Student Independence: Applying Skills Outside Your Office (Elementary)

You’ve taught and practiced the skills in your office, even in a group setting, and your student is blowing you away! It’s even become automatic to them and they can answer the hardest questions. But then they hit a wall – they aren’t applying those skills outside of your office, especially when it comes to regulation. Regulating is such a difficult skill for students to master completely. First, they have to remember to regulate in the moment, then identify how they are feeling, and THEN they have to decide on the best solution or coping skill. That’s a lot to consider when you are upset about something! This is why I love tools that students can take with them after a lesson or that can be accessible to them in the classroom. They help encourage skills in the moment, and decrease those extra visits to your office! In this post, I’ve included a list of my favorite tools for promoting student independence when it comes to problem-solving or self-regulation.

Student independence tools

1. Coping Cards

I mean we pretty much have to start this list with coping cards, right? It’s the original independent tool for regulation! Students can keep these on a ring at their desks to look at when needed. If they aren’t quite ready for that, teachers can wear them on a lanyard or keep them in a safe place to give to students when they are upset

Student independence tools

2. Notecards & Desk Aids

This is probably my favorite! For my youngest students, they are more visual: pictures of someone practicing a coping skill, practicing the skills we learned, something for them to trace, etc. For my older students, I like to list steps, a checklist, or 3-4 preferred options/skills. They are more discreet, right there when they need them, and can be changed out easily or seasonally

3. Fidgets

I love fidgets because there are so many different kinds! Right now my students love chain links and stretchy dough balls, but fidgets don’t have to be expensive. A cheaper option is to take textured scrapbook paper and cut it into small squares. It can be taped to the desk which eliminates it getting lost, and is a really good option for my youngest students because I can switch them out easily if they get ruined

Student independence

4. Breathing Boards

Breathing boards are another great tool to promote student independence. They can be kept on a student’s desk or in a calm area. The idea behind this is a small board with 5 breaths on it. Students attach each breath to the breathing board after they have completed one. I really like to personalize these to increase buy-in and ownership. You can find a free breathing board in my private library!

5. Feelings Maps

These are tools that focus on a particular feeling and reflection. With a feelings map, students are often guided through what they are feeling, how it feels in their body, and a coping skill they can use. These steps are often included in a calm-down corner, but you can also create a feelings map individually with a student

6. Social Stories

I love social stories because you can really customize them to the student’s needs. You can include any details you want, and there are different formats to choose from. Reading a social story is also really easy to make into a daily or situational routine

7. Think Sheets

Think sheets are another tool that can be easily customizable. They can be something you create with detachable pieces, a visual sheet students can point to or circle answers, or something that allows for written responses. I really like to include common terms or curriculum material the student is currently working on

8. A Calm Down Corner

We all know this one, but that’s because it can work when set up correctly! There are a few ways you can do this too – it can be for the whole class to use or for a particular student. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a place your student(s) can go when they need a break. If you want it to be more for a particular student, you can even use a calm basket that is placed in a certain spot in the room. Some of the things I like to include in a calm down corner are fidgets, a stuffed animal, a calm down bottle, a feelings map, coping cards, and breathing exercises on an iPod. You can also include expectations of how to use the calm corner and when to return for instruction

Student independence

I hope you found this list helpful! Have you used any of these tools to promote student independence? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Take care,


Related Posts:

Student Independence: Applying Skills Outside Your Office (Middle School)

10 Fidgets That Work Well With My Students


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