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Elementary students learn techniques to help manage their emotions

Monday, February 6, 2017
 Elementary students learn techniques to help manage their emotions

Do you ever feel your child is struggling to control his or her emotions? Everyone experiences difficulties in emotional regulation from time to time, which has prompted John Hole, Normandy and Stingley Elementary Schools to adopt the Zones of Regulation curriculum building wide. Students are learning ways to develop their social and emotional skills by categorizing and communicating their feelings in a safe and non-judgmental way.

The Zones of Regulation is a curriculum geared toward helping students gain skills in consciously regulating their actions, which in turn leads to increased control and problem solving abilities. Students learn how to use strategies or tools to stay in a zone or move from one to another. They explore calming techniques, cognitive strategies and sensory supports so they will have a toolbox of methods to use to move between zones.

“Our students deal with a variety of emotions throughout the school day,” said Stingley Principal Diana Keller. “By teaching them how to identify and monitor their emotions, we are able to create a more positive and peaceful learning community.”

Students at John Hole and Stingley were introduced to the Zones of Regulation during school-wide assemblies at the beginning of the school year. There are four zones: BLUE, which is when your body is running slowly, and you may feel tired, sick, sad or bored; GREEN, which is when you feel happy, calm and focused; YELLOW, which is when you feel frustrated, overwhelmed, silly, wiggly, excited, worried, anxious or surprised; and RED, which is when you have extreme feelings such as terror, uncontrolled anger, aggression or even elation.

Building the common language through the schools began with teachers and counselors presenting interactive and engaging lessons, colorful bulletin boards throughout the buildings and activities that remind children about the various zones, and in some buildings, school assemblies to support the progress the students have made. As students continue through the curriculum, they practice identifying what zone should be expected in a given situation and how to change zones to better match their levels of alertness and emotions to that situation. The goal is for children to utilize the tools and strategies they have learned, rather than relying on adults to regulate them.

“The common language of zones is so effective because it is easy for students to understand,” Keller said. “Our students, and even our staff, are able to identify the zone they are in and a couple of strategies to return to the Green/Ready to Learn Zone. In addition, we have heard from parents that they are able to use this language with their children at home. It’s very powerful!”

Normandy staff also noticed a growing need among their students and decided to introduce the concept during grade-level meetings this fall.

“Last school year, we found ourselves spending a good deal of instructional time supporting students’ emotional needs,” said Rebecca O’Neil, the principal at Normandy. “Self-regulation comes naturally for some, but for others it is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced.”

O’Neil added that with the Zones of Regulation curriculum, they are giving students the tools to recognize that emotions are not bad.

“We want students to learn that they have control over how to deal with their feelings in a healthy way,” she said. “We are teaching students skills they can use throughout their lives.”

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