Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, & Sadness: How to Teach Self-Regulation

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My first year teaching I took my students on a field trip to the zoo. We spent weeks preparing for the trip. Each student picked an animal and researched that animal within their limitations. We also watched videos from our local zoo and completed several social stories on going on field trips, and visiting the zoo.

We took our trip and made it about 3/4ths of our time there, when in the gorilla section of the zoo, one of my students got overstimulated, and tried to bite another student, myself, and one of my paraprofessionals.

I took all the time preparing my students for the trip, but I forgot to continue my focus on self-regulation. We’d talked about what self-regulation looks like at home and at school, but never on a trip, or outside those specific places.

Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and control our own behavior, emotions, or thoughts and change them to the demands of the situation including the environment.

This was such an eye opening experience for me. It really showed me just how important it is to teach those skills and be able to help students generalize it across situations. I’ve made a list of some ideas that you can use to help teach self-monitoring.

1.     Teach students to identify their different feelings. What does anger look like? What does surprise look like? I love to pair this activity with a mirror, so students can see their own faces and what they look like as they try to convey each emotion that you talk about with them.

2.     Watch the Movie Inside Out! – If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s about a young girl and all of her emotions as she transitions to life in a different city. There are tons of great concepts to pull from and teach.

3.     Create a Brain Board! Have students draw or use different colors of play dough to signify their emotions. Then have them sort through their thoughts and what parent of there feelings belong to which emotions.

4.     Get students thinking about their thinking! One of the teachers I currently work with did this fun activity with her students to get them to work on understanding that just because you THINK it doesn’t mean you need to SAY it!

Students wrote down several things they thought on small pieces of paper. Then they drew a picture of themselves, attached an envelope with things they need to keep in their head, and cut a whole for their mouths, and attached a clear plastic bag. The “good” things they could put into their “mouths” because those things were safe to say. The students loved this activity and still talk about it 4 months later

5.     Break out the board game! – Lots of simple board games are great for working on self-regulation. Waiting, taking turns, being fair, being a good sport.

6.     Break out the Heavy Hitter!

I’ve found a wonderful curriculum over the years for working on self-regulation. Zones Of Regulation works wonders in the classroom. It does this by helping to make some of the emotions in our lives a bit more concrete. You can check it out here.

I plan to write a few more blog posts about how we use it in the classroom, but that will have to wait for another time! I’ve got IEP’s to review!

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