Calming Tools for the Classroom 

By: Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min

To me, a calm classroom doesn't have to mean a quiet one. It means a classroom where students are taught and practice being in charge of their feelings and behaviors. This can be through calm corners, guided breaks to reset, steps to resolve peer conflicts, flexible seating, or lessons to help students find their preferred strategies. 

Calm Corners as Regulation Tools

Calm corners are the popping up all over social media and with good reason. They send the message that in this classroom, we understand that everyone has big feelings and deserves the space to work on managing them. It puts strategy use up front and communicates that we can solve our problems. 

For calm corners to work effectively, students need to be taught how to use them. They need procedures just like anything else in the classroom. The linked post reviews six procedures for a calm corner that are essential: Going to the Space, In the Space, Strategy Use, Leaving the Space, Rejoining the Class, and Class Response. Once your calm corner is up and running, it is also a great way to manage the needs of all your students.

Calm corners are not Time-Out under a nicer name. The spirit behind calm corners is teaching self-regulation, not punishing. Keep your consequences outside of that space. 

Interested in getting a calm corner setup in your classroom or office? Check out this post on Creating a Calm Corner.

calm down corner feelings check-in
calm down corner process

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Personalize It

One key to calming strategies we don't talk about enough is helping students personalize the strategies they use. Students need to opportunity to try different strategies, reflect on how they work for them, and create a strategy toolkit they can use independently. 

Try a whole-class lesson on coping strategies using the following process.

  1. Identify different feelings.
  2. Identify when big feelings happen.
  3. Try out different calming strategies.
  4. Reflect on which calming strategies would work best for you.
  5. Create a plan by matching calming strategies to situations. 

For more detail on how to teach and personalize calming strategies, check out this post on developing coping skills that stick.

develop coping skills with sequenced activities
develop coping skills with sequenced activities
develop coping skills with sequenced activities

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Classroom Calming Activities

You know the situation. Students return from recess and have some sort of amnesia that makes them forget they are now inside the classroom. Or students are half asleep late the afternoon after a long day. 

It is important that we build in whole class activities that help reset the students before moving on. Think about times in your schedule where students are out of sorts for lack of a better word. Build in a 5 minute break where you reset. 

In that break, I want you to respond to the students in front of you. Do they need something to energize them, calm them or refocus them? After recess, usually we need some calming activities. After two heavy academic periods, we might need 5 minutes to breathe and refocus. 

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Calming Strategies During Instruction

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Calming Tools can be used during instruction too. One year, the school counselor and I put together calming toolkits for every classroom. It was big Tupperware filled with calming items they could use for different students as they saw fit. 

Some of the items included were:

Bouncy bands for chairs. These are great! It let students move their legs without disturbing others. Looking for an economically alternative? Buy a roll of theraband (green is a good weight) and cut the length and tie it the front legs of the chair.

Move N' Sits  or Disc O' Sits are another great way for students to move around in their chairs, get some sensory input, all while not disturbing others.

Velcro is the ultimate fidget. Put it on the under side of a student's chair or their desk. They can rub the velcro when they are looking to fidget.

Sound machines. Most teachers set them up as a station in the room or as part of their calm corner.

Fidgets, when used appropriately, are wonderful to have in the classroom. Experiment with a couple kinds and set some rules around them.

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What Calming Tools Will You Use?

A calm classroom is a place where self-regulation is front and center, practiced, and embedded into the daily routine. It is not an extra thing, but rather an understanding that students need tools to regulate their feelings and behaviors throughout the day. Just like all of us do. 

What calming tools do you use in your classroom?

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calming tools for the classroom

I’m a school psychologist who left her office (closet?) and got busy turning a decade of experience into ready to use counseling and SEL resources.

I live in New York City with my adventurous husband and relaxed to the max daughter who’ve grown to appreciate my love of a good checklist.
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