Each student has a set of calming cards with them at their desk. The idea is that when they are experiencing an emotion that feels "big" to them, they could use one of the cards to address it and get their needs met before the reaction to the emotion becomes big itself. This takes some time and instruction to teach them to recognize the feelings they are experiencing as they come up. Then, they can simply present the card to the teacher and the teacher will be able to help them before the reaction to the feelings becomes a problem. Students should be instructed in how to use the cards, as should participating teachers. It is best practice to provide an operational definition for each card. For example, with the overwhelmed card which requests a short break, students should know a "short break" means 1-2 minutes reading/looking at a book or sitting quietly, NOT playing somewhere or gaining access to privileged items for an indefinite amount of time. Students also need to know that when they hand a card to the teacher, the teacher may not be able to accommodate them right away. What students can count on, however, is that the teacher knows the student's feeling state and can help address it when the time is right. An example of this is talking to someone when feeling sad or excited. Students should be prepared to hear, "Thank you for letting me know. Let's talk after we finish math." Students should also know that being near an adult is only an option if I or another adult is in the room or otherwise available.
When students use their cards and are sent back to the support teacher's classroom they should bring the feeling card they used with them. After a minute or two of sitting quietly, the teacher can then begin to process their feelings with them using the incident processing form above. Using this form, teacher and student can identify and address the feelings being experienced and can collectively come up with self-calming, self-soothing, and/or self-regulating strategies to be used in the future when this same feeling presents itself, such that they may be able to handle the emotion themselves without leaving class. Completing this paper with the feeling cards provides documentation of when the student is having difficulty and what kind of difficulty they are experiencing most often, which can help to identify social skills lessons or problem solving lessons. Also to note, the answer to the "past" question of "What can you do about what has already happened?" will always be some variation of: "Nothing. There is nothing I can do to change the past, but I can learn from it and move forward."