Chapter 13 Activity the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.What are some examples of things you personally find to be intrinsically and extrinsically motivating for you? What are some examples of things that might be intrinsically and extrinsically motivating for each of the four age groups discussed in chapter 13 of the textbook (infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, and early adolescence). As an example, young children may be extrinsically motivated to stay on task if they know they are going to receive stickers. They may be intrinsically motivated to work on an intriguing art project.In addition, you should respond to at least 2 of your classmates’ posts.

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Behaviors That Still Challenge Children and Adults
Developing Young Children’s
Self-Regulation through
Everyday Experiences
Ida Rose Florez
As university faculty, I
often collaborate with teachers
when young children experience learning or behavior challenges. Every child is different.
Some have difficulty expressing their ideas verbally. Some
struggle to get along with peers
or follow classroom routines. In
each case, however, one thing
is the same: improved learning
and behavior requires strong
self-regulation skills.
According to Ellen Galinsky,
president and co-founder of the
Families and Work Institute and
author of Mind in the Making,
regulating one’s thinking, emotions, and behavior is critical
for success in school, work, and life (2010). A child who
stops playing and begins cleaning up when asked or spontaneously shares a toy with a classmate, has regulated
thoughts, emotions, and behavior (Bronson 2000).
From infancy, humans automatically look in the direction
of a new or loud sound. Many other regulatory functions
become automatic, but only after a period of intentional
use. On the other hand, intentional practice is required
to learn how to regulate and coordinate the balance and
motor movements needed to ride a bike. Typically, once
one learns, the skill becomes automatic.
Ida Rose Florez, PhD, is an assistant professor of early childhood education at Arizona State University. She studies young
children’s readiness for formal learning environments and the
role that self-regulation plays in young children’s early educational experiences.
A study guide for this article is available online at www.naeyc.
1, 2, 3
The process of moving from
intentional to automatic regulation is called internalization. Some
regulated functions, such as
greeting others appropriately
or following a sequence
to solve a math problem,
always require intentional
effort. It is not surprising
then that research has found
that young children who engage
in intentional self-regulation learn
more and go further in their education (Blair & Diamond 2008).
Children develop foundational
skills for self-regulation in the
first five years of life (Blair 2002;
Galinsky 2010), which means
early childhood teachers play an
important role in helping young children regulate thinking
and behavior. Fortunately, teaching self-regulation does
not require a separate curriculum. The most powerful way
teachers can help children learn self-regulation is by modeling and scaffolding it during ordinary activities. In this
article I define self-regulation and discuss how it develops.
I then describe an interaction I observed in a kindergarten
classroom and explain how the teacher used an everyday
experience to strengthen children’s self-regulation.
What is self-regulation?
Self-regulation refers to several complicated processes that
allow children to appropriately respond to their environment
(Bronson 2000). In many ways, human self-regulation is
like a thermostat. A thermostat senses and measures temperature, and compares its reading to a preset threshold
(Derryberry & Reed 1996). When the reading passes the
threshold, the thermostat turns either a heating or cooling
system on or off. Similarly, children must learn to evaluate
what they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, and compare
Reprinted from Young Children • July 2011
© Ellen B. Senisi
unavailable for hitting). Although children’s behavior is
regulated by many processes that function outside their
awareness, researchers have found children’s intentional
self-regulation predicts school success (Zimmerman
1994). When provided with appropriate opportunities,
young children can and do learn intentional self-regulation. Researchers Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong, for
example, taught preschoolers to plan their play activities
and found planning helped children develop stronger selfregulation skills (Bodrova & Leong 2007). Planning is an
important part of self-regulation. Teachers might suggest
that children sit on their hands to remind themselves to not
hit or touch another child. To use this practice, children
must think about potential future actions and then imagine
and enact alternative behaviors.
Finally, just as a thermostat monitors conditions to maintain optimal temperature, self-regulation monitors conditions to maintain optimal arousal for a given task (Blair &
Diamond 2008). Everyone experiences peaks and lows in
levels of attention, emotion, and motivation. As children
develop, they learn that some activities require them to
pay attention more (that is, the activities require increased
attentional arousal). For example, children need more
attentional arousal to watch a play than to chase a friend.
