Creating a Calming Corner: The Mindful Teacher Part 4

December 17, 2020 by




Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or both; a Calming Corner is a great addition to any classroom or home environment.  This is a safe designated space where children can regulate their emotions and provide an opportunity and an outlet for the chance to calm themselves down.  We are all aware that children could have really big emotions that can quickly escalate into a tantrum or meltdown.  This blog will touch base on one preventative strategy that you could design and teach to allow children to calm themselves in a more appropriate way.  

This is the fourth and final post in this Mindful Teacher series. I hope you enjoyed this series as you gained knowledge and resources of becoming more mindful in our teaching practices.  Make sure you comment below of how you’ve been incorporating these practices into your routines.

As you are becoming a more mindful teacher by including some of these practices, make sure to check out our first few posts in this series of “The Mindful Teacher”. 

To start on the right mindful foot, here are five things you might want to consider when creating your very own calming corner, whether a physical part of your classroom or on a virtual platform.

1 ~ Where Do I Start? 

  • Find an appropriate location that could work in your environment.  
Physical Classroom Home Environment Virtual Classroom
  • Private area; my recommendation is to stay away from the front of the classroom or where it is a direct eyesight of many students.  
  • Can be as simple as a soft mat and a bucket of books or elaborate with beanbags, pillows, sensory toys, etc.
  • Find a location in your home that is away from heavy traffic. 
  • Attempt to keep children’s toys and electronics away from this area if possible. 
  • If you have a BitMoji Classroom set up, this is a great opportunity to create a calming virtual room that would pair well with a brick and mortar one. 
  • Check out: I Made a BitMoji Classroom…Now What?  if you would like more information on setting up BitMoji classrooms. 
  • Link in a variety of materials: animal exhibits, music, virtual videos, calm down activities.

 

Here is my personal BitMoji classroom “Calming Corner Room”. Each item in the room is linked to an external source including zoo exhibits, art virtual coloring, stories, songs, visuals.

2 ~ Teaching Expectations and Limits

  • As I stated in part 3 of the Mindful Teacher: Teaching Emotions and 15 Games for Self-Regulation; being able to calm yourself when emotions run high – or self-regulate – is a learned skill.  It needs to be directly taught and allow students time to practice that skill.   
  • Model, model, model!  Model various aspects of the calming corner including: how students should transition there, activities to do while there, how to transition back to class.
  • Make sure to set limits including the time allowed to spend in this space.  I always include a timer in my calming corner.
  • Another important limit or expectation is to make it clear that a student is still responsible for the work they are missing while in the calming corner.  This is not an area to escape the workload, but to allow you to regain your focus and take a brief break when emotions are running high.

3 ~ When Should You Use a Calming Corner?

  • Prior to escalation of behavior
    • A calming corner is supposed to be an inviting and safe space for a student to enter when they feel dys-regulated.  
    • You will recognize warning signs for each individual child.  Some of these signs may include: a clenched jaw, banging their books or items around, throwing items, scowl, head down, or refusal to name just a few.
  • Over-stimulation
    • A calming corner IS NOT a timeout area.  If you have a time-out area in your home, please do not have the calming area in the same location or nearby.  
    • When a child is overstimulated or super excited and needs to calm down, the calming area is a great opportunity for them to regain their composure before possibly getting into trouble.  

  • Student Choice
    • After explicit and direct instruction of how to utilize the space, time limits, and expectations; student choice is a great opportunity for independence.
    • Many adults may have a hard time with this thought at first.  Trust me, I understand completely.  Some students may attempt to use the calming area to think they are escaping the task or work. This is why it is very important to include the expectation of being responsible for missed work while in this space.  
    • In time, when a student is requesting to use this space, accept it and embrace it!  It is showing that your teaching of self-regulation skills is working and the student is identifying that they may need the space to either refocus or calm themselves down.  Even if they are not physically showing any signs that you may see, please allow them to do so.  The novelty will wear off if you are worried about abusing the option! 

4 ~ What to Include in Your Calming Corner?

  • There are so many amazing items that are out there to think about including in your calming area.  
  • You know your child or student(s) best and this will depict what you may need to include in your area to make it safe, inviting and comfortable.
  • Below are some items and links to consider…

Physical Environment (Home/Classroom)

Virtual Platform

  • Furniture
  • Art Activities for drawing/doodling
  • Journal or extra paper for writing
  • Sensory Items
  • Fidget Toys 
  • Tangle Toys
  • Fidget Spinners
  • Kinetic Sand or PlayDough
  • Books 
  • Posters (purposeful/meaningful)
    • Can incorporate breathing exercises, steps to take to calm down, list of activities/expectations
  • Glitter Jar/Bottle
    • This was one of my favorite activities I completed with my students when I was an Emotional Support Teacher.  Each of my students made their own sensory glitter bottle and were taught how and when to use it.  

5 ~ Don’t Fully Rely on This Space Alone!

  • However amazing your calming space, unfortunately it will not help students just being part of your room or space alone.  Remember, you will have to teach the expectations and how to use the space appropriately.   
  • Be consistent!  Consistency is also a teaching tool for students to know the expectations of the space.  By staying consistent, children will know and catch on of how to utilize the space properly. 
  • Teach elements of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) daily.
    • Let’s face it, our schedules are jammed packed with academics, standards, and more and more administrative expectations.  However, many of these SEL activities pair very well with academics.   
    • 25 Breathing Activities to Calm and Focus Your Students: these few short videos are well worth incorporating into your daily routine as a great transition or brain break video.  
    • Discuss the emotions of characters in the stories you read.  Along with conversations about emotions you can include regulation strategies of how the character can self-regulate. 
    • Include dialogue, group conversations, books, scenarios of appropriate social interactions.  Sharing, turn taking, conversation skills, etc.  

I hope that you will continue on this path by becoming more mindful of your teaching practices.  We would love to see and hear about your created calming corners in the comments below.  Feel free to share some things that may be working well for you as well as including a picture of your calming spaces!  Remember… I see you, I hear you and I understand.  Continue to Be kind, Be strong, Be You!

Written by: Christopher Olson

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