As you begin planning for next year, consider implementing a cool-down center in your classroom. This will be a safe place for students to go to that need a break or reflect. Keep reading to find what materials to include, how to teach proper use, read aloud suggestions, breathing video, and grab a free printable reflection sheet. Perfect for kindergarteners!
The key to implementing a cool-down center in the classroom is modeling when and how to use it appropriately for students. It should never be used in a negative way or as a “time out” location. Instead, it’s presented as a safe place for students to go to when they feel like they need a break or to reflect. Teachers can also suggest that a student goes there when they are having a difficult time. Keep reading to learn exactly how to implement a cool-down center in your room. Grab a free printable reflection sheet to help you get started!
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How-To Set Up A Cool Down Center
You will need to find a place in your classroom that is semi-secluded and offers a little bit of privacy. This isn’t always possible but just try to find a place that’s away from high traffic. I liked to put my cool-down center in front of a window when possible. This gave the students another calming scene to help them relax.
Then you will need to gather the materials that are needed. I liked to place a couple of things right away like
Then as I taught proper use I would add a timer (love a sand timer), an emotion book we’ve read as a class, legos or blocks, and reflection sheets.
Other materials to add as you teach students how to use them properly are:
-Privacy Shield like this one. This is great for students that need an extra barrier to avoid distraction or need their own space to feel safe.
-Noise-canceling headphones like these. Another tool for when students are overstimulated and need a quiet space to relax. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to quiet down the rest of the class. Great to have these on hand!
-Sand timer. This 5-minute is a great visual way for students to track their time at the cool-down center. Ideally a 5-minute break there will allow them to recoup and rejoin the rest of the class.
Fidget Poppers. These are great for hands-on stimulation and relaxation. Really any fidget toy will do but these are popular right now, so students might be more inclined to use them.
For all of these materials, you need to make sure to carefully introduce, model correct use, model incorrect use, and give time to practice.
Mini-Lesson Ideas for the Cool Down Center
You need to explicitly teach what, how, why, when, where, and every possible question in between for using the cool-down center in your room. I’ll walk you through my introductory mini-lesson but make sure to keep your student’s needs the main focus when planning.
To start, I gather the class at the common area, usually a rug with an easel anchor chart available. I start by reviewing emotions. I ask several students to model what happy looks and sounds like, sad looks and sounds like, angry, frustrated, surprised. etc. We discuss how all emotions are normal and good but sometimes we need to process them differently.
Read Aloud Books Ideas
Then I like to include a read aloud about emotions such as
Make sure to read the book slowly and give time for students to process, ask questions, and share ideas.
Then I transition to the explicit teaching of the cool-down center.
I say that today we will be learning about a safe spot in our room that we can choose to go to whenever we need help processing an emotion. Depending on where it is, you can show or walk over to the cool-down area as a class.
There are two ways students can go there:
- Choose to go on their own
- Suggested by a teacher
Make sure to keep reinforcing that it’s a safe place to focus on processing feelings and managing positive behavior.
Create an Anchor Chart
As a class, we create a chart like this and hang it close to the cool-down center. It’s important to make it as a class and discuss each of the steps. Keep it simple with pictures!
Discuss each step of the process. Especially that it’s important to realize when you need a break but also the goal is to come back. to the group.
Practice Deep Breathing
One of the best cool down techniques to teach kids is deep breathing! They can do this anywhere and anytime they feel upset or anxious. I do it all the time! Kids need to be explicitly taught to pay attention to their breathing and how to use it as a cool down technique. Here’s a great video to get your breathing video started.
Free Printable Reflection Sheet
We’ve created a free printable reflection sheet to help you get started as an additional tool to keep at the cool-down center for students. I like to have this as an option for students that need some additional structure for cooling down. We always model completing one together and I glue the example on the anchor chart for reference.
We included several differentiated options based on the need of your students. Grab this free printable to help students identify feelings and reflect!
Do you use a cool-down center? Comment and share your ideas!
We also have a great emotions lesson using Inside Out inspiration. Check it out here!