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Learning to Regulate Emotions is Key to Academic Success

Learning to Regulate Emotions is Key to Academic Success

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In elementary Guidance classes, students are learning about the big emotions we all feel, and how to cope with them.  Utilizing The Zones of Regulation curriculum, students are building their emotional vocabulary and discovering tools that help them stay focused and regulated throughout the day.  The “green zone” is where students are calm, focused and ready to learn. It is the optimal zone for learning.  Though there is no “bad zone”, students are learning that on any day we all may go into other zones: Blue (sad, tired, running slow), yellow (frustrated, silly, distracted) or red (mad, too excited, out of control).  

Students are learning to be detectives simply by paying attention to the signs their bodies give them.  When your heart starts beating fast, your hands get shaky, you start to cry- these are all signs that your body is experiencing an emotion.  We are learning to “STOP” when we feel this way, “think about and name what we are feeling”, and “choose a way to calm down.”  Students have been building their toolbox of strategies to cope with these feelings with simple strategies like taking deep belly breaths, counting, and positive self-talk.  First and second graders explored several tools and created their own toolboxes of strategies they find helpful when experiencing a strong emotion.  

Students are also learning about strategies to help them become better listeners including using fidgets as listening tools.  They are learning to identify “inside of the brain” and “outside of the brain” distractions that impact them.  We are teaching students that it is not about being the perfect listener- we all get distracted sometimes- it’s about being a present listener, being aware enough to catch yourself when you are distracted, and help yourself get your brain back in the group!  When you are focused and calm throughout the school day (in the green zone) it makes learning easier and more fun.

The premise for what students are learning goes back to the basic concepts of “mindfulness”.  We are introducing two sides of the brain, the emotional side and the problem-solving side.  The emotional side can sometimes be really loud and take over, especially in young children.  These practices help students learn to regulate and quiet the emotional side of their brain so their problem-solving brain can have a chance to work.  

As with any skill we teach in school, these strategies will be more effective with practice and time.  The more parents can use some of the key vocabulary discussed here, the more students will internalize these tools and balance the two sides of their developing brains.  

If you would like to try these at home, consider the following:

  • When your child is experiencing a big emotion, try using some of the vocabulary in “Stop, name your feeling, calm down”.  Help students recognize what they are feeling by naming what you observe, “I see you are breathing really fast and your voice is getting loud.  Let’s stop, are you getting frustrated? Let’s choose a tool to help us calm down, let’s take some belly breaths.”   

  • If homework time is a struggle due to distractions, try to have students identify what outside of the brain distractions are present (TV, siblings, video games, etc.) and help them find a solution to reduce those distractions (focus attention, stay on topic, ignoring, doing homework at the table instead of in front of the TV, etc.)  

If you have any questions about these skills being taught in Guidance class, don’t hesitate to contact the elementary counselor, Mrs. Behrends.