ESSENTIALS: Teaching Students To Regulate with Leah Kuypers

ESSENTIALS: Teaching Students To Regulate with Leah Kuypers

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If you work in education, you're probably seeing more and more dysregulated students in the classroom - and helping them to understand (and manage) strong emotions is becoming a key teaching skill.

In this 10-minute snackable Essentials episode of School Behaviour Secrets, we share an excerpt of our interview with Leah Kuypers, where she explains how to use the Zones of Regulation to help children understand their emotions.

Want to hear the full interview? Then check out episode 36 of School Behaviour Secrets.

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Show notes / transcription

Leah Kuypers  0:00  

We're building a climate where it feels safe to talk about how we're feeling and you know, take away that judgement from the equation and really embrace those feelings that we have without having students feel like they have to conform to you know, I always need to be happy and feeling focused because that isn't reality.

Simon Currigan  0:20  

Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course, students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural Special Needs whole school strategy and more all with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast.

Hi there, Simon Currigan here and I'd like to introduce you to a new episode format we're trying out, School Behaviour Secrets Essentials. In the short bite sized essentials episodes, we're going to share with you one important piece of information from one of the expert guests we've interviewed it might be a golden strategy or insight that you can start using immediately in your classroom. Because in a busy world when we're being bombarded by information all the time, having reminders of these key concepts helps to keep them top of mind so they can make a difference for the kids that you work with and that you support. By the way, you won't have to do anything special to get these essentials episodes. If you're already subscribed to the podcast, these episodes will join your podcast feed alongside our regular episodes, which will continue as normal. In our first essentials episode, I've decided to feature Leak Kuypers back from Episode 36. Leah is the author of the Zones of Regulation, which is used around the world to help kids understand and manage their emotions successfully. And I know in my conversations with teachers, that pupil struggling with dysregulation is an issue that comes up again and again and again. So here's Leah explaining how to use the zones with your students.

Leah, welcome to the show.

Leah Kuypers  2:20  

Thank you. Simon, it's an honour to be here with you.

Simon Currigan  2:23  

Before we get on to what the zones of regulation are and how to use them. What prompted you to develop them?

Leah Kuypers  2:29  

Well, I trained as an occupational therapist and was working in the schools seeing so many of my students have difficulties engaging in the academics engaging in the social aspects of school and all too often punitive measures were used to try to get them to comply. And those were I found a detriment to the student, their mental health, their confidence, esteem, as well as just really clouded feel of climate in the classrooms, the school and so I really wanted to truly teach them a lesson and support them in building these skills rather than continue to watch them be penalised for their lack of abilities in this area. What I think the zones does well is gives them this visual way to think about and talk about how they're feeling. So feelings are really abstract, we have all these different emotions and energy levels we experience and it can be quite hard to capture and pinpoint where we're at. So by having a visual structure, we can take the verbal out of it and we can show how we're feeling we can also get in that general vicinity without always needing to be right on an exact emotion but hey, I know I'm in this really heightened state. And that then funnels to these tools and strategies that they've been practising to help support when they're an SE that colour zone with the visual supports to it's easier for the caregivers, the teachers to help co regulate with them to and engage them in some of these regulatory supports to manage where they're at

Simon Currigan  4:20  

Each of the zones of regulations is given a colour and three of those zones follow the colour of traffic lights. So we've got red, yellow, or amber, as we say in the UK and green. Can you talk us through what each of those zones means and how they help students understand their emotions.

Leah Kuypers  4:36  

So we define four colours zones, and we have the red zone which is when we have really heightened emotions, our feelings are overwhelming us. It can be positive feelings like elated, ecstatic, overjoyed, where you think about you know, you just got this fantastic news and your body's in this euphoric state. To feeling panic terrified, we can be angry at furious in that red zone. So we pair that with the stop light or stop sign, we typically have to stop and think about how we can manage this really heightened state that we're in. And these emotions are exhausting. So it takes a lot out of us. So that stop offers us that pause to think about, okay, how do I manage this regain a sense of control back when we're talking about the zone, this is defined by those feelings we have inside of us, it's the state of alertness are kind of that physiological condition of the body where we can be in this more heightened state or a lower state. Those zones are defined by our feelings, our energy level, which is important because there can be this misapplication of the zones where people define it by our behaviour on the outside, and that may or may not necessarily match what our feelings are on the inside. For example, often as adults, we look like we're in this calm demeanour. And you know, you go inside my head, and I have this to do list that's so long, and my thoughts are swimming all around me, and I'm a little anxious and a little overwhelmed. So that's how we define our zone by what's going on inside of us. So that red zone certainly is expected, we anticipate that we're going to have these big feelings, there's nothing wrong with having big feelings. And so the zones is not about making sure someone avoids one zone and stays in a different zone rather than a zone. It's about being comfortable identifying where we're at, and then giving us strategies to help us manage it and cope in a healthy way to support our well being accomplish our goals or tasks, little sidetrack deviation, but on to the yellow zone. The yellow zone is when our state of alertness is a little heightened. But we still have some of this cognitive control. So we think about being maybe anxious or worried frustrated, but not over the top angry we can be excited and silly. Some kids with sensory needs might identify in that more agitated yellow zone are overwhelmed in the yellow zone or kind of feeling wiggly. So you know, this is a super common zone for kids to be in when they're playing out on the playground or when they're competing and is competitive activities. So the yellow zone with hair with the caution signs slow down, take notice, be aware that we're in a more heightened state and be thinking about them, what are regulations, tools that can help support us in gaining that control back. So the green zone then is the zone where we feel this more calm, organised state of alertness, our emotions are more level. And we think about being happy, content focused, feeling peaceful, proud, and the green zone and that green zone we pair with the goal line, often we're good to go thinking about our tools that support us in the green zone are those things that keep us feeling good and support our well being like maybe incorporating exercise into your routine or drinking your water throughout the day getting enough sleep. And for some kids that can be those proactive supports that keep them feeling good, like maybe taking five minutes of downtime in the middle of their day or some of their sensory tools that keep their body feeling regulated. And then lastly, there's the blue zone. And the blue zone is when we have a lower state of alertness, physiologically, our heart rate slower, our muscles may be more relaxed, and we think about those emotions being down in nature. So we might feel tired, sick, bored, exhausted in the blue zone. And we think about pairing the blue zone with the rest area. That's where we go to re energise, rest up, get our needs met and find that comfort that is going to help us feel better.

Simon Currigan  9:07  

And that was Leah Cooper's sharing how to use the zones of regulation to help your students understand their emotions, which can be a powerful first step towards helping them regulate their emotions for themselves. And I've put a link to Leah's website in the episode description. If you'd like to learn more, and don't forget to go back to Episode 36 To hear the whole interview. In fact, I definitely recommend you do. That's all we've got time for on this essentials episode. If you've enjoyed listening today, remember to rate and review us that tells the algorithm to recommend school behaviour secrets to other people and that helps us reach and support other teachers, school leaders and parents in the recommendations. People who are just like you. And while you've got your podcast app open, remember to hit subscribe so you never miss another episode, whether it's a standard episode, or one of these new essentials episodes. Thanks for listening. Bye Look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviours.

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)