How to Use a Calming Corner

There has been more and more research about the importance of Social Emotional Learning and Social Emotional competencies embedded in our curriculum. If a learner is not available for learning because of social/emotional reasons, we as the professional need to help increase their sense of safety within the school environment. Along with Social Emotional learning comes information about trauma. Some of our learners come to us with trauma, even at the early childhood years. Having a sense of belonging and making the classroom and school environment one where we can all feel safe and that we belong which can increase our ability to be ready for learning. In this post, I will review what social/emotional learning, social/emotional competencies, what it means to be trauma-informed, and then how to use a calming corner within a classroom. 

First, we will start off with the meaning of social and emotional learning (often abbreviated as SEL) which is the process in which humans learn skills to support healthy development and relationships. The areas of social/emotional competence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

Next, I will review what it means to be trauma-informed. Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is an approach in the human service field that assumes that an individual is more likely than not to have a history of trauma. Trauma-Informed Care recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role trauma may play in an individual’s life- including service staff. Researchers have defined TIP as a set of practices that address the impact of trauma by creating a safe and caring environment. Trauma-informed practices focus on creating a safe school culture, building relationships, and supporting students’ self-efficacy.


After we educate ourselves on the most current literature and strategies about forming a collaborative and safe community within our classrooms and school environments, we are ready to incorporate it with our learners. One big part of this implementation is going to be the calming corner. The name may change based on teacher and team preference, however, when used appropriately, the same thing will happen.


The calming Corner is a positive place for our learners to calm their bodies and minds, feel the wave of their emotions without pushing them down, and get back to a state of being ready to learn. A calming corner is the designated space where the learners can learn and practice self-regulation. My team and I start by looking around the classroom to the safest corner. We then add our calming materials such as a rug, soft cushions, a bean bag chair, and/or pillows. We always think about our learners and what would be best for them to utilize at that time. Our occupational therapist also works with us on implementing weighted blankets, weighted vests, pressure vests and other sensory tools that may help support our learners. The goal of this space is to give our learners a space where they can take a break away from their peers, feel the emotional wave coming in, and practice self-regulation strategies. If a learner does not yet have independent coping skills, co-regulation strategies will be the start as we slowly pull the prompting and adult help away.


Set Rules and Expectations

Just like everything within our classroom such as visual schedules, classroom books, station materials, etc., the use of the calming corner should be taught and practiced with our learners. The rules that we have for our calm down corner are created with the guidance of the adults, and the ideas of our learners. This brings ownership to the area! Some of our most common rules are: 

  1. Students who are in the calming corner use their quiet voice
  2. Students who are not in the calming corner will not stare at or talk to someone who is in the corner
  3. The tools and materials within the calming corner will be used 1 at a time and they will be used appropriately. 
  4. Students who enter the calming corner have 2 minutes and then they will try the group again. 

I have used this corner with learners quite frequently. The following tips have been successful for my team and our learners. Feel free to comment with ideas that work for you as well! 

  • Use calming or neutral colors
  • Provide materials that help teach emotional awareness and competencies
  • Be sure that the area is not too big, and not too small! I usually make sure that one learner can fit with a little bit of space to lay down and stretch out.
  • When this is set up in an actual corner of the room, the walls help give a visual without having to use additional furniture
  • Have sensory materials ready and available in an organized way to avoid having those materials thrown around the area or classroom
  • Keep the calming corner open throughout the day, not only for when a learner is engaging in maladaptive behavior


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