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Using a Cool Down Box: Helping students Self Regulate and Reflect

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Earlier this year, I broke up with my clip chart. It was hard, scary, and one of the best decisions I made for my class this year. A clip chart just wasn’t working for these kiddos. Even though Class Dojo helped with some of our “issues”.. (Which you can read about all about that here) But, we still needed a space to take a break if we were overwhelmed, upset, or angry… Enter the Cool Down Box..

Disclaimer: this post does include a few affiliate links where I receive compensation if you click or purchase an item I recommend. The items in this post are purchased with my own funds and my opinions are that of my own.  

A “Cool Dow Box” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a box with items meant to help “cool down” an overwhelmed or upset student. Nothing too special or fancy, but it does the trick!
When students are upset, they can come here and work through their emotions, no questions asked.  It is our designated “Safe Space” and it is available to ALL students at anytime (except for State Testing… ) Although I do tend to have more frequent fliers than others.

Our Classroom Cool Down Box

I keep this little box of wonders at the front of the room on top of an isolated desk.
If I had room at the back of the classroom, I would have probably put it there, but this is tucked away nicely next to my corner cabinet. It creates a little hideaway sanctuary.
Cool Down box- setting up a safe place in your classroom- TheAppliciousTeacher.com

What’s in Our Classroom Cool Down Box

So here’s a peek at what our current box has.
Most of the items in this box I purchased from the Dollar Section at Target. Others are just “things” I had laying around that I thought would make a good calming activity.
First up, we have a small puzzle. It sounds silly, but sometimes kiddos just need to get their brain off what’s making them upset and puzzles offer the mental challenge that many students need and want.
In addition, I have some fact flash cards. Hey if you’re gonna sit over here and not be involved in the learning that’s taking place in class, then you might as well be learning about something! A personal fave of my kids are those dinosaur ones. Lots of cool facts to be had!
There’s also a few little plastic mazes (thank you Target Party section!) and this fidget rope.
You can find this fidget rope here on Amazon. This is one of my favorite items as it often pulls double duty. I usually have a strict rule of cool-down items stay at the cool-down table, but this item is so versatile. I often find myself handing it to students to use during lessons. It can be wrapped around a students wrist and bent back and forth with very little interruption. I find this baby helps with those kiddos who are habitual name tag peelers and rollers. (Oh why do they have to peel up their name tags!?!?)  If I see a student playing with their name tag a little too much, then I’ll walk over and hand them this. Thank you for keeping my sanity!
Last, there’s a small timer and some modeling clay. Here’s the thing with the timer. I want students to use it. It is a 3-minute timer. But I do not force them too. I understand that sometimes it takes longer than 3 minutes to cool down and regroup. So I always say, it’s a suggestion of time.
The modeling clay is actually one of the key ingredients in our cool down box. If you’re wanting to create a cool down box, but not sure where to start, I seriously suggest putting some clay in a crayon box. The rolling and manipulating of the clay is a WAAAYYYY better way to work out our anger than kicking items in our classroom. I find the clay does wonders for those kiddos who struggle with regulating their emotions.
In addition, every time a student comes to the cool down box, they have to fill out this sheet from The Learning Tree’s “What’s Bugging You” pack.
It is a great way for students to understand what they are feeling and why they are feeling it. It is so important for students to understand that these emotions don’t “rule them” but more that their in charge of how they feel. Sometimes that takes giving students the time to reflect and what they are feeling and what caused it. Students need to understand their trigger points and how to deal with them.

Ground Rules for Using This Space

Now, please know… I do have ground rules for this little cool down space.
I introduced this box to the class, discuss it’s purpose, and laid the ground rules:
  1. It is meant to help you work through your emotions when you are upset. It is not meant to be a way to get out of a lesson.
  2. You may go there at any time. I may send you there sometimes if I can see you need a break.
  3. It is not an “I’m in trouble” spot, but a safe place where you can reflect on your emotions.
  4. You may use the timer as a guide, but I understand if you feel you need more time.
  5. You must fill out the form while you are there.
  6. All items stay in this area. Be sure to clean up your items when you are done and ready to return to our classroom activities.
  7. No more than one person at the cool down desk at a time.
In general, those guidelines have worked very well this year. Like I stated earlier, I do have students who tend to be there much more than others, but that’s ok… I’d rather them try to work through their emotions than destroy my classroom…
So do you use something similar in your classroom? Comment below with how you handle upset students in your room.

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!

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