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Chill [Yo' Self] Space | How to Set Up a Calming Space in Your Classroom

Aug 29, 2018

Have you ever just needed a few minutes to *chill*? 

Of course you have...you're human.  

We all experience moments throughout our day that challenge us to keep our composure. 

Frustration. Stress. Anger. Sadness. Anxiety. Any of these sound familiar?

Well, it will come as no surprise to you that our students experience big emotions as well. 

When these big emotions take hold, it's important for our students to have a safe space to retreat and pull themselves back together. 

Without effectively de-escalating these emotions, the emotions reign supreme and any hope of imparting knowledge in your little geniuses goes straight out the window. 

This safe space I speak of is what I like to call the Chill Space. 

What is a Chill Space [aka Classroom Calming Space]?

The Chill Space is an area of the classroom where students can go to "chill out", or in other words, de-escalate those big emotions. It's a place for calming and reflection. 

Ideally, a Chill Space is in a secluded, but still visible, area of your classroom. It can be stocked with tools for sensory, calming, and reflection, as well as comfort items like pillows and "calming buddies". 

Think safe, welcoming, calming, functional.

I set up my Chill Space in a corner of my classroom, defined using a small tent I refer to as the "Chill Cave". Inside, I included a stocked "Chill Box", pillows, calming buddies, and a timer for students to use as a time-management tool while using the space.

But is it effective?

After implementing this space in my classroom, it quickly became a smashing success. I witnessed students from Kindergarten through Grade 5 use and appreciate this space as a way to take control over their emotions.

Use of the Chill Space began with initiation from me, but over time became self-directed by the students. You guys, they were seeking and using the Chill Space themselves, rather than with my direction. This indicated growth in my students’ awareness of their emotional state. It also showed that they were beginning to take responsibility in self-regulating their emotions.

This awareness and sense of responsibility are huge in cultivating little leaders…proud teacher moment right there!

So now, since my goal is to support you in shaping little leaders in your classroom as well, let me share with you a peek into the details of my Chill Space :)

Take a peek inside my Chill Space!

The Chill Space or Chill Cave sign defines the area within the classroom. I chose to use a sign that allows my students to indicate the emotion they are feeling using a clip chart. This not only requires my students to identify the emotion they are feeling, but it is also an extremely useful indicator for me. Since the idea here is for students to be self-directed in utilizing this space, the clip chart allows me to get a feel for what emotion my student is experiencing, without engaging with the student right away.

The Chill Box is the place where I stock all of my essential self-regulating tools for students to access. I include things like fidgets, calming buddies, sensory tools, etc. >>>Get More Chill Box Tips 

When those big emotions happen, it’s important for students to stop and reflect on the situation at hand. To help with this process, I include a Stop & Reflect poster and coordinating response sheet. This is the “product” my students know I am looking for in most cases when they choose to use the Chill Space. At a later time, when I am not in the middle of a lesson or working with students, I use this response sheet to debrief with the student, putting particular emphasis on their response to the situation and how they plan to handle something similar in the future. I then save it in their student folder as documentation.
>>>Check Out Differentiated Versions of the Stop & Reflect Response Sheet 

To go along with the Stop & Reflect visual, I like to post these Chill Sentence Frames. Sometimes students just need a little help to verbalize their overwhelming feelings. These sentence frames are perfect for helping students express themselves. In the beginning, I model how to use these sentence frames. I then post them in my Chill Space and make an effort to reference them as needed when debriefing with students. 

In order to de-escalate those overwhelming emotions, students need strategies to turn to for a little help. I include visuals for these strategies, like calming strategy cards, deep breathing visuals, and a body scan awareness visual.

I utilize the calming strategies in a few different formats. Students can choose one of the strategy cards I make available to them in the Chill Space. I also print coloring pages that reinforce these calming strategies. I don’t know about you, but I find the simple act of coloring to be a great stress reducer. The coloring pages do reinforce for students the different ways we can choose to calm ourselves, but also coloring these pages can be a calming strategy in itself. I also make these strategies available in the form of puzzles. Again, this is a way to reinforce the different strategies for students, but like coloring, the act of working a puzzle can be calming on its own.

With the deep breathing and body scan awareness visuals, I pre-teach for students how to use these tools appropriately. I use a lot of modeling and guided practice prior to posting these visuals in the Chill Space. Once students have practiced a few times with my guidance, I post the visuals and students can choose one of these techniques as another option for regaining control of their emotional state.

I’m a book nerd, so I absolutely adore using and making books available in my classroom as much as possible.

[Seriously, turn me loose in a bookstore and I can’t resist the urge to buy half the children’s section. It’s a real problem…sorry not sorry!]

So I like to include a few book options in my Chill Space as literary tools to help students with self-regulation. The books I include here typically have a social skills theme, so I like to use these books in social-emotional learning lessons/discussions and then make them available in the Chill Space.
>>>Get the Chill Out Book List 

And of course, I like to jazz up the cute factor of my Chill Space by posting some fun signage :)


Before I send you on your way, make sure the download the free Chill Space Setup Checklist so you'll know exactly what to include for setup in your classroom. 

And if you want to make it even easier on yourself, you can get everything you need in order to get your Chill Space setup started with the [Chill Yo' Self] Calming Toolkit For Students :)

 >>>Wanna save this post for later? Just save it to your favorite Pinterest board and you'll have access to it forever and always :)

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