Every classroom K-5 should have a calm body space.
What exactly is a calm body space? Simply put, it is a place that any student can opt into, taking a break when THEY feel fit. It is NOT a time out space for students a place to be sent to. The space should be selected by students and constructed hand in hand with the teacher. All students have access to it, at anytime during the day. Students are never sent there because they are misbehaving. It is not a punishment place but a place where students can regulate their own emotions and to return to the class when they are ready.
When I first started working at Queen Anne, I learned about calm body spaces and I was a bit confused. At first glance, I could tell it was different than a time out space but I didn’t quite understand how much ownership students should have in creating and defining the calm body space. What follows is a quick guide to what it is, what it isn’t and how to create a calm body space in your own class because your students really need it.
What it is: A calm body space is a space that students have identified as place to go whenever they feel the need. Students should select and name the space together through a whole class meeting. In a follow up meeting we will set and define clear parameters about how we use this space. These agreements hang in the Calm Body Space as a reminder.
In the past the calm body space in my classroom was under the classroom loft and had names such as : The Shark Den, California ( don’t ask) and just Calm Body Space. The name doesn’t particularly matter as long as students get a choice in naming it. The space should be out of the way of the rest of the class and should feel calm. At Queen Anne we had a fish tank, some pillows, a lap weight, headphones, some paper and pencils but not much else. You may find that your students can handle more or less tools in the space. Last year, my class decided that those tools were helpful for getting calm but weren’t so tempting that they wanted to stay and play.
One thing I wish I would have added was a five minute sand timer so that students could time how long they had been in the Calm Body Space. I teach students that it’s okay to spend five minutes there and then I will check in, if they need a couple of more minutes, okay, but after that they either need to rejoin the class or go problem solve with another adult in the school such as the counselor or principal.
What a Calm Body Space is not:
A space to send misbehaving students. It is NOT a punishment space.
A space outside the classroom. Calm Body Spaces are in the classroom so the child is still in the classroom. Students should never be sent into the hall because they are deregulated.
A space that students can just hang out in all day and opt out of learning. The goal of a Calm Body Space is to help teach students to identify and regulate their own emotions. If they are spending large amounts of time there, there is a bigger issue. It’s our job as teachers to figure out what that student needs to be successful in that lesson. Is the content too challenging? Are they going through trauma and can’t access the curriculum? Are they sick and need to go home? When a student spend a lot of time in the Calm Body Space, we need to work with them to figure out why and get them back learning with the class.
How to begin:
First, I would get the book, Jared’s Cool Out Space . This is a great story about Jared and how he builds his own Calm Body Space in his bedroom. Many of students go home after this read aloud and build their spaces at home.
Next, lead a class meeting about where you could have a Calm Body Space in your classroom. Allow students to select and name the space, it should be place in the classroom you all agree would work well for calming down. It should be inviting to students. Lead follow up meetings as necessary to set clear boundaries about the space.
Have all students take a quick tour of the space and add any tools that help with regulation.
Allow students to use the space when they need it. Remember it is a space that they should be allowed to access. If it’s a very popular space, you may need a back up space (there have been years when I have had two Calm Body Spaces) Below are photos from both of our classrooms. You can see the space under the loft in my classroom and in Molly’s classroom there are beach chairs ( her class Calm Body Space has a beach theme!)
To repeat with what I began with: All classrooms should have a Calm Body Space. Every student deserves a spot where they can feel safe and regulate their emotions. Research tells us that students cannot learn when they don’t feel safe. A Calm Body Space will make a huge difference in your classroom.