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12 Best Ways to Calm Students: Creating Your After-Lunch and After-Recess Routine

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Complete Show Notes:

If you’ve been listening to this podcast for awhile, you might have heard me talk about the adorable natural zoo we have in the back yard of our house in Lexington, Kentucky 

When we moved from California to Kentucky, much to our surprise, we discovered that in our back yard, we not only had blue jays and cardinals and chipmunks, but we had entire families of squirrels scurrying around our back yard.

So, of course, I thought I knew what a squirrel looked like. We had them all over our back yard.

Then, my husband and I took a vacation to Florida that winter, and outside our condo were a whole bunch of adorable squirrels scurrying in the trees.

When I finally got closer and really looked at one, I was like,
“What? THAT’S what a squirrel is supposed to look like?”

You see, the squirrels we have in our back yard aren’t exactly slim.

I don’t know if they are a different breed of squirrel OR if I have maybe been gifting them with a few too many peanuts, but MY squirrels ae significantly more “rounded” than these Florida squirrels.

I was completely shocked that that was what a squirrel was SUPPOSED to look like.

It was a similar kind of feeling when I had been teaching 2nd grade for a few months, and I thought I had been doing a pretty good job.

I thought that my classroom was running pretty smoothly but that maybe my kids were just a little bit more “spirited” than kids in other classrooms.

But then, I remember so clearly, it was just after recess one day, I popped my head into my neighbors’ classroom to ask about something real quick, and I was completely shocked to see that her kids were already in their desks, focused and on-task.

I was like,
“What? THAT’S what’s supposed to happen after recess?
That’s what a classroom is supposed to look like?”

I came back to my classroom and there were literally kids everywhere.

It felt like I was suddenly in another completely different kind of zoo, and that’s when I realized that sometimes, you just don’t know what you don’t know until you see things the way they could be and – probably should be.

Once I had directly compared my classroom in real time with another classroom at my grade level and walked away shocked at how badly my students were behaving, I realized that it wasn’t my students that were the problem – it was their teacher.

It was one of many moments on my journey to understanding the difference between amazing teachers and teachers who were barely just getting by – they were super clear AND CONSISTENT about their routines and their expectations for students following those routines. 

So today, let’s talk about 12 ways that you may want to choose from in establishing a consistent routine for your classroom for when your students come back after lunch, and when they come back after each recess.

  1. Schedule silent reading:

    However, in order to be successful with this routine, you need to be sure that each of your students already has a book on top of their desk before leaving for lunch or recess as an instant reminder of what they need to do when they come back.

    I like to dim the lights as students come into the room and turn on some relaxing nature sounds or waves sounds, and even project a beach scene from YouTube, and then just give them ten or fifteen minutes to get lost in their book.

    Around the winter holiday season, I also love to project a video of a crackling fireplace onto the screen for kids to listen to as they read. They just love it!

    A second little trick is to put one student in charge of watching the rest of the class come in and go to their desks, and give him or her some kind of a reward that you use in your classroom and let that student watch for who will earn it.

    Once everyone is settled and has been reading for the allotted time, ask the student to announce who won the award and why they won it. Kids love to be the ones “in charge” and to be responsible for this important job.

    Sometimes, I’ve asked one boy to choose another boy and one girl to choose another girl, which works well, too.


  1.  Play “Dead Fish:"

    I know, it’s kind of a gross name, but that’s probably why kids love it so much. 😊

    Basically, students just lay on the floor with their eyes closed and not move – no wiggles allowed!

    If they wiggle, they’re out and they need to go back to their desk again.

    Kids love this one of course, because in addition to the awful name, anytime you can turn something into a game, you win!


  1. Draw a Cartoon Animal... One Line Every 15-20 Seconds:

    My students have their own doodle books in their desks, so when they come in after recess and see me doing this, they get to their desks pretty quickly because the animal becomes harder and harder to draw with each line (it becomes more diffcult for them to copy it when they’ve missed the first 3 or 4 lines), and a huge part of the fun is trying to figure out what the animal actually is as I’m drawing it because I get pretty mysterious about it.

    The kids absolutely love this! The best part is that once we’ve drawn our little animals, I encourage the kids to give their animal a name and then give them a couple of minutes to color it before we get started on the next lesson.


  1. Try Some Yoga:

    I might be one of the very few people on our planet who just can’t get into yoga, but hey, all the power to you if you do this! 

    Although, I do have to admit that I used to do a morning pilates class with any students who wanted to come early and participate.

    That was when I was much younger and a lot more bendy than I am now. Now, I’d probably just snap in half if I tried some of those moves.
    Okay, too much information. Moving on….

    Cosmic Kids Yoga is REALLY popular with a lot of teachers, so just click here if you want to give this a try with your students!

  2. Read Aloud from a Chapter Book:

    Students absolutely love this, and it’s a great way to find time to read aloud to students every day, especially because it’s one continuous story that they have to wait for to find out what happens next each day.

    I think that listening to a book in this way can actually be surprisingly powerful in today’s world of instant gratification and binge-watching Netflix. Kids aren’t used to having to wait until the next day to hear the next part of the story, so I love to use this after lunch.

  3. GoNoodle:

    These are fantastic ways to help calm and refocus children’s energy, and they take less than five minutes.

