What is self-regulation?
Self-regulation is the ability to act in your own long term best interest, to calm yourself when you are upset and to cheer yourself up when you are sad.
While as educated adults we know that to lead a healthy lifestyle we should drink less red wine, eat less chocolate, exercise regularly and have plenty of sleep, we don’t always do it!
That’s because we are all continually developing our self-regulation skills.
Your students are the same. They may know what to do, but lack the self-regulation skills to always act appropriately. You will notice that students who fail to regulate their thoughts, emotions and behaviours find it difficult to make and keep friends, relate to others, organise their school work and express their feelings in appropriate ways.
Teaching students how to express their feelings in appropriate ways, to consider the consequences of their actions and how to develop positive relationships is crucial for strong student achievement. A positive classroom culture can foster these skills. Read more on how to build a positive classroom culture.
Learning how to self-regulate means that students will develop stronger friendships, be able to pay attention, learn new things and better manage the normal stresses and disappointments of life.
1. Model self-regulation by telling students how you feel and what you will do about it e.g. ’I am feeling angry right now, so I am going to walk away and talk about this later’ or ‘I am feeling upset now, so I will take a deep breath’.
2. Design self-awareness lessons. Teach students how to name their feelings; identify body responses to stressors; and understand what happens when they feel anxious, angry, upset, bored or excited. Discuss and role play appropriate ways to manage and express their feelings.
3. Explicitly teach students about self-regulation using circle time activities. Have students come up with ways to self-regulate e.g. deep breathing, walking away, count to 10, take some space, have a drink. Practise using the strategies in simulations and role plays.
4. Teach students to self-monitor. For a student who has a lot of trouble self-regulating, give them opportunities to self-monitor by taking note of when they use the strategies taught.
5. Use positive time out. Teach students how to use a time out space when they feel upset or need time to calm down. Encourage students to use the space as a prevention strategy by helping them to notice when they are beginning to show signs of stress in their bodies. For ways to use positive time out see here.
6. Provide extra instruction. For students who find it difficult to self-regulate, provide additional small group lessons focusing on the strategies above.
7. Positively reinforce students who use the strategies by giving them specific feedback about their behaviour e.g. ‘Tommy, I can see you used the strategy of walking away when you felt angry. You are learning to manage your feelings.’
8. Set goals with the student who has difficulty with self-regulation e.g. ‘when I feel angry I will walk away and take deep breaths.’ Give the student opportunities to practise the skill when they are not upset. Read about what to do with a student who will not engage.
9. Cue students when to use strategies. You may need to help the student develop self-awareness by cueing them in to when to use the strategies. ‘Josh, I can see you are feeling upset. Perhaps you would like to get a drink of water.’ Demonstrate to the student how to name the feelings and offer suggestions for how to manage the feelings appropriately.
10. Use mindfulness exercises as a class. The Smiling Mind has a free app or you can download it from Youtube. Prompt individual students to use the strategies when they need to focus on work or calm themselves.
What strategies have you used in your classroom, that have made an impact?