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It’s tough being a kid and learning how to navigate big emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, stress, and disappointment. I’m sure you’ve noticed that some of your students have a more difficult time than others when it comes to processing these types of emotions. We all have had those students who have really big tempers, or become upset easily.
Over the past couple of years with everything that families and children have gone through, in terms of loss, grief, and trauma with COVID in our lives, we're seeing a lot more dramatic behaviors in classrooms. Children are having even more difficulty than we've ever seen before when it comes to understanding how to manage the big emotions that they may be experiencing.
Many children simply haven’t ever learned the skill of self-regulating, and they don’t have any strategies in place to help them through their big feelings. Having a special space in your classroom where students can go to work through their emotions safely is a game-changer. You can call it a calm-down corner, comfort corner, or something else, but these spaces are so helpful when kids need to take a break before rejoining the class.
Before you think that you need to run to Target to spend more money on your classroom, I want to emphasize that a calm-down corner does not need to be anything fancy. It also doesn’t need to take you a lot of time to create. It’s as simple as designating a space where children know they can go to when they need to give themselves a minute to calm down. It gives them the opportunity to figure out the best way to manage their big feelings at that specific moment.
For example, in my classroom, my calm-down corner was simply an extra desk that I had. That’s it! In this space, I kept a variety of different things that my students could use to remind themselves of how they can calm themselves down and process big emotions. The class favorite was a giant overstuffed teddy bear. He was adorable, cuddly, soft, and he had big weighted paws. When you hugged him, it felt like he was hugging you back. He was such a source of comfort for my kiddos. Even my fourth graders!
So, keep it simple and keep a variety of materials that will appeal to all different types of kids. You could include playdough for them to squish their frustration out, paper and pencils to write down their feelings, or music to calm their body and mind. All of these things work to push out negative emotions and shift to positive ones.
There’s one super important piece to a calm-down corner that a lot of teachers miss, and that is teaching your students the strategies that they can use when they go to this space. The key is teaching them these strategies ahead of time, when they are calm and happy, not when they are experiencing stress or another big emotion.
What we do to help children to feel supported, and the strategies we teach them, is what will determine how well equipped they are to handle stress and trauma when those big feelings come up for them. The way that you can easily teach these strategies to your students is by introducing one or two different strategies in your comfort corner each morning during your morning meeting. Teaching these strategies to your whole class will help to ensure that all of your students understand how to use the calm-down space safely and respectfully.
I honestly believe that if we were taught these skills and strategies in school more intentionally, we would have a lot less road rage and violence in general in our lives. We can all benefit from learning to be more mindful, and to self-regulate when we begin to feel out of control, even as adults.
If you have any questions about setting up a calm-down corner in your classroom, be sure to join the Beginning Teacher Talk Private Facebook Group. There are lots of teachers in the group who will give you tons of ideas and advice! Lastly, if you are enjoying this podcast, please write a review on Apple Podcasts. When you do, you’ll be entered to win an Amazon gift card!
I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
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 drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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