Setting up a calm down corner in your classroom can be a highly effective way to improve classroom management and self-regulation in students. Use these tips to set up a calm down or break area, and teach students to use it.
Why Set Up A Calm Down Corner?
Creating a break area in your classroom is worth the space it takes up! I know we have limited space and storage, but you and your students will reap the benefits once it is up and running. I have seen students go from destroying a room & disrupting peers to quietly & appropriately using the calm down corner when they needed it.
Pros to having this area include:
- Gives students a space to use & practice coping skills
- Allows students to calm down without an audience
- Keeps all of the needed visuals and materials accessible and in one place
Where Should The Area Be?
Whenever possible, choose a space in your classroom. We want to teach students coping skills within the environment they need them. We don’t want them to have to leave the classroom to get their needs met.
Choose an area that is quick and easy to access when students need it. It should have some physical boundaries to offer students who are upset privacy.
How Do I Set Up The Calm Down Area?
Once you have the space designated, set up the visuals & materials students need to complete their coping strategies in a way that makes sense for this group of students. You may need to change the layout yearly depending on your students’ needs.
Next, brainstorm ways to organize the materials in the break area. For example, if your classroom uses the Zones Of Regulation, you could use colored buckets to store the materials. Sort the tools for the yellow zone into the yellow bucket, and so on. This gives students a quick way to get the tools & visuals they need.
Another option is to group visuals and materials by the type of strategy or sensory need. For example, have a bucket of vibration tools, a bucket of weighted blankets and toys, and so on. The options are endless. Just choose a system that makes sense for the behavior or pro-social skills program your classroom uses.
General visuals & materials to include in the calm down corner:
- Feelings and emotions visuals or posters to help students identify and communicate their feelings.
- Core boards with the visuals students will need to communicate their feelings and needs.
How do I teach students to use the Break area?
Take time to go through the calm down area and teach students how to use each component. Depending on your students, you may want to do this in a small group or one on one with students.
What to teach students about the break area:
- When should the calm down corner be used? Discuss and brainstorm when a student would need the break area and when they wouldn’t.
- How a student accesses the break area if they need it. Do students have to ask, can they hand you a pass, just go, etc. Make sure everyone knows the process including paras, therapists, and anyone else who regularly works in your classroom.
- What students can and can not do while in the calm down corner. You may want to make a visual to remind students of these rules.
- Discuss the name of the area. Will it be called the calm down corner, break area, chill out zone, etc.
- Decide on how to keep track of how long a student uses the calm down area. Will there be a timer, can students stay as long as they feel they need to, etc.
- Talk about any natural consequences that may come from using this break area. For example, if they miss a lesson do they need to make it up, can you still earn if you use the calm down area for half of work centers, etc.
Once students begin using the calm down corner, you will slowly start to see improvement in behaviors, self-regulation, and classroom management. Creating a break area in your classroom is well worth the time, effort, and space it requires.
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