Calm corners are an incredible tool in your office or classroom. It provides a safe place for students to use and improve their self-regulation skills. To make calm corners work, a couple of skills and rules should be in place.
Going to the Space
When introducing the space, practicing going to the calm corner is essential. I like to focus on two adjectives for the transition: calm and quick.
Explain to students why calm and quick is the way. It shows we are doing our best to return to calm. We are also being respectful of others who are working.
Now, I'm not naive. Often, students use the calm corner when they are upset. There shouldn't be a penalty for a less-than-perfect transition. Instead, practice with students, help them understand the why, and reflect with them afterward about ways to make that transition smoother.
In the Calm Corner
In the calm corner, students should go through 4-ish steps. These steps make the calm down process interactive. It also pushes students to reflect on how they are feeling and focus on using strategies to get back to calm.
- Do a feelings check.
- Use a calming strategy.
- Do a feelings check-in.
- If calm, return to the activity or debrief with the teacher.
- If not calm, use the same strategy or another strategy.
- Do a feelings check.
- Return when relaxed or with adult support.
Students often need a toolbox of calming strategies they know how to use. Review why calming strategies are helpful; they get us back to calm, ready to learn, or another phrase that explains the purpose and value.
It is helpful to practice and determine which strategies work best. Introduce two to four strategies to students at a time.
I like to have the student reflect on four questions:
- Was this helpful?
- Do you feel calmer?
- Do you feel in control again?
- When could you use this strategy?
Leaving the Calm Corner
Part of a calm corner is students being able to tell when they are ready to return. The students should know that they are looking to be close to calm or at least prepared to talk or work on a simple activity.
In the process described above, the student checks how they feel after using strategies. They can repeat the strategy or try something new if they are not calm. This cycle should not go on endlessly, so consider putting in a stop point where the student checks in with an adult. Timers are perfect for this.
Spending a short amount of time in a calm corner may help big feelings get smaller, but students might also be ready to rev back up if frustrated.
Consider having re-entry activities if your classroom or office uses the space frequently. These activities should be simple and frustration-free, like worksheets, coloring, etc.
Again, emphasize and model that transitions from the break area should be calm and quick.
Outside the Calm Corner
One missing element that can sabotage a calm corner is if an audience (a.k.a. gawking classmates) does not know what to do when someone uses the space.
If the student using the space is reinforced by attention, classmates staring can be an issue. Teach classmates what to do, make the rules clear and hold students accountable.
- Keep working.
- Give the person space.
- Make sure the student has privacy.
- The break spot is a calm, quiet place.
Consider how the break spot is working for each student. If the student is misusing the space, consider changes you can make that would eliminate these reinforcers.
Choose a spot where you have visibility but isn't in the mix . It should help students to calm down, refocus, yet remain interested in returning to class.
Do you have a calm corner in your office or classroom? What routines do you teach?
Calm Corner Bundle
A calm corner is an essential tool for every K-3 elementary classroom. If you need to create a space where students can learn to independently manage their feelings and use strategies, this calm corner is it.
Calming Strategies Lesson
A small group calming strategies lesson where students will explore 24 different coping skills that will help improve their self-regulation. This easy, printable lesson comes with student cards and worksheets to help them find their best calming strategies and learn when they should use them.