Students learn to handle their emotions with Zones of Regulation

Students learn to handle their emotions with Zones of Regulation™
Posted on 12/21/2021
Teacher leading Zones of Regulation lessonIn addition to learning core subjects, Mehlville School District elementary school students are learning about their emotions and how to manage their reactions to different situations through the Zones of Regulation. 

Through this social-emotional learning program, students identify what emotion they’re feeling based on four different zones. Being in the green zone means students are feeling happy and ready to learn. Being in the blue, red or yellow zones may mean the student needs to implement a strategy to get them back to green.
Bierbaum kindergarten teacher Kaitlin Hackbarth
Image: Bierbaum Elementary kindergarten teacher Kaitlin Hackbarth leads a lesson with students about how people may react differently to similar situations. Students were given scenarios and identified how that situation would make them feel.

“It’s important for students to learn about their emotions,” said Kaitlin Hackbarth, Bierbaum Elementary kindergarten teacher. “Before they’re dysregulated, we want them to understand how they’re feeling, so if they do become dysregulated, they’re able to name the feeling and use one of their tools to return to the green zone.” 

To be dysregulated means students are in a state where they’re not ready to learn or they are losing control of their emotions. These situations can lead to difficulties learning for the student, as well as disruptions for their class. 
Beasley Elementary fifth-grade students
Image: Beasley Elementary fifth-grade students explored different methods they could use when they become dysregulated. After testing out each method, students identified scenarios where using that method would be beneficial for them. 

“Dysregulation could mean that the student is sad, tired, anxious or angry,” said Michele Polzin, social-emotional learning interventionist at Beasley Elementary. “We know that students learn best when they are in that Zone of Regulation, so developing skills to get back to the green zone helps students maximize their learning.” 

At Beasley Elementary, teachers establish a Zen Den in their classrooms. This is an area where students can pause for a few minutes when they feel themselves becoming dysregulated and use one of the strategies available to them. Some examples include working on a puzzle, coloring, doing sudoku or playing with clay. After five minutes in the Zen Den, the student returns to their seat to continue learning. 

Zones of Regulation lessons taught throughout the year help to supplement the lessons students are learning in core subjects. 

“The social-emotional aspect is important because if a student isn’t in control of their emotions, we can’t expect them to actively participate in a math or reading lesson,” said Jeff Winter, behavior support interventionist at Bierbaum Elementary. “By guiding students in their social-emotional learning, we can expect them to perform better in the academic setting.” 

Teachers expect the skills learned through Zones of Regulation lessons to have a positive impact beyond students’ time in Mehlville School District.

“This is a lifelong skill and one of the most important lessons we’re teaching them,” said Amanda Barton, a fifth-grade teacher at Beasley Elementary. “They’re going to need to know how to regulate their emotions in life.” 

Watch this video to learn more about the Zones of Regulation lessons being taught in our schools.


How you can use the Zones of Regulation at home
Throughout our schools, we use the Zones of Regulation language to help students identify how they’re feeling. Here are the four zones: 
- Green: Happy, calm, feeling okay, focused, relaxed
- Yellow: Frustrated, worried, silly/wiggly, excited, loss of some control
- Blue: Sad, sick, tired, bored, moving slowly
- Red: Mad/angry, terrified, elated/ecstatic, devastated, out of control

Some examples of strategies our students can use when they’re feeling yellow, blue or red include:
- Work on a puzzle
- Color
- Play with clay
- Deep breathing
- Go for a walk
- Exercise
- Yoga
- Sensory tools (sequin pillow, fidget spinner, bubble popper)
- Journaling
- Build with Legos
- Drink some water
- Blow bubbles
- Draw with sidewalk chalk

Students can choose which strategy to use based on how they’re feeling. Talk with your child about what works best for them to calm down and return to the green zone. Your child may have additional strategies that would work for them at home, such as playing with a pet or watching their favorite show.

Zones of Regulation has free resources on their website to help families understand terms used at school that can be used when dealing with difficult situations at home. 
The Mehlville School District strictly prohibits discrimination and harassment against employees, students or others on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or sex including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity and other characteristics protected by law. The following individuals have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: contact Adam Smith at 314-467-5006 or [email protected].