As an elementary teacher, you have students struggling to manage big feelings. Having a designated space where students can work on handling overwhelm and frustration is helpful. Creating a calm corner is simple and allows students to practice self-regulation while communicating those big feelings are expected. In this blog post, we'll go over choosing a spot, naming it, stocking it, setting expectations, teaching strategies, and keeping it working.
Choosing a Spot for Your Calm Corner
Choosing the good spot for a calm corner in your elementary classroom is the first step. When choosing your space, consider the area's layout and size to ensure enough room. It does not need to be big or Pinterest-worthy.
It is most important that it is:
- away from any distractions or noise.
- accessible to all students throughout the day.
- not overstimulating with lots of visuals and choices.
- has a simple process to follow.
If you don't have enough space, try creating a lapbook version of your calm corner visuals instead!
Pick Your Calm Corner Name
I did a bit of polling about what everyone calls their space. There are so many names for this serene nook!
Many iterations of Calm Corner:
Calm Down Corner, Calm Down Spot, Calm Down Zone, Calming Corner, and Cool Down Corner. Plus, a few more! Regulation Station might be my favorite.
What to Put in Your Calm Corner
A calm corner is more than just a quiet, dedicated space. It is a place where students can practice self-regulation strategies. So let's outfit it with the right tools.
Calm Corner Checklist
The most important part of your calm corner is the visuals. These should be simple and guide students through a step-by-step self-regulation process. This can be large posters on the wall, a lap book, a straightforward social narrative, or even a one-page printout.
You can add visuals for students to identify how they feel and strategies they can use to help them calm down.
Comfortable, Cozy Materials
The calm corner should be a comfortable place. Depending on your available space, you can add a beanbag chair or other seating. Again, keep it simple with pillows, a stuffed animal, and a weighted lap pad.
Basic Tools for Your Calm Corner
There should be a set of tools that help them use the strategies they have already learned.
Some Other Tools to Consider
This next set of tools is optional but are great strategies to teach students throughout the year. Pick a few you think your students would gravitate towards. You can practice during the morning meeting and add them to the calm corner.
Teach Calm Corner Expectations
It would be fantastic if you could set up a cozy space, fill it with helpful tools, and have students use it correctly. However, you know that you will have to teach expectations and procedures for the area, just like you would anything else. There are four main procedures.
Going to the Calm Corner
When discussing the transition, focus on two adjectives: calmly and quickly. Emphasize to students that they are in a community of learners, and we must be respectful of each other.
Now it's likely that the transition will be challenging when a student is frustrated. When at all possible, this should not become a battle. Instead, focus on practicing with them, helping them understand why calmly and quickly is essential for everyone, and reflecting afterward about ways they can make their transitions smoother.
This is an excellent discussion to have as a whole class.
In the Calm Corner
Teach students the process and expectations for the space.
In the calm corner, students should go through the step-by-step process. This focuses on the student being reflective and active in the process.
- Do a feelings check.
- Use a calming strategy.
- Check back in and see how you're feeling.
- If calm, return to the activity or talk with your teacher.
- If not ready, use the same strategy or another strategy.
- Do a feelings check again.
- Return when calm or with adult support.
It can be helpful to set up expectations using a behavior matrix. For this, create a set of positively phrased guidelines or rules for the space. Then for each direction, define what it looks like if the student did a great job, an okay job, or a not so great. Put these in a simple matrix and have students brainstorm.
Leaving the Calm Corner
Part of a practical calm corner is students being able to tell when they are ready to return. The student should know they are looking to be close to calm or at least prepared to talk or work on a simple activity. Consider using a timer to have a check-in point with an adult.
Having the student complete a simple activity when returning can be very helpful. This is especially true if the activity they left was part of their frustration.
The emphasis here is again on making a calm and quick transition.
When Someone Is Using The Calm Corner
Students need to understand how to go to and leave the calm corner and what to do while they are there. It is also crucial that classmates know what to do. Namely, ignore the person in the calm corner.
Set up clear rules for the class that are positively phrased. For example:
The calm corner is a helpful space in our classroom where you can take some time when you need. There are different materials to help.
While someone is using the calm corner, it's important to:
- keep your focus on your work.
- give the person space.
- make sure the student has privacy (no staring or talking).
Learn Self Regulation Strategies
Just like you teach students the calm corner procedures, you also have to teach them the strategies to manage big, overwhelming feelings. This is an excellent opportunity to help them develop their strategies. The ones that they find personally effective.
Could you introduce one or two strategies a week throughout the year? Then, students reflect on which strategies are helpful for them. Use this free Calming Strategies Notebook Sampler to get started. Students can create their calming strategy notebook with their best strategies.
Calm Corner Tune Up
Periodically throughout the year, check in with students to see how they are doing with the space. This can be a class discussion or a quick survey. Maybe there are too many strategies or tools. Perhaps they don't remember how to use some of the items. Also, consider if the location is in the best spot now that your classroom routines are in place.
You know all about creating a calm corner in your elementary classroom, so it's time to get started. A calm corner can be a game-changer for both you and your students when it comes to managing big feelings.
If you are all looking for all the visuals and strategies, grab the Calm Corner Bundle.