I love Leah Kuyper’s Zones of Regulation curriculum. If you are unfamiliar with this approach, it is a way of categorizing emotions into four “zones”. The lessons developed by Ms. Kuypers include sensory integration and regulation as well as emotional awareness and executive functioning.
Recently, while working with a group of 8-year-olds, one of the children described being in the red zone like “feeling like a balloon ready to burst”. As always, my students are often my greatest sources of inspiration! This insightful description led me to the following lesson.
When teaching social skills and talking with my students about any social cognition concept, I find it critical to include visuals (or “show-teaching” techniques). Even my older, most higher-functioning students benefit from making abstract concepts concrete.
I purchased balloons in the four zones colors (red, yellow, green, blue) and used a marker to draw corresponding faces onto each (it is helpful to blow up the balloons first, draw the faces and then deflate).
We discussed the blue zone as when our bodies feel slow. To illustrate, I partially blew up the balloon, letting it flow lazily on the table.
The green zone balloon was blown up to an optimal size, allowing it to rest easily on the table.
Next, the yellow zone balloon was larger. We discussed how we had to stop blowing it up as it was becoming uncomfortably large. I also let go of the balloon and let it zoom around the room, bringing lots of laughs!
Finally, the red zone balloon was blown up to nearly the point of explosion. We talked about how the latex had expanded to an uncomfortable point. Interestingly, several of the children became uncomfortable with the red balloon, expressing how they were “afraid it was going to pop”! No one wanted to be near the red zone balloon!
This was the perfect opportunity to talk about how people in different zones make us feel and what they make us think.