain. The calming activity S.T.A.R. stands for Smile, Take a deep breath And Relax. Taking three deep belly breaths helps to shut off the fight, flight, or freeze response in the body.

3. Connect: The activity to connect the students to the teacher and to each other helps to maintain focused attention and the motivation to learn. It also releases oxytocin, which promotes connection and reduces aggression. Eye contact, presence, touch and a playful setting are the four core components required to truly connect with others. I Love You Rituals are an effective way to incorporate connection in the classroom. Classrooms benefit from I Love You Rituals in routines like the Brain Smart Start, during circle time and after transitions. Teachers and individual students benefit from scheduling regular one-on-one I Love You Rituals with children call for help through difficult behaviors like aggression, tantrums or withdrawal.

4. Commit: The activity to commit oneself to learning involves affirmations and positive thinking. It produces serotonin, teaches responsibility, promotes mindful attention and develops the prefrontal lobe. Making commitments and following through on them builds self-esteem, neurologically bathing the body in feel-good chemicals. These chemicals help focus attention and achieve goals. Commitments help us shift from being unconsciously stimulus-driven to becoming consciously goal-oriented. Commitments can be individual, like having each child take a clothespin with his name on it and place it beside a class agreement. The class can make a group commitment with the teacher stating, “Today I’m going to use kind words with friends,” and the children would signal their commitment with a thumbs up. Provide a time at the end of the day to invite children to evaluate their commitments. The children respond with either, “I did it,” or, “Oops.” An Oops is an opportunity to try again tomorrow. Some children may have difficulty keeping their commitments. Check to see their commitments are specific, narrow in scope and realistic. Instead of, “Today I will be nice all day,” coach them to say, “Today at recess I will invite a friend to play with me.”

A Brain Smart Start also offers opportunities to practice social skills. It also provides many chances to model acceptable behavior, reinforce, redirect, or remind. The investment returned on time spent with a Brain Smart Start is repaid many times over. This teaches a sense of belonging, as well as develops skills of listening, attention, expression and empathy. A Brain Smart Start sets the tone for the day. It is not an add on or something extra to make time for, but rather an integral part of the day's planning and curriculum.

Wishing you the best,


Four preschool students sit in a row.
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