Self-Regulation to Grow Engaged Learners

As educated adults we know that to lead a healthy life we should eat fewer fatty foods, exercise regularly and get enough rest…but we don’t always do it!  That’s because we are all continually developing our self-regulation skills.  Your students are the same.  They may know what to do, but lack the self-regulation skills to always act appropriately.  You may have noticed that students who are unable to regulate their thoughts and actions find it difficult to make and keep friends, organize school work, and express feeling in appropriate ways.  Self-regulation is a skill that can be taught and practiced. When we explicitly teach and practice self-regulation skills in the classroom our students are better able engage in learning.

Here are are some ideas to build your students self-regulation muscles and increase the calm in your classroom:

  • Teach your students the “brain in the hand” so that they can understand how the brain works.
  • Explicitly teach self-regulation skills: deep breathing, counting to 10, walking, taking a time out.3 girls
  • Increase their emotional vocabulary. You can: use literature to help them name the feelings of characters, create a word wall with feeling words that grows over the year, teach specific lessons from Positive Discipline, RULER or Second Step.
  • Take regular brain breaks throughout the day in your classroom. Try making it a consistent and repetitive practice rather than just when it feels like your students “need” it.
  • Teach self-awareness activities to name and understand feelings and awareness of body sensations as a result of stress.
  • Use role-plays to practice expressing and managing emotions.
  • Use positive time-out or a “regulation-station”. Teach students to use the time-out space when they need to calm down. Use it as a prevention strategy, by helping them notice when they begin to feel dysregulated.
  • Notice when students use self-regulation strategies. “Susan, I noticed you walk away when you felt angry. You are learning to manage your feelings.”