Learn how to create a calm classroom using 5 effective strategies and tips on creating a calm corner and kit for students.
Creating a Calm, Productive Classroom
Do you struggle to create a classroom that is calm and productive?
Perhaps you connect with your students and your heart is in the right place, but students still have emotional outbursts and get easily frustrated.
Perhaps you work hard to maintain control, yet students continue to get distracted and off-task.
Your intentions are good, but this isn’t about how great your lessons are or how much you care. It is about your students and their ability to understand and effectively manage their emotions.
Imagine this: During writing, Little Johnny fiddles with his pencil. He starts tapping his desk, his chair, and soon his classmates. He is clearly avoiding his work and wants to disrupt others from their work as well. You notice him as he seems to escalate his behavior over a period of time, becoming increasingly louder and louder until the entire class is off task and staring at him.
Or this: Little Wendy is getting ready for recess. In the cloakroom, she works hard to get her coat on when her zipper gets stuck. Her friends run outside and she is left alone. Her breathing gets faster and she starts to cry out of frustration. She slumps to the ground and sits there until recess is over, missing out on fresh air and a snack.
While these two stories sound entirely different, they share one thing in common. Both children failed to find a productive and calm way of handling their emotions.
The Classroom Environment.
As educators, we strive to create a classroom that helps kids learn. If the atmosphere is too noisy or too distracting or too busy, then kids won’t be able to learn and manage constructively.
Our job as educators is to teach kids the strategies they need. It is also to create a classroom where kids feel comfortable asking for help and using the tools we put in place for them. This can be achieved by creating a calm, productive classroom environment.
Why are Self-Regulation Skills Important?
We want our children and students to learn to manage their emotions when they are upset so that they can participate, enjoy, and complete activities that are outlined for them in school and at home.
When children are able to recognize their emotions, make good choices, and self-regulate with the use of specific strategies and tools, they are able to go from one mental state to another in a productive and less disruptive way.
This allows for the classroom to evolve into a place of calm and connection. Teachers can then stay on task with their teaching and students can stay on task with their learning.
By teaching a child to recognize how they feel and to understand what they need, they will be empowered to make a choice and develop self-regulation skills in action. This is a powerful process and one we should work on teaching and implementing in our classrooms.
5 Strategies to Help You Create a Calm Classroom
In this post, you will learn how to help kids recognize when they need to calm down, as well as how to create a calm classroom atmosphere with strategies designed for that. You will gain ideas to help you get prepared ahead of time so that kids can learn to self-regulate and utilize the tools you have provided them as they need.
1. Recognize Emotions
Before kids can begin to self-regulate independently, they first need to learn self-awareness. They need to be able to recognize how they are feeling and to name those emotions. They need to say to themselves, “Hey, I am feeling … right now. I need to calm down!”
But how do we help them do this? We start with teaching them about their emotions. Then, talk about different emotions, when we feel that way, and what that emotion looks and feels like. We explain to kids that their brain controls how they feel at different times each day.
Once kids can recognize and name the emotions they feel and understand that it is their brain that controls them, they begin to feel more in control and able to predict what their needs will be at different times.
- Daily morning meetings are a wonderful opportunity for kids to connect with their feelings and with their peers.
- Create a way for kids to check-in with their emotions at the start of the day. A poster or clip-chart works great for this!
- Try a few of these emotions and feelings lessons!
2. Teach Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about connecting with our own thoughts and feelings. By practicing mindfulness with our students, we are letting them know that it is okay to slow down and connect with ourselves. This process is important if we want kids to become aware of how they are feeling and what their needs are.
The classroom environment is often a busy one, but when we intentionally take the time to pause and practice something that is useful for our emotional well-being, we see the benefits throughout the day. We feel a sense of calm take over that readies our minds to focus and do our best.
There are many strategies that can help encourage students to be mindful. Try a few of the ideas below to create a more peaceful atmosphere.
Mindfulness Ideas for a Calm Classroom
- Take time to breathe with intention throughout the busy school day. Teaching students how to visualize and calm their bodies with their breath is a powerful thing! Try a few from this list of simple deep breathing exercises.
- Play calming sounds and music when needed or during times of quiet work. Use a chime after transitions and have kids close their eyes and listen to the sound. Check out this ‘Calm Classroom’ playlist on Spotify!
- Try this list of 25 Relaxing Music Videos if you desire a visual experience.
- Incorporate yoga poses into your day. Start slow with a pose of the day and share the benefits of each post with kids. Cosmic Kids Yoga is an excellent source of yoga videos for kids.
- Read more about mindfulness in the classroom and what books can help guide your classroom practices.
