Parent Information

Tools of the Mind


Tools of the Mind is the name of the curriculum framework that has been adopted by the Arlington Public Schools for their Kindergarten program.  It is based on Lev Vygotsky’s belief that “young children develop from being reactive (unregulated) to intentional (self-regulated).  It’s primary focus is to teach children how to self-regulate.  Children who successfully self-regulate exhibit the following abilities:

  • Staying on task
  • Ignoring distractions
  • Remembering on purpose
  • Holding two strategies in mind at the same time
  • Developing of self-discipline
  • The motivation to succeed.

Children without these skills may still be able to learn but will begin to have trouble as more advanced concepts are introduced.


There are three main components of self-regulation, also referred to as executive function.  These components are:

  1. Inhibitory or effortful self-control:  This is the ability to act appropriately, even when tempted by something else.
  2. Working memory: This is the ability to hold information in the mind, including remembering the sounds at the beginning of a word when arriving at the end to be able to put all of the sounds together to form the whole word.
  3. Cognitive flexibility: This is the ability to adjust mental effort, for example, reading this word (blue) as blue instead of red.


Many of the activities in a Tools of the Mind classroom focus on self-regulation.  You will see students working in pairs or small groups many times throughout the day.  They learn to take turns in different roles.  Intentional dramatic play is also an integral part of the school day.


The year starts with fairy tale units and then moves into chapter books, specifically books from the Magic Tree House series.  Some parents have expressed concern about a curriculum based around these books, especially since they include ninjas, pirates and knights.  The important thing to note is that these books were chosen as tools to use because they are compelling and have tie-ins to non-fiction studies in history and science.


Writing is taught in a different way than most parents are used to.  Children use something called a sound map to learn the sounds of letters before learning the names.  Teachers  introduce writing through a write along where the teacher writes on the board while the children write on their own white board.  They start by creating spaces for each word and then write the sounds they here in each space.  It is thought that this approach gives the children more freedom and less fear of writing as they go forward.


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