In this blog post, we'll talk about why we have calm corners and how we can set one up to ensure maximum success and minimum distraction from what matters most.
Have you tried implementing a calm corner in your class without success?
Have you wanted to create a safe space, but are worried about the logistics behind it?
Do you currently offer a calm corner but are looking for fresh, new ideas to level up your chill out zone?
Then you, my resourceful lifelong learner, are in the right place.
Why have a calm down space? Simply put, like anything, we need to invest time, space and energy in order to yield positive results.
We need to be cognizant of assumptions that we make when welcoming new students into our classes each Back to School season. Do we expect Kindergarten students to be able to read when they come into our classrooms for the first time? No. Would it be wonderful if they had some letter or sight word recognition in their back pockets already? Sure- but we don't make assumptions that any of them do.
Similarly, we cannot expect children (at any age) to enter our learning environments with a strong sense of emotional intelligence and self-regulation without first allowing them to observe, assess and practice.
Academic benchmarks are more concrete and therefore easier for parents to gauge and work towards versus emotional ones. So while Fifi can confidently find every object she sees in the room that starts with the letter T, she may be very surprised to find herself unable to handle T-for-tantrums when her eyes start leaking and frustrated hands begin to tear up that book you gave her to read in a panic.
When it comes to behavior management and classroom management, there is no one perfect solution, however, there is a universally flawed solution: Bandaid behavior management.
Bandaid behavior management:
• Treats the symptoms, not the cause (fear tactics such as clip charts)
• Is convenient & short-term (overuse of incentive for positive, expected behaviors)
• Tells your children that meeting their needs comes second to convenience and order in the learning space ("Not now"; "Act your age"; "We'll talk about this later")
Instead of using punishment for red flags of dysregulation, we need to have preventative, consistent systems in place.
Including a safe space to decompress with concrete tools and having open conversations about emotions and coping skills is a proactive investment that will pay off in community building and classroom management.
For this, I'll go through the most frequently asked questions and reservations I get on running a successful calm corner.
I love using community circles to springboard our discussions about emotions, coping skills and use it as a time to explore the items in our calm kits. We all sit on the same level on the carpet and have a question or wonder of the morning.
At the beginning of the year, we dive into conversation to normalize feelings, such as:
"Talk about a time when you have felt [emotion] before."
"What does [emotion] look like? Feel like? Sound like?"
*These make beautiful anchor charts for above your calm space
"What do you like to do when you feel [emotion]?"
All of these questions will lead organically to the co-creation of a place in the classroom where children can go to self-regulate and get grounded.
A guideline to a successful introduction? Think C.A.L.M.
C- Co-create the space as a community
A- Allow time to build habits and explore tools
L- Leave assumptions at the door
M- Model using the coping tools & scaffold
If I see a calm corner system falling flat, it's usually because of the following: a) The teacher isn't using it for its intended purpose, perhaps using it as a punitive, forced measure and not an organic option for students who are feeling dysregulated. or b) It's thrown up with zero modeling, scaffolding, intention or student contribution. Just like we give students chances to explore manipulatives before using them for their intended purpose (solving Math problems), it's important to carve out an exploratory time to just let kids become accustomed to handling them and to figure out how it can support their big emotions. I suggest scaffolding early on in the year- let them see you use a calm corner and see how you treat the items, how you only choose what will help your mood and how you put them back afterwards. Then, practice as a group before giving assigned times to try it out and then finally, release responsibility and ownership completely onto the students by letting them seek the peace spot when they need it most. If you invest enough time in modeling and exploring at the beginning of the year, it's more likely to flow organically and as needed going forward.
Vocabulary will also be important- address the calm kit items as tools from the get-go, and not toys.
This is the most common question I think. Visual timers are going to be your best friend- there are a variety of versions that can best suit the needs of your students. In addition, it helps to have a special non-verbal signal that kids can use when they feel as though they need to de-escalate or get grounded.
Check out the graphic below to see some of our very favorite self-regulation tools to have in your calm kits. Less is more. Observe and discuss some of these options with your kiddos and have them choose a few that they would like to see in their calm kits.
I would love to hear how your calm corners are working out in your classroom or homeschool space!
Have more questions about how to implement zen zones?
Want to share your family or class' favorite tool? Comment below!
Don't forget to check out our best-selling Calm Spot
which will save you time and money, by already including a binder FULL or activities to support coping skills, including:
· Breathing exercise coloring pages & posters
· Mindful mazes
· Journal prompts
· Yoga/ stretch cards
· Whack-a-feeling activities
& so much more!