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 single out one student, try to teach the class simple skills such as breathing 3 times, counting backwards from 5, and squeezing their hands like squeezing an orange, then relaxing. These physical coping ‘exercises’ can calm and refocus the students.

  • 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.