When students experience stress or trauma at home or are overwhelmed in school, their nervous systems respond. Some students become extremely activated while others shutdown. Activation comes in reactions such as inattention, difficulty sitting still and hyperactivity. Shut down looks like daydreaming, falling asleep in class or not responding to others bids to connect. With both activation and shut-down, cognition is impaired and learning is difficult. Calming corners can help with both. When activated, a calming corner provides an opportunity for students to reset or re-regulate and when shut down, a calming corner provides opportunity for engagement.
A calming corner is a small, designated space located within a classroom. The purpose of a calming corner is to help support self-regulation while keeping students in the classroom if they need a break from instruction time or a group activity. The use of calming corners can transform the culture of the classroom because calming corners are not consequence-based but rather used as an opportunity, driven by a student’s choice to feel better. Calming corners are private enough to allow the student to maintain dignity, however, they should be within eyesight of the educator so the student maintains a feeling of safety.
Teachers should introduce calming corners in their classrooms as safe places. They are not for students who are “in trouble,” but rather for all students in the classroom. Invite all students to “try out” the calming corner when it is implemented. At first, the calming corner will be a novelty and every student will want to try it out. This is normal. As time goes on, only the students who really need to use it will ask to do so. If there is more than one student who wants to use the calming corner, the use of timers is helpful. Typically, after 5 minutes in the calming corner, students are ready to join the rest of the class.
A calming corner can be a safe place for students to do peer lead restorative circles or to just process through issues. Classrooms can create calming corner passes or a simple signal individualized by each student to alert the teacher that student needs to process or calm down.
For school-age children, a small nook or space set apart from the rest of the room that offers privacy is perfect. Provide seating with beanbags, pillows, a small table and chairs. Some teachers use a tapestry or some sort of “roof” to cover the calming corner space. Peaceful lighting and colors are a bonus. And, post the purpose of the calming corner. As children enter middle school and high school – a small area with a desk, beanbag or comfortable chair will do the trick. Some like to call these areas “chill-out corners”.
List of items you might want to include in your calming corner:
- Different kinds of timers
- Squishy “stress” ball
- Small bottles of water
- Glitter ball or glitter jar
- Emotional feelings sheet to help identify and record emotions
- Mirror to help identify emotions
- Blank paper, pens, and crayons, markers,, write a letter, or to reflect on strategies used in the peace corner
- Hoberman breathing sphere
- Soft, small blanket or even a weighted blanket for sensory reasons
- Soft rug
- Relaxation CD and player
- Books, magazines
- Low partitions/dividers for privacy
- Tapestry for “roof”
- Visual calming strategies
- Worksheets from TLC’s “One-Minute Interventions” and “Mind Body Skills for Emotional Regulation” workbooks.