Classroom Coping Skills Strategy

  • Situation

    Every year I have 1 or 2 students in my class who can become very upset about different situations. They may hit, cry, yell, or sometimes run out of the room. What can I do to help them stay in control before resorting to these behaviors?

  • Summary

    Teach Classroom Coping Skills.

    Rather than singling out the student or students who become upset in class, try to teach your entire group of students simply coping skills to help them calm down when upset.

    • Choose three easy “exercises” to teach your class. These will help your students refocus and de-escalate the situation so they can seek help appropriately.
      • Exercises may include: taking three deep breaths, squeezing your hand like you would squeeze an orange and relaxing three times, or counting backwards from five.
    • Prep a behavior story or use a commercial story about coping with anger and read this to the class. Try to engage your students by asking them for examples of situations that are upsetting and how they should handle those situations.
    • Ensure that your behavior story includes the coping skills outlined above. Model these exercises for your students so they know what to do.
    • If you witness a student getting upset, cue them to use the coping skills they learned then provide them with a reward and a verbal reinforcement when you see them using the skill(s).
  • Definition

    Coping Skills can be easy and quick physical refocus exercises that de-escalate the body’s reaction to stress.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    Ability to follow model or visuals appropriate story on coping behaviors visual supports as appropriate

  • Process

    1. Choose 3 easy ‘exercises’ to teach the class. These ‘exercises’ help students refocus and de-escalate so they can then seek help appropriately – breath deep 3x, then squeeze your hands like and orange and relax 3 times, then count backwards from 5 – get help from adult.

    2. Read a teacher made story or a commercial story on coping when angry (see video example) to the class. Try to elicit examples from students of situations that are upsetting to them.

    3. The story should include the coping exercises. Model for the students and have students practice the exercises.

    4. If you witness a student getting anxious cue them to use the skills then provide a sticker paired with verbal reinforcement when you see a student using the skill/s. The same process can be used with older students with age appropriate materials

  • Documents and Related Resources

    Calming and Relaxing My Muscles (Word doc)


    What I Should Do When I’m Really Upset story (Word doc)


    What Should I Do When I’m Really Upset with 5pt Scale (Word doc)


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