Classrooms are the primary space for students to learn and can be a stable environment to promote and protect students from extraneous factors that may impact their ability to learn, particularly for students facing risk (e.g., poverty, homelessness, trauma & related stressors). Tier 1 strategies for a calm classroom can positively benefit all students despite their degree of exposure to trauma. Tier 1 strategies are strategies or opportunities available for use by all students or by entire classrooms.
Some basic environmental strategies to promote a calm classroom are to: reduce lighting (ceiling fluorescent light covers or lamps), play calming music, post a visual schedule, diffuse aromatherapy, use nonverbal signals and use mindful jars or other calming tools. Mindful jars can be made from empty soda bottles with wrappers removed, filled with one large portion water and one small portion glitter glue, then sealed with crazy glue.
- Calm corners
- GoNoodle relaxing videos
- Mindfulness Practices
- Time keeping
- Weighted toys
A classroom management plan should reinforce the use of preventative strategies, including limit setting, rules and routines for us of the calming corner to promote appropriate use of the space and prevent students from using the calming corner as an avoidance tactic (Porter, 2003). The calming corner should be a safe place where a student can go to calm down using pre-taught strategies for a short amount of time (The Watson Institute, 2017). Generally, the maximum amount of time spent in a calming corner should be around 10 minutes; consider developmental needs when setting up the expectations for your classroom’s calm corner.
- Incorporate rules and routines around the calming corner in your classroom management plan
- Discuss with the class about some specific reasons why someone might use the calming corner, and how these reasons could be different for different students
- Talk with the class about how to go to the calming corner (walk, hands to self, quiet voice), how to be in it (show materials that are in your calming corner and how to use them) and how to come back without disturbing others in the class. Depending on students’ age, decide whether or not to require permission for calm corner use and whether students will start timer independently or not.
- Role play and model with students
- Be specific on what you will and won’t allow in the calming corner space.
- Let students know that they are responsible for completing work they may have missed while being in the calming corner. Let the student know what time, place or determined structure on how the student will complete the work that they have missed.
- Have a plan in place for when students are too upset to use the calming corner. Refer to Domain 5 of your Comprehensive Classroom Management Plan.
- bean bag chair, floor cushion, large pillow
- soft rug
- relaxation music
- books, magazines
- low partition/divider
- visual calming strategies
- visual timer
- Select a low traffic area
- Furnish the area
- Set up the partitions
- Post a set of simple visual calming strategies in the area to provide self-managing reminders and promote independent use of the space
- Talk with students privately and explain how and when to use the area. Let them know they are allowed to use the area at the first sign of becoming upset. Tell them that you’ll meet them back there and together quietly agree on a time limit to use the area, set the visual timer for the agreed upon amount of time.
- When the time is up, privately reinforce the student for returning to the work area
- If you feel the student is beginning to use the area frequently and suspect possible work avoidance, you may decide to start providing a limited number of break tickets to be specifically used in am or pm
Categories of videos to choose from on GoNoodle that help with calming a classroom, ranging from 1 to 10 minutes long, that can be used at your classroom’s neediest times of day:
- Positive development of cognitive performance skills and executive function (e.g., the ability to attend, focus, think creatively, use existing knowledge more effectively, improve working memory, and enhance planning, problem solving, and reasoning skills)
- Improvement of the mental, emotional, social, and physical health and wellbeing of young people (e.g., reducing worries, anxiety, distress, reactivity and bad behavior, improve sleep self-esteem, and bring about greater calmness, relaxation, self-regulation, and awareness).
- Significant decreases in both test anxiety and ADHD behaviors and also an increase in the ability to sustain attention (Weare, 2012).
One way schools can promote the trauma-informed values of safety, choice, trust, empowerment and collaboration is through planful approaches to mindfulness practice for teachers and students. Schenectady Schools are promoting the mindfulness practices using a variety of approaches, including the following. To get involved, contact the Behavioral Health Consultant assigned to your building.
- Discover Mindfulness through Professional Development: Learn about varying mindfulness practices that can used with students, and which types of practices will have energizing or calming effects on classrooms. Explore varying practices experientially, learn about best practices sources of similar practices, and discuss practical tips for application with students.
- Mindful Meet-ups with/for Adults: Cultivating our own mindfulness practice will enable us to self-monitor, model being mindful, increase attunement to student needs, become more responsive and less reactive, and sustain ourselves through self-care. See below for examples of free Mindfulness Smart Phone Apps.
- Pilot a Validated Mindfulness Curriculum: Select a research based curriculum that meets the classrooms needs and demographics. Complete pre and post measures about students to help determine the impact of the curriculum on social, academic, emotional, and behavioral outcomes. Set a schedule/routine to follow while implementing the curriculum.
- Plush toys
- Stuffed animal filled with rice
- Neck wrap filled with rice to provide weight on the shoulders
GoNoodle. (2017). www.gonoodle.com.
Martin, K. (2015, December 11). Trauma in the American Urban Classroom. Retrieved March 30, 2017, from http://edwp.educ.msu.edu/green-and-write/2015/trauma-in-the-american-urban-classroom/.
Owen. J., Wettach, J., & Hoffman, K.C. (2015). Instead of suspension: alternative strategies for effective school discipline. Duke Center for Child and Family Policy and Duke Law School. Retrieved March 30, 2017 from https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/schooldiscipline/downloads/instead_of_suspension.pdf.
Porter, D. (2003). A Quiet Place for Rough Moments. Retrieved from Responsive Classroom: https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/a-quiet-place-for-rough-moments/
Trauma Informed Positive Behaviour Support. (2017). Child Trauma Toolkit. A free cuide of practical strategies, tools and resources for educators. Trauma Informed PBS.
The Watson Institute. (2017). The Classroom Calming Corner. Retrieved from Watson Life Resources: http://www.thewatsoninstitute.org/watson-life-resources/situation/classroom-calming-corner/
Weare, K. (2012) Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People.