Chill out zone, zen station, relaxation habitation, calming corner; there are many different names, but they all mean the same thing. I am a huge believer in calming corners and the way they help our students who sometimes just “need a minute” to deal with their big emotions. It’s also a great time for them to work on their social-emotional skills. I include Social Emotional Learning Activities or my Emotions Workbook to the calm corner. Every classroom would benefit from a calming corner, but there should at least be one in every school that students can access. So what is a calming corner? When do I allow my students to use it? Why is it important? Keep reading to find answers to these questions.
Where to put a Calm Corner
A calming corner is a space in the classroom, typically in a corner of the room but not always, that students can have some privacy from their peers. Teachers should still be able to see the student and should check in every few minutes for proper use. Some people will block off a space with a filing cabinet. Others will use a small tent or tee-pee that students can crawl inside.
What you need in a Calm Corner
A calming corner should include comfortable seating, like a bean bag or large pillow, and can have blankets and stuffed animals if age appropriate. The student should have access to calming manipulatives like a stress ball or fidget item. You can include books that teach self-regulating strategies. You can have journal items and some starter topics to encourage students to write. I use this journal template with my older students (4th-6th grade), and I like to use this feelings workbook with my younger students (2nd-3rd grade), and Color the Feelings workbook with my littles (Pre-k, K and 1). Some teachers will include visuals of breathing exercises, like deep breathing. Many children benefit from coloring or drawing when they are in a stressful moment. For older students, it can be appropriate to have music and headphones available in your calming corner. For FREE mindfulness resources, check out this blog post.
Why do I need a Calm Corner?
Every classroom would benefit from a calming corner. But why? There are so many benefits to ALL our students! A calming corner supports self-regulation of emotions. It gives the students a safe place to learn how to calm themselves down without the pressure of peers watching. It is a place where students can reset the rest of their day after dealing with a big emotion. Every student has days where they are over-stimulated and this can cause disruptions to the class. The calming corner is intended to teach students the skills they need to process emotions in real time. Ideally, they will begin to need the calming corner less and less over time, as they develop better coping skills.
Who uses the Calm Corner
The calming corner is for every student who comes in and out of your classroom on a daily basis. I have even seen some adults who need a few minutes in the calming corner from time to time (me included!). The calming corner is for the kid who is dealing with divorce at home. The child that feels stuck and does not know how to express their anger and hurt and results in outbursts. Some kids may need to use the calming corner everyday, even multiple times a day. But, the calming corner is also for the kid who is frustrated with a math problem and now cannot focus on the rest of the lesson. They can take 5 minutes and use some pre-taught techniques and then be ready to learn.
When should students use the Calm Corner
An effective calming corner is open any time students are in the classroom, however, there are expectations that need to be followed. There are also some pre-taught skills that are a must before a student is allowed in the calming corner. The pre-taught skills are things like breathing techniques, how to journal about feelings and setting time limits for use. Once students understand the expectations they can use the calming corner any time they feel over-stimulated, frustrated or are processing a big emotion. Students will eventually choose the calming corner without any prompting, but they may need some reminders in the beginning. When you first introduce the calming corner, it will be a novelty and students may try to overuse the space. Stick with it, remind them of the expectations! The “newness” will wear off and it will become everything you want it to be.
Calming corners have so many benefits for children. As a School Counselor, I always make sure a small part of my office or room was set aside for this purpose because I know how much my students would gain in their social emotional growth. I always have a go-to resource ready for them there, like my Social Emotional Learning Activities or my Emotions Workbook.