The same is true for motivational arousal. Children need to
“wake up” motivation more to stick with a challenging task
© Julia Luckenbill
it to what they already know. Children must also learn to
then use self-regulation to communicate with any number
of systems (such as motor or language systems) to choose
and carry out a response.
Self-regulation is clearly not an isolated skill. Children
must translate what they experience into information they
can use to regulate thoughts, emotions, and behaviors
(Blair & Diamond 2008). Infants translate the feel of soothing touch and the sound of soft voices into cues that help
them develop self-calming skills. Toddlers and preschoolers
begin to translate cues from adults, such as “Your turn is
next,” into regulation that helps them inhibit urges to grab
food or toys. They begin to learn how long they must usually wait to be served food or to have a turn playing with a
desired toy, which helps them regulate emotional tension.
Because self-regulation involves different domains, regulation of one domain affects other areas of development.
Emotional and cognitive self-regulation are not separate,
distinct skills. Rather, thinking affects emotions and emotions affect cognitive development (Blair & Diamond 2008).
Children who cannot effectively regulate anxiety or discouragement tend to move away from, rather than engage in,
challenging learning activities. Conversely, when children
regulate uncomfortable emotions, they can relax and focus
on learning cognitive skills. Similarly, children experience
better emotional regulation when they replace thoughts
like “I’m not good at this” with thoughts like “This is difficult, but I can do it if I keep trying.” Regulating anxiety
and thinking helps children persist in challenging activities,
which increases their opportunities to practice the skills
required for an activity.
Self-regulation is also like using a thermostat because
both are active, intentional processes. Setting a thermostat
requires an intentional decision and the device actively
monitors environmental temperature. Similarly, self-regulation requires intentional decisions (“I will not hit Andrew!”)
and active processes (sitting on one’s hands so they are
Young Children • July 2011
Self-regulation is clearly not an isolated skill. Children must translate
what they experience into information they can use to regulate
thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
Behaviors That Still Challenge Children and Adults
than to open a gift. Learning to persist in complex learning
tasks that stretch children’s skills is one of the most important outcomes of healthy self-regulation. To regulate various arousal levels, children must recognize when arousal is
not optimal and take steps to modify it. Children often do
this by squirming or looking away (such as out a window or
at other children’s activity)
to arouse fading attention,
or by withdrawing from others to reduce high physical
or emotional arousal.
How does selfregulation develop?
Self-regulation skills
develop gradually,
so it is important that
adults hold developmentally appropriate
expectations for children’s behavior.
As children develop, their
regulatory skills become
more sophisticated (Kopp
1982; Blair & Diamond
2008). Infants begin to
regulate arousal and
sensory-motor responses
even before birth. An infant
may suck her thumb after
hearing a loud sound, indicating that she is regulating her
responses to the environment. Toddlers start to inhibit
responses and comply with adult caregivers. By age 4, children begin to exhibit more complex forms of self-regulation,
such as anticipating appropriate responses and modifying
their responses when circumstances are subtly different.
For example, clapping is appropriate after someone speaks
during sharing time at school, but not while a teacher is
giving directions.
Self-regulation skills develop gradually, so it is important
that adults hold developmentally appropriate expectations
for children’s behavior. Vygotsky called the range of developmentally appropriate expectations the zone of proximal
development (ZPD) (John-Steiner & Mahn 1996). The ZPD is
the “growing edge of competence” (Bronson 2000, 20) and
represents those skills a child is ready to learn. Expecting
children to demonstrate skills outside the ZPD is ineffective
and often detrimental. Punishing young children when they
fail to sustain attention longer than a few minutes or fail to
calm themselves quickly when frustrated does nothing to
help them learn self-regulation. Likewise, failing to provide
challenging opportunities for children to advance their
skills can hinder their growth.
As they develop, most children begin to use self-regulation skills without prompting or assistance. They develop
strategies to manage incoming information, choose appropriate responses, and maintain levels of arousal that allow
them to actively participate in learning. When children
routinely self-regulate without adult assistance, they have
internalized self-regulation (Bronson 2000). Vygotsky
([1934]1986) described internalization as a process in
which children progress from co-regulating behavior with
an adult to doing so independently. Thus, to develop selfregulation skills, children need many opportunities to experience and practice with adults and capable peers.
