What If Kids Didn’t Need To Act Out? Ask Rae Pica!

Celebrating World Teacher Day With Rae Pica!

I’ve seen a lot of obnoxious behaviors and I admit I cleared a kindergarten class a couple times early on, before I knew better. I had a kid who tossed around pretty much everything in my Principal’s office, experienced the ‘joys’ of a key job on my car, you get the idea. Our purpose, drive, enthusiasm overcomes a lot of real life stuff happening every day in our schools and classrooms. But not when things get out of control.

Nothing much prepared us in Credential courses beyond our empathy to deal with acting out, turned off children. So many societal factors today challenge our children, teachers need every possible support. How in the world did it come to this? Rae Pica has a lot of answers that make sense. And reading the book’s introduction is guaranteed to make your day. Prepare to be validated by a specialist in children’s behavior with many years of experience, who walks the talk she writes about.

Thinking and thanking Maslow and Dewey. Maslow, to meet basic needs, more challenging than ever, today. And Dewey. Always match interests, that includes some level of self-selection, whether books or activities. Freedom to choose. Freedom to be. Just be. “I Want to be a seed”, the simplest, most gentle active learning activity imaginable! Thanks, Rae.

Back to Finland, On Play.

One thing I agree with about Finland’s approach to education is the frequent breaks. Lack of recess and play time, as Rae points out repeatedly in her work, causes kids to fidget and get in trouble. Moreover, withholding recess as punishment just makes behaviors worse.

It seems so obvious that:

  • Kids need to play play play! Not do worksheets, take tests and have to sit still and be compliant.
  • Kids are expected to do academic curricular content way beyond what is developmentally appropriate.
  • There is too much competition and emphasis on winning, discouraging cooperation.
  • A moving experience makes happy kids who need not act out to vent their frustration.
  • Fidgety kids, kids who fall out of chairs need to be moving instead.

Since we’re all teachers, really, let’s stand up with Rae, shouting to policymakers that denying kids freedom to move and groove, forcing them to sit for long periods of time carved out of a school day, is non-productive.  Maker spaces are great, chrome books too, to some extent but what happened to dramatic play?

Singing, dancing, arts and crafts? Recess? And freedom to just be. Childhood is a precious time, what’s the rush? Are we causing, in some part, not all of course, poor behaviors because of the way teachers are asked to teach now? Teachers are our action researchers and thought leaders.

Rae’s new book is extraordinary.

A must read. Expect plain talk about why and how-to, solid ideas about organizing, structuring your room and day, setting rules, being flexible yet consistent. Dig in. Positive behaviors are a snap, using Rae’s spot -on strategies. Her stories are sweet, yet pack a wallop. For example while suggesting we better use our voices as tools, Rae shares a special story about how a high pitched too excited voice at the wrong time overstimulated and got unintended results. No, I’m not giving away her turtles story!

Rae’s commonsense approaches work for all children really, not just our littles. Too much sitting, not enough moving around, the way we learn best. Rae mentions it doesn’t need to mean standing desks, just get moving for brain-body connection. Brain breaks are great and “Brain Gym” activities, crossing mid-line exercises are super useful, too! Kids need that experience for reading, balance, spatial awareness, etc.

Teachers doing breathing, yoga, even coloring, calming of any kind during the day likely benefit a great deal, teachers, kids too, so get out those mats, and circle time is a yes, surely. We need to slow it down, calmly move through our day with activities filled with joyous abandon, the celebration of learning.

Recess? Need lots more. And freedom to just be. Childhood is a precious time, what’s the rush?

How do children learn best?

Children learn best outside, learning instinctively with the curriculum evolving naturally, indoors with freedom to move around, explore a rich, but structured classroom environment. Testing young children is not developmentally appropriate. And when we push kids beyond what they should be doing, then chicken and egg, unmet core curriculum filled with meeting standards and less play, no doubt obnoxious behaviors arise, more often than not.

We bear witness to increasing lack of recess, pianos, costumes, dramatic play, replaced by assessments, worksheets, too early reading and writing for emergent learners. And corresponding inappropriate behaviors. Ask Rae Pica. Rae does believe that standards are attainable when learning environments support academic growth, developmentally. However, it’s always about doing what’s best for children, in developmentally appropriate ways.

No more acting out kids.

