Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Zones of Regulation

Many students experience some form of struggle when transitioning into a new school year. Can you blame them? They have a new teacher, new classroom, and new classmates. Imagine starting a new job every year with the expectation to always be flexible. That would be a tough pill to swallow for many. To support with the many transitions our students face, and even the many feelings popping up throughout the year, our teachers have utilized an innovative social/emotional learning technique. This tool is called the Zones of Regulations

Our school counselors had the opportunity this month to teach several Zones of Regulations lessons in our Kindergarten and a few first grade classes, and the students love it! But, you might be wondering, what are the Zones of Regulation?

The Zones is used to teach self-regulation by labeling all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four zones.  The Zones curriculum provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of their emotions, improve controlling their emotions and impulses, managing their sensory needs, and improving their ability to problem solve conflicts.  

The Four Zones
The Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness (low energy), such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.

The Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone.  Being in the Green Zone will help students be successful in the classroom.  

The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions; however, one has some control when they are in the Yellow Zone.  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.  

The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions.  A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone. A person is described as “out of control” if in the Red Zone.  

During my Zones lessons, I started by asked the students to identify what each color represents when in their car at a stoplight. Yellow = Slow Down, Red = Stop!, Green = Go (Ready to learn), Blue = Need a break (Rest stop)

After we identified the meaning of each color zone, we worked as a class to match feelings with zones. We identified the following feelings:
Blue Zone: Shy, Sick, Tired, Sad
Green Zone: Happy, Calm, Good Listener, Brave
Yellow Zone: Silly, Frustrated, Worried, Scared
Red Zone: Mad, Yelling, Out of Control

Tools and Strategies

Our students learned about a simple breathing method to help calm their bodies if they are in the yellow or red zone. This method is called “Lazy 8 Breathing”. To use this method at home, you can ask your students teacher for a copy of the "Lazy 8 Breathing", or you can make your own. This is how it works:
  • Put your pointer finger on the star and start by following the arrow around "Breath In". Take a deep breath in.
  • As you cross over to the other side of the Lazy 8, slowly let you breath out (like you blowing out birthday candles)
  • Continue breathing around the Lazy 8 until you have a calm body & mind (3 times are recommended for students).
Another tool the students learned is Positive Self-Talk. Positive Self-Talk is encouraging self-talk you use inside your head, such as: "I think I can," "I have done hard things before," "I know I can do it."

Positive Self-Talk is a great tool to use when in the Blue or Yellow Zone. 

How can you use The Zones of Regulation?

Students have received instruction in identifying the emotions that go with each zone, as well as, tools and strategies.

Here are some things that can be done to support The Zones of Regulation at home:

  • Practice identifying the emotions that go with each zone.
  • Practice Lazy 8 Breathing at home. (It is best to practice the tools and strategies when the children are calm, so they will be comfortable to use the tools when they are not in the green zone)
  • Share your positive self-talk. "I'm not giving up even though I am frustrated. I can do this."
  • Suggest positive self-talk when you see your child is reluctant to try something new. You can whisper in his/her ear, "John, I know you can do it! Tell yourself, 'I can do it!'" 
  • When you see your child overcome a challenge, you can say, "I noticed you stuck with that. What did you say inside your head to help?"
  • When you see your child in the blue, yellow or red zone, prompt them to identify what zone they are in and to identify a tool or strategy they can use to get back to the Green Zone.
The Zones of Regulation, along with the Kimochis, will be something our students use daily in elementary school and even some in middle school. If you wish to know more about the program, feel free to contact your school's counselor or teacher.  And practice yourself! What Zone are in you right now? 

Thank you all :)

Jen Ferrer
School Counselor