Supporting self-regulation in a
kindergarten classroom
In the following vignette, I describe an
interaction I observed between Melissa, a
kindergarten teacher, and two children, Lucy
and Tricia, as they explored the science center. Melissa used this everyday interaction
to help the children practice and strengthen
self-regulation skills.
I sit quietly in a corner, observing Lucy, a
kindergartner with a moderate speech and
language delay. The children experiment with
clay and rocks, water and blocks, and dirt and
seeds. Their teacher, Melissa, moves among
them, using her presence, words, and actions
to direct the children’s attention and help
them stay motivated and engaged. Melissa makes her way
to the water table where 5-year-old Tricia constructs intricate waterways with plastic blocks. Lucy leans on the table,
watching silently.
“What are you doing, Tricia?” Melissa says as she pulls up
a chair and sits next to the table.
Tricia focuses intently as she repositions a block then straightens and looks at Melissa, “I’m making the water go fast!”
Putting her hand in the water, Melissa smiles, “Wow, it is
moving fast! May I play?”
“Sure!” Tricia nods.
Melissa turns to Lucy, “Want to play with us?” Lucy nods
and Melissa hands her a block, “Where do you want to put
it?” Lucy looks down and shrugs.
“Lucy, try putting it here.” Tricia points to the next hole in
the path.
Lucy hesitates but takes the block. She tries putting the
block in an empty space, but it doesn’t fit. Lucy rests the
block on the side of the water table and looks down. Gently
rubbing Lucy’s back, Melissa asks, “Do you need help?”
Lucy nods. Melissa leans in and whispers, “Tricia’s been
doing this a lot; why don’t you ask her how to do it? I bet she
could show you.”
Lucy looks up at Tricia, “Can you help me?”
“Sure!” Tricia takes Lucy’s hand and positions it over the
next space in the path. “Okay, push hard.” Lucy leans on the
block, pushing, but it does not go in. Tricia moves closer to
Lucy. “Push really, really hard. You can do it!” Lucy, lips tight
and determined, pushes the block hard into the hole. Water
swirls around it as a smile spreads across her face.
Young Children • July 2011
© Julia Luckenbill
By demonstrating appropriate behavior, teachers show
children how to accomplish a task and use the self-regulation
needed to complete it.
For Lucy, Melissa modeled important language and social
skills: she indicated her intention to join the activity by
Young Children • July 2011
© Kimberly Regan Schoenfeldt
Helping children
develop self-regulation skills is similar
to helping children
learn to read, count,
or ride a bike.
Effective teachers
use a variety of
strategies to bridge
the developmental
space between
what children
already know and
can do and more
complex skills and
knowledge. Three
teaching strategies
are critical for scaffolding children’s
development of selfregulation: modeling, using hints and
cues, and gradually
withdrawing adult
support. Melissa
used all three in her
interactions with
Lucy and Tricia.
© Shari Schmidt
scaffolding to
help children
develop selfregulation
pulling up a chair. She then asked Tricia a question about
her activity, waited for an answer, and responded positively. For Tricia, Melissa modeled how to invite a reluctant
observer to play: she turned her attention to Lucy, offered
a play invitation, handed her an object, and asked her to
make a play decision. When Lucy shrugged, Tricia followed
Melissa’s lead and suggested a way Lucy could participate.
All these behaviors required self-regulation. To take
conversational turns, children must recognize when their
turn has ended, then listen and wait until it is their turn
again. They must then
choose an appropriate
response from unlimited possibilities. To
ask a playmate about
her play, a child must
inhibit talking about
her own play and
listen to someone
else. Asking to play
requires an anxious
child to regulate emotion, inhibit passive
behavior, increase
arousal, and engage
despite potential
Of all the selfregulation Melissa
modeled, perhaps the
most important scaffold was calling attention to the opportunity
for Lucy to join Tricia.
To actively engage in
learning opportunities,
children must attend
to and recognize that
a situation offers the
potential for interesting interactions and
things to do. Adults
can help children
develop this regulatory skill in a variety of
ways, beginning with
very young children. When adults hold infants or toddlers
on their laps and point to objects or letters in a book while
using their voices to indicate excitement, they help children focus their attention on images that are most important for learning. By getting the ball rolling, Melissa not only
helped Lucy actively participate, but allowed Tricia to talk
about her science activity and demonstrate to others how
to replicate her experiment.
