Alaska: A Place for Students to Cool Down
It is so helpful to have a quiet, calm space in the classroom that students can escape to when they need a break or a little space for themselves. Students may benefit from a break in the cool down corner when they feel tired, overwhelmed, or upset. It is important to allow students space when they need it. And it’s just as important to help them self recognize when they need space. I named my cool down spot “Alaska” because it was a place to cool off. My students always got a kick out of this.
Cool-down spots help teach your students to self-regulate their emotions. Ideally, you want students to choose to go to a cool-down spot on their own; however, sometimes they need your direction to help them become more self-aware of their emotions. They will need more help when you first introduce the strategy. They will start to self-direct more often as they receive your coaching and guidance.
Please note, cool down spaces are a great place for a “time out”, but it shouldn’t be used in a negative light. Students should want to go to this space to take a break, then rejoin the class. (Trust me, I used cool-down spaces for years. When I made the mistake of using it as a punishment, the strategy ended up not working in the long run.)
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Tips for Implementing an Effective Cool Down Corner in Your Classroom
From my experience, here are some guidelines I recommend the following:
- Space: Calm down space should promote a calm, reflective environment. My daughter’s PreK class has a tent they use in the corner of the room, and there are a lot of ideas you can implement. Personally, I had the most success with a simple student desk in the back of the room. I wanted to be able to see the student so I could motivate them to use effective strategies and to want to rejoin the class.
- Duration: Calm down spaces should be short term. For the most part, students should make a choice when they are ready to rejoin the class.
- Demeanor: Calm down space should be positive. Students should want to go there to self-regulate their emotions. Pick a spot that is somewhat private, but you are able to monitor.
- Activities: A good calm down space should be filled with effective activities that guide students to regulate their emotions. You can prep the students when you introduce the space so they know how to use activities appropriately.
Suggested Activites for Your Calm Down Space
1. Sensory activities:
- Calm Down Bottle – A water bottle filled with water, glue, die, and glitter creates a simple calm down tool. Students can shake the bottle then watch the glitter scatter and settle. It creates a calming display that gives students time to cool off, reflect, and breathe.
- Bubble Wrap – It feels great to pop bubbles, especially for a student who is feeling angry.
- Playdoh – Playing with playdoh can help students release stress and redirect their focus to a positive activity.
- Fidgets – Stress balls, squeeze toys and bendy toys can help students refocus and calm down.
2. Breathing & Counting Activities
- Yoga – If you have a good space, you can put a small mat or towel nearby for the students to use.
- Beads – Put some string beads in a container in your cool-down corner. Students can string the beads while counting.
- Stickers – Students can place stickers on a sheet of paper while counting.
- Breathing & Counting Mat – Students place items on a mat containing a graphic. You can find Breathing and Counting mats found in my Anger Management Resource.
3. Coloring and cutting activities
- Coloring – I loved to have students color my anger management book, but you can use any coloring sheet or coloring book.
- Reading/Picture Books: Looking at the pictures in a book or reading a book is a great way to calm down or destress! I always included a few picture books with calming illustrations as well as my calm down strategies book students could assemble. Two of my favorites are A Quiet Place by Douglass Wood and I am Peace by Harry N. Abrams.
A Trip to Alaska
Students who are capable of self-regulating their emotions are more likely to succeed in school and become productive members of society. If you’re looking to help your students self regulate their emotions, try setting up a little Alaska in your classroom! Then let me know how it worked out.
You can download my Alaska – A Place to Cool Down sign here: Alaska-Sign.pdf (64 downloads)
If you’re ready to ramp up the accountability in your classroom, check out my tips for implementing student success data notebooks.
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