3. Read Children’s Books as a Class
If you’ve been following our site for any time, then you know how much we value children’s literature and how stories help teach important social-emotional topics. Using books as mentor texts for your lessons on self-regulation and calming is no different. These books will help you teach children new ways of thinking and acting.
Books help us teach students a new topic or area of focus. When it comes to creating a calm classroom, share books with characters that learn to self-manage or the journey they went on to where they are now.
Books can help kids see that it is okay to be who they are and to not always be in control. Books can also teach kids that it is okay to feel and how they can relieve overwhelming emotions. But most importantly, books teach kids new ways of thinking. Books help create a calm and connected classroom.
Self-Regulation Mentor Texts
- This list of self-regulation books and videos will help kids learn to calm down and manage their behavior.
- Use this Emotions Book Companion resource to have book chats, share feelings, and participate in engaging activities that build emotional awareness.
- See the complete list of self-regulation books, along with more social-emotional learning books in our book recommendation lists.
4. Create a Classroom Calm Down Kit
Children benefit greatly from using tools that are created for the sole purpose of helping them calm down. There are a variety of items that can be used that are easy to gather and use with students. They can then use these materials, as directed by you when they need to calm down.
By creating a box of calming tools, we let kids know that they matter and we care about their emotional well-being. We are letting them know that it is okay to feel the way they feel and to need to step away, take a break, and get some help.
How to Create a Calm Down Kit:
- Gather the items you want to include (see the list below).
- Teach the class about each item and how you expect them to use it. Explain how each tool can help calm their bodies and minds. Take time for everyone to practice using the tool before it is included in the kit.
- Decide how many kits you wish to create. There are benefits to each child having their own kit. They can include tools designed and selected specifically to help them calm, rather than get excited. For example, they could include a personal journal and emotions clip-card. Alternatively, you could create a few boxes of tools for the entire class to share.
- Create a designated space for the calm down kit(s) to remain.
- Make sure to clearly outline the expectations (when students can use it; how many can use it at a time; who can use it and when). Demonstrate what proper use looks like.
What to Include in a Calm Down Box:
- sand timer
- pipe cleaners
- crayons & coloring or sketchbook
- a stress ball or something to squeeze
- sensory bottle with glitter
- emotion picture cards
See our list of suggested calm down tools to help you get started!
Watch the video below to see how our Self-Regulation Calm Down Kit is used and put together.
5. Create a Calm Corner in the Classroom
Think about where you go when you need to calm down. Do you go outside for a walk? Do you sit in a dark room by yourself? Maybe you have a special room in your house that you go to because it has the tools you need to relax and unwind? We all have developed strategies to help us regulate our emotions and get back to where we need to be. Kids are the same!
One special thing we can do to help our students is to create a safe, open space in the classroom that they can go to when their emotions run high. A place to take a break, breathe, and regain control.
You want the place to be one where kids feel comfortable. So ask them for help in designing the area! Get them to share which items they prefer and enjoy using to relax. Remember to limit the distracting elements!
Once the area has been created, take some time to review how to respectfully use the space and respect others who choose to use the space, as well.
Have a small classroom with limited space? Get creative and think of ways that you can incorporate relaxing additions to the entire classroom. Think softer lighting or flexible seating options. You could also create a “traveling” calm down space that involves kids selecting their own area and using the tools they need in real-time.
A bonus to a calming space is having a place to store the tools that have been introduced to the class already (i.e., books, emotions check-in chart, mindfulness tools, calm down kit).
Finally, make sure to check-in with students after they leave the space. Ask them how they feel after they have calmed their bodies and minds. Empower them to recognize how they feel after leaving the space.
Items to Include in a Calm Down “Corner”
- comfortable seating
- soft lighting
- calm down kit (see details above)
- music or sounds
- helpful visuals and posters to help them breathe, check-in with their emotions, and calm down (Grab the FREE poster kit below!)
Free Classroom Calm Corner Kit
Create a calm down area in your classroom or home with this FREE Calm Classroom Corner resource!
This free Calm Corner Classroom kit includes:
- Posters to label your “calm down corner” area of your classroom or home.
- “I Feel” poster with emotions: Kids can clip the emotion to show how they are feeling.
- “I Can Be Calm” poster with 12 calming strategies: Kids can try the calming strategies listed pictured. Don’t forget to teach your students these strategies beforehand!
- “I Can Breathe” poster with 6 breathing exercises: Kids can practice the simple breathing strategies by following the instructions.
- Calm Down Journal: Kids color in a box to show how they feel and write a sentence about what they will do to calm down.
Click the image below to grab a copy.
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