5 Self-Regulation Musts For Your Classroom 

By: Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min

Self-regulation helps students know how they feel and know how to handle those feelings so they can manage them. During a school day, self regulation activities for kids can make all the difference between a hectic hot mess and a couple bumps in the road. Picture being able to handle a student on the verge of meltdown while giving instructions to 20 kindergarteners with glue and scissors in front of them.

1. Routines

You get a routine! You get a routine! And you get a routine!

Routines for everything. It's going to sound over the top, but write down all your routines (subs will love you) and teach them like you do anything else. If something isn't going smoothly in your classroom, double check to see if there is a clear routine that students have been taught. 

What are some common routines in your classroom?

  • Coming in in the morning.
  • Getting materials.
  • Lining up.
  • Packing up at the end of the day.
  • Going to the bathroom.

Must Try Self-Regulation Routines

Calm Corners or Break Spots provide a safe place for students to use and improve their self regulation skills. To make calm corners work there are a couple skills and rules that need to be in place. Check out this post for more details on how to set up a Calm Corner routine.

Calm Corner

Movement Breaks can be differentiated to be more responsive to students and show them how different activities can help them regulate. Check out this post on Brain Break Activities that Energize, Calm, and Focus

Morning Meeting and Closing Circles are a great way to set the tone for the beginning and end of the day. They are a consistent activity that students know will happen. You can use morning meeting to preview the schedule for the day, do a feelings check-in and learn a skill. Closing circles can be a way to debrief about the day and preview the next day.

Self Regulation Activities for Kids

2. Direct Teaching

Directly teach self regulation to your class and in particular small groups of students who struggle with these skills. Morning meeting and SEL blocks are a great time to incorporate self-regulation more directly. Some key skills to incorporate are:

  • Identifying feelings
  • Telling the difference between small problems and big problems.
  • Using positive thinking
  • Developing go-to coping strategies

You can often find these topics covered in children's literature you may already be using in your classsroom. These four are my go-to books for learning about feelings.Or you can try a small group curriculum like this Self Regulation Small Group.

Direct Teaching of self regulation skills using curriculum

3. Role Play & Model

One self regulation activity for kids that can be helpful is for students to plan what they will do when common challenging situations come up and then quickly act out their plan. When teachable moments come up, rather than just providing a verbal correction or explanation, have students replay the situation with different actions and outcomes.

Also, it can be really powerful for you to model and think out loud when you are in a situation where you have to manage your feelings and what you do. Students can see not only how you would handle it, but that adults have to manage their feelings too.

Lastly, books are always a great medium. Highlight how different characters do and don't handle their feelings and the consequences that happen. 

4. Goal Setting

For students or classes that struggle with self-regulation, setting goals can be a good strategy to incorporate. This will help students focus on improvement and make plans to reach goals.

For example, say the class or a student wants to work on raising their hands. They can identify when they have trouble raising their hand, brainstorm strategies to help remember, and set a goal for the week. 

One of the key focuses of any goal setting with self-regulation should be on getting 1% better all the time, not worrying about perfection. With the hand raising example, from week to week, students should have a goal to see fewer call-outs, but not expect to zero that week.

Setting Goals Together with Students

SMART Goals are even better and simple to add into your classroom routines.

SMART Goal Posters

5. Reflection

Reflection is a key part of self regulation activities for kids. Thinking about how you can manage or could have managed your feelings takes some practice. But the better you get at it, the better you get at self-regulation. 

You can build some reflection time into closing circles or morning meetings. 

Try having students use daily or weekly self reflection cards like these Reflect and Get Set Daily Goal Setting Cards in my store.

Daily intention cards

Get Started

Here are the 5 self regulation activities for kids you can incorporate that will support students.

  • Routines
  • Direct Teaching
  • Role Play and Modeling
  • Goal Setting
  • Reflection

Which of these do you already do?

Which do you want to work on adding in?

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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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