5 Self-Regulation Musts For Your Classroom 

By Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min
Create a calm and independent class with self regulation.

Self-regulation helps students know how they feel and learn 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 of bumps in the road. Picture being able to handle a student on the verge of a meltdown while giving instructions to 20 kindergarteners with glue and scissors in front of them.


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

Routines for everything. It will sound over the top, but write down all your routines and teach them like you do anything else. If something needs to be improved, double-check to see if there is a straightforward routine that students have been taught. 

What are some typical routines you use?

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

Calm Corners

These spaces provide a safe place for students to use and improve their self-regulation skills. There are a couple of skills and rules that need to be in place to help calm corners work.

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

How To Create A Calm Corner in Your Classroom

Movement Breaks

Differentiate breaks to be responsive to students and show them how different activities can help them regulate. 

Brain breaks are short, simple activities that teachers can do during transitions, when their class is not 100% present, and as a regular part of the schedule. Throughout a school

Brain Break Activities that Energize, Calm and Focus

Morning Meeting and Closing Circles

These class meetings 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 meetings 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.

As the year gets into it's rhythm, we often lose the opportunities to check-in with students. I'm sure there have been times that you have wondered how your students are

10 Student Check-In Activities to Connect and Understand

Direct Teaching

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

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

Self Regulation Small Group Bundle

Lessons and games that cover coping skills, emotional awareness, problem solving, goal setting, assertive communication, and behavior change.

You can often find these topics covered in children's literature you may already use. These four are my go-to books for learning about feelings.

Children's picture books are the perfect way to introduce different social-emotional skills. One of the first social-emotional learning standards is teaching students to identify feelings. These four books are my

Lessons and Books About Feelings

Role Play & Model

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

Also, it can be compelling 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.

Goal Setting

For students or classes that struggle with self-regulation, setting goals can be an excellent 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 them remember, and set weekly goals. 

One of the most important skills we can teach students is how to set goals and keep working on them. When children feel confident that they can make progress, they

11 Simple Strategies to Help Elementary Students Achieve Goals

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 aim to see fewer call-outs but not expect to zero that week.

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

SMART Goal Posters


Reflection is a crucial 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 free Reflect and Get Set Daily Goal Setting Cards in my store.

Daily intention cards

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?

Helpful Self Regulation Resources

Self Regulation Small Group Bundle

Lessons, games, and printables that cover coping skills, emotional awareness, problem solving, goal setting, assertive communication, and behavior change.

Self Regulation Classroom Tools

Get 5 self regulation tools you can add to your classroom or office. This includes an interactive calm corner, brain breaks, yoga cards, feelings posters, and reflection sheets. 

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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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