The Classroom Calming Corner

  • Situation

    I teach 2nd grade in a very busy classroom.  There is one student who has major difficulty with certain academic tasks and will melt down whenever he gets frustrated.  We don’t know what to do when he gets like that – it’s very disruptive!  Sending him out of the classroom isn’t the answer.  What can I do to help him calm down?

  • Summary

    While it is important to have a response strategy for student “meltdowns”, it is equally (if not more important!) to make sure supports are put in place to prevent a negative behavior from occurring in the first place. This may include asking a student to complete 2-3 very easy problems before tackling a more difficult one or visually chunking the information to help the student focus and feel less overwhelmed. The links  below may be helpful.

    Even with our best efforts, a student may get so frustrated or upset that the negative behavior occurs. In this case, try utilizing a Classroom Calming Corner where students can go to briefly get away from the frustrating task or overstimulating activity. It is a good idea to try to have the student remain in the classroom rather than send them out to prevent this behavior from becoming an avoidance tactic as well as to promote self-calming strategies.

    The Classroom Calming Corner should be a safe place where a student can go to calm himself using pre-taught strategies for a short amount of time. The goal is to give the student a “time away” so that his behavior does not escalate any further. The Classroom Calming Corner is a positive place that rewards students for keeping their emotions in check and using strategies to calm themselves so that learning can occur.

    • Select a quiet, cozy area in your classroom and add a rug and soft seating such as cushions, bean bag chair, or pillows. You may use a partition or shelving to block off part of the area to give your student privacy and prevent distractions in the classroom.
    • Create a “relaxation menu” of activities or items that the student may use briefly to help them calm down. Menu options might include: listening to music with headphones, playing a game on an iPad, reading a book, slowly counting to 10, or taking deep breaths. The “relaxation menu” should be posted in a visible spot in the corner so the student is reminded of activities that help him/her feel calm.
    • Include a timer in the calming corner so your student knows how long they are allowed to remain in the area.
    • Explain the calming corner to your student so he/she knows how and when it should be used. You may also give your student “break” cards which indicate when he/she may need to use the calming corner.
  • Definition

    A Classroom Calming Corner is a quiet area of the room equipped with soft furnishings and soothing materials to help a student de-escalate when upset.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 6-10, 11-13, 14-17
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    • bean bag chair(s) or floor cushions/large pillows
    • soft rug
    • relaxation CD and player
    • headphones
    • books, magazines
    • low partitions/dividers for privacy
    • visual calming strategies
    • visual timer
  • Process

    1. Select an out-of-the way area in the classroom to create the Calming Corner.

    2. Furnish the space with a soft rug, beanbag chairs, floor cushions and/or large pillows, a relaxation CD and player, headphones, books and magazines, etc..

    3. Set up the partitions to provide enough privacy for the student while still allowing visibility by the teacher.

    4. Post a set of visual calming strategies in the area to provide self-managing reminders for the student.

    5. Talk with the student privately and explain how and when to use the area.  Let him know that he is allowed to go to this area at the first sign of becoming upset.  Tell him that you’ll meet him back there and together, you’ll quietly agree on a time limit to use the area.  Set the visual timer for the agreed upon amount of time.

    6. When the time is up, privately reinforce the student for returning to his work area.  This reinforcement may help the student repeat this desired behavior in the future.

    7. If you feel that the student is beginning to use this area frequently and suspect he’s possibly avoiding work, you may decide to start providing a limited number of break tickets he can specifically use in the morning and in the afternoon to curtail this behavior.

    8. Utilize the Calming Corner with all of the students in your classroom.

  • Documents and Related Resources

    Relaxation Menu (Word document)


    Acknowledging Student Difficulties (related situation on this site)


    Behavioral Momentum to Build Confidence (related situation on this site)


    Visual Chunking for Math (related situation on this site)


    Break Cards (PDF)


    Square Breathing (PDF)




    relaxation booklet (PDF)

    This resource was authored by Watson Institute Special Education Consultant, Lisa Plastino, M.Ed. 

    If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.