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[Small talk] Bear against time!

In our Small talk - series, we bring you real-life stories. Thought self-regulated learning was just an abstract theory? Think again! ;-)

Children's books are an incredibly rewarding tool for making self-regulated skills visible and discussable. I dream of a beautifully stocked library full of children's books. Children's books that are fun to read, AND that show how self-regulation skills are simply skills that everyone uses all day long.

Looking for a way to explicitly discuss a particular self-regulation skill with your students? Go through your bookcase! What skills do the characters in your book use?

I bought this gem last week: Bear against time! by Jolivet Fromental. It's a French book by origins (L'ours contre la montre). It's absolutely worth checking if it's translated into your language!

No doubt you immediately guessed which self-regulation skills are at the heart of this book (even if you don't know Dutch): time management and planning!

What is the book about?

Bear can't read a clock and doesn't use a calendar. As a result, he is late everywhere. He bears the consequences of this: sitting outside on punishment; catching up on work during playtime; arriving at music class in sportswear; missing the bus; mom, dad, and school principal being angry,... Then Bear learns to read a clock and to use a calendar. Suddenly he can do a lot more in a day. Bear clearly enjoys all the fun things he can do now! Until a bear-out suddenly overwhelms him. Now what?

What can you do with the book?

I read it to my children (ages 7, 5, and 5) and it went fine. The oldest occasionally read along. The youngest looked at the pictures.

You can use the book just fine for helping your little readers read the clock. The book includes some nicely illustrated instructions. I recommend you do so when your younger readers that are not yet ready to read the clock are not around. It's hard for them to stay tuned during those four pages. Not a big deal, though. You can easily skip these pages when your younger kids are joining you. There are plenty of other conversation topics in the book!

Another fun idea: have your preschoolers retell the book based on the pictures. You'll discover what they remember from the book and what they might have missed the first time around. Children don't always make the connection to their own lives, but with a few pointed questions, you can get them to do so. Should you want to, of course. The book is also fun enough to read without a hidden agenda.

Questions I asked my kids, though not all in one read ;-) :

  • What do we all have to do in the morning?

  • Can you take a bath in the morning? No? What is a better time? How do you know?

  • Are you often the first one to arrive somewhere? How did you do that?

  • When were you late? How did that happen?

  • What is annoying to Bear about being late? What is annoying to you when you're being late?

  • Hey, what is an agenda? Look on the next pages, there is an example.

  • What would you write in such an agenda book? Why would you do that?

  • Do you use a clock or an alarm clock? How does that work?

  • Do you sometimes have busy days in which you do a lot? What do you do then?

  • Bear thinks it's pretty fun doing so many fun things in one day. What do you think about that?

  • Bear was so tired and he didn't feel it, because all he did was super fun. How can you tell when someone is tired? Where in your body do you feel it when you are tired? What do you do then?

You always know what question you're asking, but never really know where it will get you. Fun anyway! This is how it went with my daughter:

Me: What do we actually do to be on time? Her: Sometimes I don't listen to my alarm clock. Me: Ugh.

She: And then sometimes I don't get dressed. Then I just quickly go play some more in my room. And then I only get dressed....

Me: Oh, so you secretly don't listen to your alarm clock?

She: No.

Me: And yet you get to school on time?

She: Yes.

Me: Then why is that?

She: I don't know.

Me: Could it be that someone tells you in the morning that it's time to get dressed NOW? She: Yes.

Me: Then who tells you that?

She: Mommy or daddy.

Me: Ah, but if you would just listen to your alarm clock, then you can actually do that all by yourself, right? Don't need Mommy or Daddy.

She: I know that, but it takes so long for the alarm clock to go off. I don't want to lie down for so long. Then I start playing anyway.

Me: Maybe you need an alarm clock that tells you when you can get up and play, and then another alarm clock that tells you it's time to get dressed?

She: Yes, if the alarm clock tells me that, then you don't have to say it all the time. But then the alarm clock to wake up should go off a little earlier, Mom.


Her brother has a sleep trainer from Prontocare. Thirty minutes before it's time to get up and get ready, the alarm turns yellow. Is your child awake by then? Then it gets to get out of bed and play in silence for a while. When it's time to get ready for school, the light turns green. Maybe it's time to give my daughter this sleep trainer as a gift as well. It will undoubtedly save me a lot of 'time to get ready!'-phrases.

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