So what’s Rae’s most significant message for me, about acting out kids? Don’t let it happen in the first place, that’s what the book’s really about, engaging children in such joyous learning that “behavior challenges” don’t need to occur. Something as simple as having our own personal space makes the biggest difference in maintaining a peaceful learning community and Rae comments a lot more about little things that matter a lot.

Pica really delivers. Her positive approaches to child rearing and educating whole little kids, not just “from the neck up” starts with developmentally sound approaches such as how to create loving but structured learning environments, use positive reinforcement, make sure rules are common sense.

Rae reminds us we need to be flexible, continually sharing our expectations, using teachable moments to model kindness and cooperation. Things I hadn’t thought about such as monitoring energy levels and what we can do to raise or lower, depending on need at that moment. When we are really looking and listening to what is happening around us, we continually make mid-course corrections based on noticing and instant reflection.

I think the calm, consistent tone of Pica’s work is such a positive vibe and energy for us. I felt calm for the first time in awhile, as I carried the book around and read in between appointments, as well as hidden moments. You can pick this book up, but it’s really tough to put it down, every time you read a point you agree with, which is about every thirty seconds, you dash for book tags or start flipping pages down at corners, exactly what you tell your students and children not to do. Cringeworthy. I was doing that a lot.

Lately I’ve been reading way too much about increasingly chaotic, violent classrooms, with the converse, checking out Instagram perfect looking classrooms. The reality is in the middle. Teachers everywhere need support. Period.

And Rae Pica gives us that support, advice in the storm of pushing children too much in too many ways, with lack of resources and too often, support to do what we know is the right and best way to teach children. To treat teachers as professionals and provide needed resources. Rae Pica helps us stay focused, but positive on behalf of children in our care and extended families. Rae is a beacon of hope.

This jam packed book encourages mind-body connection.

Children who are calm, engaged, treating each other with kindness and gentleness are likely to have no behavior issues, or certainly fewer. It only makes sense. Pica shares how to make every classroom into a warm, welcoming place, meeting the needs of all children.

Let’s take a quick Book Walk.

But first things first. Here’s how Pica structures her book for us. To begin with, this is an extensively research-based book, citing a number of experts throughout, including my favorites Alfie Kohn and Eric Jensen, among others. Pica offers a strong research section after the book’s conclusion, for your continued learning. Pica also includes an Appendix, and Index of Activities, which is critical because of her amazing amount of classroom games and activities.

Seven chapters of perfection.

In the main part of the book, there are seven chapters. The first two offer Rae’s rationale regarding need for active learning, and fostering the positive learning environments which create a culture of kindness and cooperation. Rae shares strong suggestions for following directions, making transitions, honoring each child and ensuring a learning community based on respect and love.

A large part of this treasure, chapters three through seven consists of game after game which foster relaxation, self-regulation, teamwork, soft social skills necessary for individual growth and sense of team. The games are well structured and in easy -to-follow format including:

  • To Have:
  • To Do:
  • More To Do:
  • Curriculum Connections:

Nothing better than sequential how-to, ready- to -go classroom activities. What a treasure box! Just a few favorites include: “Balance That Ball, Sculpting Statues, Build a Story, The Snake, Balance and Recover, “etc.

And I promise you most of the time your kids will be engaged or in flow state. Rae’s strategies are sure to captivate your kids, enliven your lessons and teach basic emergent learning and social skills in active ways.

Rae shares a wide variety of of fun to do things including, for instance new Brain Breaks, balance activities, games for sharing feelings and cooperating. I love all the breathing and calming exercises in the last chapter. And coloring, too. Simple things are always best.

By the way, materials needed for the various games and activities are usually, none, or simple, such as a ball, a beach ball, jump rope, hula hoop, (parachute, optional), piece of paper, like zip. Easy.

In closing, on this special day of thanks. 

So have a grand time reading and using Rae Pica’s brand new treat. Just looking at the cover makes me so happy, seeing the adorable kids. And to know now that Rae’s story is our story, when we reach and teach kids from our heads, hearts and souls, just a bunch of kids we catch being good. And that makes all the difference.

I’m sure you’ll get what Rae meant by the last line in her book: “These are the secrets that will help you avoid behavior challenges.” Thanks Rae!

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

I’d love to hear from you! Catch me on:




And a bit on Instagram, too.

For more information about “Acting Out”! here’s the link.

Reach Rae Pica directly at https://www.raepica.com/

Grateful to Courtney Vasquez, Lavidge Books

Thanks as always to BAM Radio Network.

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