Helping children manage their emotions is not an easy task. Many classrooms have a place for children to work through their feelings in a safe place, like a preschool calm down area. Calm down areas are cozy places with manipulatives and tools that aid children in managing their big emotions.
Having this area in your classroom is important, but so is teaching children how to use it!
As a part of our social-emotional whole group lessons, we talk about what we can do in the classroom when feeling angry, sad or frustrated. It’s during this time that we create posters or anchor charts all about what to do when those big emotions come on.
I am a firm believer that our walls tend to be too noisy. We have lots up there that children don’t reference because they have no buy-in or don’t even know what it is for!
That is why I like to create charts/posters together as a class. The simple act of involving the children gives them a piece of ownership over the finished piece. Therefore, when they see the poster on the wall, they know what it is and what it is for.
So, as a part of our ‘When I’m Mad’, ‘When I’m Sad’ and ‘When I’m Frustrated’ lessons, we create anchor charts. Then, these charts get placed in the calm down area (which doubles as our library) for children to reference.
What does one of these whole group lessons look like? Well, first we read a book related to the social emotional area. For example, during the ‘When I’m Mad’ lesson we read B is for Breathe by Melissa Munro Boyd. Then, I facilitate a class discussion. I drive home messages such as ‘It’s okay to get mad’ and that ‘anger might make you feel like your heart is beating fast, you might feel shaky, your face might feel squished up and you might feel like running away or screaming’. I ask children to tell about a time they got angry.
Then, we transition into the extension activity by telling students that there are things we can do to calm our anger. This is when we work to create a poster or anchor chart. I label the chart, “When I’m Mad” and have children help write letters in the words (if that is something the class is ready for). Then, I have children help me glue the pictures of the things we can do when we get mad onto the chart. We talk about each one and practice it. I make sure that I have items needed (like a squish ball) in the calm down area for children to use.
Here is one of our completed charts:
Then, we a time comes up that a child is angry and needs help calming down – we can go straight to the chart. I might say, “I see you are mad. Remember, the chart we made? Let’s pick something from the chart to help you calm down.”. The best part is, that student has already had an experience with poster and the items on it. I generally review the pictures with them and ask which one they would like to do. Eventually, they can do this by themselves…self-monitoring their emotions, now I call that a WIN!
Looking for this specific social emotional lesson? You can find it here in the Calming Your Stress Preschool Social Emotional Lesson.