Do you have a calming space set up in your kindergarten classroom? Do you ever look over at that space and wonder if it’s really set up to best support your escalated students? A designated calm down corner should be a place with minimal distractions, but there are a few things that you should definitely include to help students self-regulate. I am going to walk you through the must-haves for a kindergarten calming space, one element at a time. In this post, we’re going to talk about using social stories!
Using Social Stories in Kindergarten
As I’ve shared on the blog before, social stories are a very helpful tool for teaching important behavior and social skills in kindergarten. They are short scripts that can be read to students to communicate expectations for a variety of situations. While social stories can be read and reviewed with a whole class, they are often used to support individual students.
Social stories are based on specific skills that students need to work on. They are read to students regularly so that the story becomes an inner script, giving them important verbiage that will help them demonstrate expected behavior. Kindergarten social stories usually include illustrations along with the text. The added visual support is especially helpful for young learners.
Tips for Using Social Stories in a Kindergarten Calming Space
Generally speaking, an effective calming space is intended to be a place where an overstimulated, escalated student can take an independent break. With that in mind, you might be wondering how a social story can be used in a kindergarten calming space. Students are still working on mastering letters and basic words, after all! Here are some helpful tips for using social stories in your classroom’s calm down area.
1. Introduce the Social Story Outside of the Calming Corner
The key to having an effective social story in your calming space is to introduce and use the social story outside of that space. As with any social story, students should be introduced to it during times when they are calm and focused. This helps them learn and internalize the script so it’s easier for them to draw on it when needed.
The more familiar a student is with a social story, the more helpful it will be in their moments of escalation. The suggestions in the social story will come from an inner dialogue, rather than from an outside reminder. This is very helpful when a student is overstimulated and upset!
2. Use Consistent, Kid-Friendly Language
In order for social stories to be helpful for young students, they need to use simple, familiar language. If a sentence doesn’t sound like something a child would (or could) say, it probably shouldn’t be in the social story. The goal is for this text to become an internalized script for the student. If it uses long sentences or unfamiliar words, it won’t be as effective. Especially in a moment of escalation!
Also, if you use a particular self-regulation program or specific calming strategies in your classroom, be sure to incorporate consistent language in the social story. This will go a long way in helping your students remember and use the social story in the moments they need it.
3. Create a One-Page Copy
Social stories can be formatted to be read and flipped through like a book, or as a one-page script. For the purposes of a calming space, a one-page copy of the social story is best. An escalated student is unlikely to choose to flip through the pages of a social story. In fact, that format might be prone to getting torn up.
The fewer choices a student has to make when escalated, the better. Presenting the social story as a book creates a choice since the student has to decide to pick it up and look through it. Instead, a one-page social story script can be posted in the space. It can serve as a visual reminder of what students can do when they need to calm down. You can also laminate the page to make it durable enough to withstand any student attempts to tear it or rip it down.
4. Regularly Revisit the Social Story
As students’ self-regulation, behavior, and social skills improve, they will rely on social stories less and less. That’s the goal! However, it’s important to continue to revisit the social story that is in your calming space so students will be able to reference it when needed. This is especially true for students who won’t be able to independently read the text of the social story. You can plan on reading through the social story once a week or every other week with the individual students who tend to use the calming space more frequently.
You could also choose to occasionally review the calming space social story with your whole class. This is a great activity for a morning meeting in your classroom. You can also review the calming strategies mentioned in the social story or offered on cards in the calming area.
Must-Haves for a Kindergarten Calming Space: Part One
Would you like to take a closer look at the social story I use in my kindergarten calming space? I walk you through it in this video!
Printables for a Kindergarten Calming Space
If you would like to set up a calming space for your kindergarten classroom, I have created a bundle that will save you some time and money! This bundle includes a variety of tools for calming down that you can use to create a safe and effective space for your students to take a break. This printable bundle includes the calm down social story pictured in this post.
Save These Tips for Using Social Stories in Calming Corners
Be sure to save this post if you’d like to come back to these tips for using social stories in your kindergarten calming space. Just add the pin below to your favorite teaching board on Pinterest so you can quickly find these tips and resources when you’re setting up your own calm down corner.