Many classrooms have reflection centers and they are primary used as a place that children can go and reflect on the behavior that has already happened. Reflection centers are very helpful and I have seen how they dramatically drop the number of office referrals in middle schools when used in the school’s behavioral continuum. However, how about having a place in the room that is preventative in nature?
As teachers, it is important to teach students productive and healthy ways to deal with emotions such as anger, sadness or frustration. By teaching students different tools they can use to deal with these emotions in a healthy way, we are helping the individual student and eliminating a potential disruption to the learning environment. The first step in doing this is being proactive and ready for a child who needs some additional help calming down within the classroom. The cool down cushion is the perfect place to “house” these tools and strategies.
The purpose of the cool down cushion is preventative, as a place where a student can voluntarily go when they identify signs of frustration before hitting the point of no return. Of course you could call it something else. I just liked defining an actual place in the room and giving it a label. Next to the cushion, there should be a variety of tools students can use to cool down.
Tools for your Cool Down Cushion
1. A cushion or pillow-This defines the space in the classroom and gives the student something comfortable to sit on.
2. Crayons and paper-Many children are calmed by being able to draw and reflect through art. If you have children who cannot write yet, you can have them draw how they feel.
3.Feelings cube-I actually came across this as I was cleaning out my office and thought it would be a great addition to a cool down area. Emotions are displayed on all sides and students can use it to identify how they are feeling. I wish I knew where I originally got it, but you could create one yourself.
4. Sand timer-This allows a time to be set for being on the cushion. Depending on the situation, time can be extended since some students may require a longer amount of time to calm down.
5. Stress ball or squishy ball-This allows students to “squeeze” out their anger. Playdough might be another option.
6. Cue cards-These cards would have different strategies to use in order to calm down. Some strategies could be count to ten or take a deep breath. It is important that we teach students different strategies to use in order to cool down. A Self control cue card would also be a good inclusion or a set like the cards shown below.
7. Small stuffed animal or plush toy-For younger grades, this gives students a since of comfort and something to hold.
8. CD player-Allow students to listen to classical music or other soothing music.
9. Bubbles-This allows students to blow out anger or negative feelings.
10. Bottle of Water-Drinking water is a strategy that reduces tension and can calm a student down. I decided to actually make a label for the bottled water that matched the theme.
11. A basket, crate, or bucket to store all the items
Some of the above items might not work in every teachers classroom (such as bubbles might provide more of a distraction). Every teacher has their classroom set up differently, so pick and choose what works best in your classroom.
In order for this strategy to work, students must be taught when and how to use the cool down cushion. It is also important for students to know it is not a punishment or discipline practice, rather a place to regain their emotions and calm down. Partnering with your school counselor or school psychologist for mini lesson could be beneficially when teaching your students the ways to use the Cool Down Cushion.
You can get a free copy of a “Cool Down Cushion” sign here which can be placed on the wall where your Cool Down Cushion will be kept.
You can get the complete set of cue cards with 12 cool down strategies, water bottle label, directions, and a mini-lesson here.