    Some of these are even available on YouTube, such as Rainbow Breath,
    On & Off, and Bring it Down.


  1. Get Epic! is a HUGE digital library for kids age 12 and under, and they have a “read to me” section of read-aloud of pretty much any popular children’s book you can think of.

    Here’s the best part – it’s FREE for elementary school teachers! I’ve included the link for you above so you can get started right away.

    Of course, there are also endless options of read-alouds available on YouTube, but be warned – it’s actually illegal to post a read-aloud of a children’s book without written permission from the publisher, so you might want to check with your administration about the legalities of showing these videos in your classroom.


  1. Play Silent Ball:

    Somebody posted this idea on a teacher chat and I thought it was such a great idea! I should have written down the name of the person I heard it from but I was in line at the grocery store when I read it so if it was you, please let me know so I can give you credit!

    This teacher said that she has her students sit on top of their desks and toss a ball in complete silence for 5 – 10 minutes, and if they talk or drop the ball, they are out, and then the game continues until only one person is left.

    I think it’s such a cute way to refocus student attention while also keeping them active, and I like it because it requires that students focus and pay attention to each other without getting noisy.

    I just think that I would be the loudest one of all – I could probably never play that game with my kids because I’d be squealing and wanting to cheer kids on the entire time. πŸ˜‚

    It sounds like so much fun, so let me know if you try it or if you are the one who posted that idea!


  1. Watch Fish Swim:

    I spent a year backpacking around Australia and New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Hawaii after I finished high school, and one of the most memorable parts of that entire experience for me was learning to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.

    I remember the moment I first breathed under water while visiting that incredible natural wonder of the world – it was so calm, so peaceful, so colorful, and so beautiful that I was completed addicted and never wanted to leave. It was incredible.

    Although we can’t actually take our students to the Great Barrier Reef, with our amazing access to technology today, there is no need to build an entire aquarium in your classroom for them to experience what this looks and feels like.

    It can be super calming to turn off the lights, project an aquarium video, and put on some relaxing music like the Ed Sheeran Pandora station… you may find your students not just calm, but falling asleep!

    I’ve linked to a gorgeous video I found on YouTube in case you want to try this with your students - just click here now to check it out.


  1. Try Some Weird & Fun Facts:

    Kids LOVE animals and weird and fun facts, and National Geographic Kids knows it – they have plenty of free, short videos featuring both!

    Your students might love learning about things like why dolphins aren’t fish and what 4000 year-old food treat a researcher found in an Egyptian tomb.

    Crazy, right? Sounds a little bit like my adventures in gluten-free baking.

  2. Awaken your Students' Curiosity for Places Around the World:

    If you love to travel the world the way I do, you may want to take advantage of this time to help your students to move beyond their present experience and invite them to dream about possibilities for their futures, for where in the world they may want to explore or visit, and open their eyes to the many incredible wonders of the world by showing them some pictures of stunning countries from around our planet (or even outer space)!

    I used to get pretty frustrated because it was so hard to find pictures that would be appropriate for kids, but thank goodness, again, National Geographic Kids has got you covered.

    They have an entire section of their website dedicated to kid-friendly pictures of countries from all around the world – what a great way to take your students on a super fun, five-minute field trip around the world! 

    Just click here to start a virtual tour around our world out now.

  3. Try a Five-Minute Field Trip:

    If you haven’t listened to Episode #03, one of my very first shows, I teach you all about how to do Five-Minute Field Trips with your students – and there’s an awesome freebie that you can get your hands on, too!

    Five-Minute Field Trips are another wonderful and creative way to calm and refocus students after recess or lunch, and they make fantastic transition activities, too.

    I hope you’ll go back and listen to that episode when you get a chance so you can try this with your kids, too. 

All right, friends, there you have it! Twelve great ways to calm students after lunch or recess.

Ratings & Reviews ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I hope you got a lot of value out of listening to this podcast today, and if you did, please share this podcast with any other new teachers you know who might find it helpful.

We’ve got to stick together in this profession, so the more you can help me to spread the word, the more teachers we can help to give those lucky kiddos you teach the very best experience possible at school. 

Coming Soon πŸ’›

Speaking of fantastic experiences at school, I really hope you’ll tune in for next week’s episode because we are going to talk about more very practical ideas for handling transitions in your classroom – and it’s so cool because some of the ideas we are going to talk about were generated through a challenge I created inside our R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy Members Only Club on FB, where I challenged my members to come up with one idea that worked in their classrooms! That means you’re going to hear not only my ideas, but some awesome ideas that were generated by the members of that group.

Also, if you’re a part of my Beginning Teacher Talk private FB group, I am going to create a lot of fun challenges inside that group as well that you all can benefit from, so I really hope that you will join that group if you haven’t already.

Just click the pic to join now:

I created this podcast as a lifeline for you to get the help you need, so if there is a topic or something in particular that you are struggling with or wondering about, or if you have a question and you would love for me to answer it on this podcast, I encourage you to join our new, FREE and PRIVATE Beginning Teacher Talk FB Group.

I hope that you have a fabulous week and as always, remember, just because you are a beginning elementary teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one! Bye for now.

xo Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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