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Creating a calming corner  for  your classroom

Do you have students who become frustrated, angry or sad during the school day? Do their feelings sometimes escalate? One proactive and preventative approach for supporting students who are feeling upset and/or need to de-escalate is to have a calming corner in your classroom. It is a safe place where students go to use previously learned strategies to help them when they need to take a break, calm down, or think about making different choices.
The calming corner is furnished with items such as pillows, a stuffed animal, feeling cards, a mirror, art materials, stress balls, and CD player for music. Prior to using the calming corner, students are taught the procedures for using it, just like they are taught other procedures in the classroom. Teachers explain the reason/purpose for the calming corner, model how to use the calming corner (e.g., how to identify their feelings once they enter the calming corner, what to do when in the calming corner) and provide students practice in using it.
The goal of the calming corner is to provide a place for students to can calm down when they are feeling strong emotions or they just need a quiet place to regroup before moving forward. With support, students can begin to self-regulate and determine when they need the calming corner without prompting from an adult. For more information about calming corners, here are four web sites that provide details about creating one for your classroom:
The Watson Institute:  

Developing fine motor skills in young children
Some children in early childhood years struggle with developing fine motor skills.  It could be  cutting with scisso rs, buttoning shirts, zipping jackets, holding a pencil or tying shoes.  The development of skilled hand use requires a combination of hand strength, grasp patterns, and finger movement. Creating an environment where opportunities are available for engaging in activities which incorporate these skills will lead to improved fine motor skills.

When writing or coloring provide children with a variety of tools in size and shape.  Don't throw away broken crayons or small pencils; coloring and writing with these small tools encourages a pincer grasp.  Give children the opportunity to write or color in a variety of positions; taping paper on a wall or file cabinet encourages finger tip grasp patterns. Placing paper on the floor encourages strength and stability in the shoulders and arms.

During other classroom activities provide children with some common household tools to complete the task.  For instance, use kitchen tongs to pick up objects for counting. Manipulating clothespins develops  pincer strength. Have your students create words or sentences by hanging letters or words on a clothesline. A hole puncher helps develop hand strength; have your students punch holes along a number line.

A quick Google search can turn up a variety of fine motor activities to incorporate into the early childhood elementary classroom.  Here's a few good places to start:

Self-guided professional development opportunities for early childhood educators
Finding time for professional development is limited for many teachers. Luckily, there are online options that are flexible and research-based. The Frank Porter Graham Development Institute (FPG) has many self-paced professional development options targeting evidence based practices to support young children with disabilities in early childhood settings.
There are seven CONNECT  modules that can be used independently or in an instructional setting.  

A new offering from FPG are self-guided courses  aligned with the Division of Early Childhood recommended practices. Upon completion of one of the low cost courses, a certificate of participation is generated for participants. The self-guided introductory course titled, The Foundations of Inclusion, is available at no-cost. The next time you are looking for professional development, consider carving out time to access one of these high quality options.

TTAC welcomes new staff
Phyllis Haynes has been appointed as the new 
Co- Director of the VCU T/TAC. Phyllis has been a Program Specialist in the areas of behavior and secondary curriculum and instruction for 14 years. She has previous experience working in Richmond City Schools as a Coordinator for Secondary Instruction.  Phyllis has also taught in Virginia Beach and Arlington. She earned her Ph.D.  from Virginia Commonwealth University.  

Mary Addeo joined VCU's T/TAC this past September as a Program Specialist in School Improvement/Instruction for grades 6 - 12.  Mary spent the last 11 years at Bruton High School in the York County School Division where she served as the Special Education Department Chair. Prior to Bruton High, Mary taught various reading programs and co-taught at Poquoson Middle School and Slider Middle School in El Paso, Texas. Mary earned a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs from Columbia College Columbia, South Carolina, and a Master of Education in Special Education at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). 

VDOE's Training and Technical Assistance Center at VCU
700 E Franklin Street, Suite 140
P.O. Box 843081
Richmond, VA 23284-3081