Do you use a 'calming kit' or 'calming caddy' in your classroom? Or maybe a 'calming corner'? I teach in an inclusive 4th/5th grade classroom and I first started using these tools for particular students with Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, but they've come in handy for many students in the general education population as well! Front-loading explicit instruction early in the year about recognizing and managing emotions will save you a ton of time and stress later in the year. Teaching students to be in control of their own emotions is a skill they will need throughout their entire life, and having a few tools handy in the classroom helps them develop this essential skill.
I was at Target today browsing the Dollar Spot and noticed a lot of items that would make a great 'calming caddy' for students who need to calm down in the classroom. I keep mine in the corner of the room tucked away, near a carpeted area with pillows for students who need a break.
What I would add to this:
These Dollar Spot items are a good start, but I would probably add a few more things to appeal to the senses. Something that can be scented with calming essential oils (lavender and eucalyptus are great) such as playdough or Theraputty would be very calming for many students. I also like to include a therapeutic brush which I have found to be calming for many of my students. For students who are sensitive to sound, I include a pair of noise canceling headphones. Sometimes kids just need a break from the sensory overload that school often gives them! If you have access to an old iPod or even a Discman (!) that you can pre-load with some calming music or guided meditations, that would be even better! I also add some visuals that I have created to guide students through the calming process. I laminate them and put them in a binder that I keep next to the caddy, along with a dry erase marker. You can download them for FREE at the bottom of this post!
Calming Caddy Must-Do's:
With any classroom strategy or tool comes the need for some explicit teaching at the beginning. Discuss the purpose and expectations of the calming kit to your students -- these items are tools not toys. This may look different from classroom to classroom. You may want your whole class to have access to this, or just a few students. If the latter is true, be sure to create a plan for how to discuss it with these students and the rest of the class. Clearly model to your students how to use the items in the kit and the consequences for misusing the items. The last thing you want is Theraputty getting smeared all over the carpet and walls by a student in a fit of rage. You'll want to establish, model, and practice clear calming kit routines, such as how to signal a need to access the calming kit, how to take out and put away the materials, and volume and time expectations. Again, this will look different from classroom to classroom. Because I teach in a classroom with 30 students, I set the expectation of a whisper volume and 5 minutes maximum with the calming kit (add a dollar store timer to the kit)!
How do you help students learn to self-calm in your classroom? What else would you add to this kit? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
There's no doubt that 'mindfulness' has become a buzzword in education today. Some may call it a trend, waiting for it to fizzle out. But the more I have studied, researched, read and practiced, the more I have become convinced that mindfulness is the missing piece in many of our public schools. As I began reading articles about the effects of mindfulness in schools, I became more interested and curious about starting this practice in my own classroom. I came across study after study showing the short and longterm effects of mindfulness on students' emotional regulation, self-awareness, and response to stress.
When I started to implement "mindful minutes" in my classroom, one thing became strikingly clear to me: I couldn't expect my students to practice mindfulness if I hadn't cultivated a practice of my own. I was trying to teach my students to be emotionally present, calm, and aware, but as I rang the chime and started the "mindful minute" in my classroom, my own thoughts were racing. How am I going to respond to that tense parent email? How is José going to react when he finds out he failed his quiz? I have to remember to send Maria to the nurse at lunch time. Who's messing around right now? Who isn't taking this mindful minute seriously? WHO JUST MADE THAT FART NOISE?!.....and so on. I myself was not at all present, and I was stressed. I was in my second year of teaching, and contrary to what I had always been told, it was shaping up to be way harder than my first. I had a caseload full of students with emotional behavioral disorders, and the unpredictability of each day had me in an anxious frenzy. I would lay in bed awake at night going over every negative encounter and interaction of the day. I would pick apart every student meltdown and over-analyze my role in it. I would approach school in my car on a cold, dark winter morning and drive around the block 4 times just to delay the start of the day. I knew that if I wanted to make school a more stable, calm, peaceful experience for my students, I had to start with myself.
I started reading more about mindfulness for myself rather than just as a classroom strategy. The truth is, it isn't a "strategy": it's a state of being. Being aware, being present, being tuned-in to yourself. I started to make a habit of practicing mindfulness before bed each night and occasionally in the morning before school. Mindfulness is called a practice because it is exactly that. It takes commitment and eventually becomes a habit with practice. After devoting more energy and time to practicing mindfulness, I found myself practicing it naturally on my lunch break, walking down the hall, on the rare (luxurious) opportunity for a bathroom break. And the best part is, I started to quickly see the payoff. Just ten seconds of paying attention to my breathing and tuning into my body could instantly change the way I reacted to a chaotic co-worker, a disruptive student, or an emotional parent.
I am still learning about mindfulness and how to cultivate the practice in my own life and in my classroom, but I wanted to share what I have learned so far. If you are interested in starting a mindfulness practice of your own or for your students, check out this book, this free app, and this website. These are just a few resources that have helped me throughout this journey!
Have you practiced mindfulness? How has it impacted your life & your teaching? I would love to hear about your experience!