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Autonomy: Phase II of Any School Year

The Phase II of a school year begins once the children have successfully separated from their caregivers and are attached to their teachers. Successfully separated means that the child is able to leave their caregiver’s side, enter their classroom and engage with little to no distress. Some children need assistance with these transitions. This can take the form of one story read to them, second item in a list, or three hugs. Such transitional cues are always appropriate and should not be seen as evidence that a child can not separate.

Attached to a teacher means that the child seeks out the teacher for comfort when distressed. The child socially references his or her teacher when she or he has something to share, such as an accomplishment. “Look at what I painted.” Additionally, the child seeks the teacher when she or he needs support with basic self care, such as retrieving a coat that is out of reach or using the washroom. 

Once the children have successfully completed Phase I, separation and attachment, the teachers can begin to plan for Phase II. Often called the “Autonomy Phase,” the activities should encourage the children to be independent. Some options include changing the housekeeping corner to include materials or themes that are familiar to the children. Some ideas include:

A shoe store

A grocery store

A pizza parlor

A doctor’s office

A hair salon

Regardless of what the teacher changes housekeeping into, the children should have input into its change. Ask them what they would like it to be. Take a vote. Graph the results -- a great early math activity. Ask the children (and their families) to bring in items. Let the children make the signs. 

Phase II includes lots of opportunities to practice self-help skills. Children should be expected to put away their things at drop-off and gather them at dismissal. Clean-up should always include the entire class.  

At this point in the school year, teachers should be able to make the activities more complicated. For example, play dough can be made with the children, and include much more complicated tools for manipulation. Puzzles should be more complicated and challenging. Blocks can include manipulatives to extend building and pretend play.

Many teachers consider Phase II to be the most enjoyable of the school year. For most, it lasts for the majority of the year, allowing the teacher the opportunity observe as students grow, learn and develop strong, meaningful relationships. Phase II is magical for teachers. In fact, it is the reason that most teachers choose teaching as their profession.

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