© Karen Phillips
Melissa stands up and gives Lucy’s shoulder a gentle
squeeze. “Lucy, you did it! I knew you could! Tricia, thank
you!” Melissa moves toward another center. “You girls have
fun. I’ll be at the next station if you need me.”
As she walks away, Melissa hears Lucy say, “Thank you,
“No problem,” Tricia replies. “Where should we put the
next block?”
Melissa turns around just in time to see Lucy grab a block,
shove it in place, and say, “There!”
Behaviors That Still Challenge Children and Adults
Using hints and cues
Gradually withdrawing adult support
At the heart of scaffolding is teachers’ careful attention to
timing the withdrawal of their support. As children increasingly direct their attention appropriately, persist in challenging tasks, and use
language to engage
others or seek help,
they increase their
ability to act independently. As they do,
teachers turn over
more of the regulating responsibilities to
the children’s control,
while monitoring their
progress and intervening when necessary to
provide appropriate
Scaffolding children’s learning
requires skillful
removal of adult
assistance. According
to Salonen, Vauras,
and Efklides (2005, 2) teachers must pay careful attention
to “the learner’s moment-by-moment changing independent functioning.” After observing a successful exchange
between Tricia and Lucy, Melissa withdrew, but she stayed
close. She encouraged the children to ask for help should
they need it, let them know where to find her, and monitored their interaction.
Withdrawing adult support from infants, toddlers, and
preschoolers requires continual monitoring by adults. The
younger the child, the more inconsistent self-regulation
skills will be. This inconsistency means adults need to be
even more careful about how quickly they withdraw support and pay careful attention to determine whether it is
appropriate to intervene again. When an infant takes her
first toddling walk across a room, she is not ready to walk
independently without adult supervision. Similarly, infants
and toddlers who have learned to routinely self-calm need
© Julia Luckenbill
© Kimberly Regan Schoenfeldt
© Shari Schmidt
When teachers use simple directions, gestures, and
touch, they provide young children with valuable cues
about how and when to regulate their emotions, attention,
and behavior. Teachers can help children regulate attention
by pointing to or commenting on important or interesting aspects of a picture, word, or pattern. They can gently
touch a child’s back to cue a child to relax (but keep in
mind that for some children, touch may increase tension).
Sometimes, children need hints and cues in addition
to modeling. Lucy did not consistently engage. She nodded, indicating her desire to play, but looked down and
shrugged when handed a block. She started to play, but
gave up quickly when she encountered difficulty. Lucy
needed direct support. Melissa gently rubbed Lucy’s back,
cuing her to remain calm and directing her attention away
from feeling
and toward
solving the
Learning to
when one
needs help
and to identify good
sources of
hit. Key phrases such as “look here,” “look at me,” or “look
where I am pointing” are explicit cues teachers can use
to help young children focus their attention. Beginning in
infancy, teachers can help children recognize and name
their emotions by calmly saying to frustrated or angry
babies and toddlers, “You sound angry” or “I wonder if
you’re frustrated,” and then cuing them to start self-calming
by using gentle touch and saying, “Let’s relax” or “I’m here
to help you.” As children begin to use language, adults can
provide cues about when and how to ask for help, when to
take a break, or when to try a different strategy.
help are critical self-regulation skills. By leaning in and quietly suggesting that Lucy ask Tricia, Melissa hinted about
where to get help and continued to cue Lucy to remain
calm. Melissa also modeled for Tricia how to give appropriate hints and cues. Tricia then imitated Melissa’s behavior,
and coached Lucy to success.
Younger children may need more explicit hints and cues.
Cuing children to hold their hands or put them in their
pockets helps them regulate impulses to touch, grab, or
Reprinted from Young Children • July 2011
increased adult support when they are ill or in unfamiliar
surroundings. At every age, learning self-regulation happens
within children’s everyday experiences with trusted adults
who regulate their own thinking, attention, emotion, behavior, and motivation.
Intentionality and teaching self-regulation in
everyday interactions
• identifying each child’s self-regulation zone of proximal
development and planning the kinds of modeling, hints, …
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