12 Engaging Ways to Teach Self-Control In Elementary School 

Self-control, for obvious reasons, has always found its way as a focus area in my school counseling program each year. However, when we returned to school after over a year of virtual learning, it was not hard to see elementary teachers struggling to deal with students who lacked impulse control and self-regulation skills. Given that students are getting back to school after a few weeks of Winter Break, there is a high possibility you as a counselor might need to address the issue sooner than later. If you're not sure how to go about it, I hope this blog post helps.

How School Counselors can Teach Self-Control

1. Whole Class Lessons

When it comes to tackling Self Control and Self Regulation, I've always found that a school-wide approach is the best to start with. Here's where you as a counselor can facilitate guidance lessons, grade/class-wise, across the board.

In my experience, younger students might need more than one lesson to reinforce or to practice the skills you've taught them. With this Self-Control Guidance Lesson, for example, students of grades 1-5 will be able to define self-control, identify strategies to stay in control, and apply this information at school and at home.

With my upper elementary kiddos, I prefer using this Self-Control Character Ed Lesson. Inspired by and compatible with the book Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine by Michele Borba, this editable Canva lesson focuses on self-control which is one of the 7 essential traits of Thrivers according to author Michele Borba. The interactive nature of this lesson will allow students to easily comprehend and practice using the information covered.

I also love to use breakout groups in self-control classroom lessons. Each group learns about self-control and then they come back together as the whole class to discuss. Check out this super engaging lesson!

If you prefer a highly interactive class lesson, this scavenger hunt-esque Self-Control Escape Room Guidance Lesson is so much fun! Students learn self-control coping strategies and how to deal with situations that make them feel angry or upset with these fun activities. Students are divided into groups and must work as a team as they move around the room to solve all 5 missions that include a sorting activity, a sentence scramble, acting it out, drawing a picture, and writing examples.

2. Group Counseling Sessions

At the start of each group I ensure data is tracked using these Self-Control Self Assessments. I then re-send the same forms at the conclusion of the group to track student progress.

With my younger students, this Self-Control Wiggle Worms Group has always been a success. This 8 week self-control group teaches students self-control through engaging and fun activities. Wiggle Worms includes outlines with ASCA Standards and Objectives. This group is perfect for younger students who struggle with impulse control and self-control. Students will learn to identify self-control strategies and how to apply them in their everyday lives. In addition, they will improve communication skills and learn how to practice thinking before speaking.

Wiggle Worms is designed for younger students (K-2) but it can be modified to use with a more broad age range. Kids love coming to this group because they are not completing worksheets but are getting to incorporate movement and games in their learning!

For my upper elementary students who find self-control challenging, I've found that my 8 week low prep Self-Control Calming the Storm Group is ideal to use. This self-control counseling group helps students identify triggers, coping skills, and systems to put in place to feel empowered to make good choices and maintain self-control at home and at school.

This group goes beyond impulse control. Students will develop habits and thought patterns to take accountability for their choices and will practice self-reflection, communication, goal setting and more with each week's self-control building activities such as a scoot game, social stories, scavenger hunts, task cards, etc. This group includes an interactive notebook component with each session. Students will build their notebook each week with foldable activities and they can add their journal reflections here as well!

3. Individual Counseling Sessions

When it comes to my one to one sessions with students with higher needs in this area, I pull out a plethora of engaging activities to use from my pool of Self-Control resources. Interestingly, ALL of these resources can be upcycled and tweaked as required, to be used in a tier 1 or tier 2 setting as well. 

There’s nothing quite like learning through play, right? With this Self-Control Board Game, students will learn self-control strategies they can use at home and at school. This low prep game only requires to be printed out before your session!

While board games can seem confining, if you’re looking to incorporate movement, this Self-Control Scoot Game is bound to be your go-to resource. Comprising 30 game cards, this game is a ton of fun to play in groups and in a whole class setting too. 

Have little ones who love the trolls? An essential component of the Self-ConTrolls Bundle are the Self-Control Task Cards. Students practice self-control strategies with these 100 self-control task cards. Students will read different realistic self-control scenarios and decide how they would respond and which coping strategies to use. I ensure I have a pack of these in my office calm-down corner. The Self-ConTrolls Social Skills Card Game is a fun way to discuss examples of self-control with students. With a limited number of response cards, students have to think creatively to choose the best option for the self-control scenarios. The troll themed Self-ConTrolls Strategies Activity Pack is a fun and interactive way to teach students self-control strategies. Students will learn what self-control looks like, practice self-control strategies, assess their self-control strengths and weaknesses, assess appropriate reactions to different scenarios at home and school, and learn how to apply self-control strategies across settings.

Closer to Winter Break, I bring out my sELF-Control Christmas Games that helps students practice self-control and learn self-control coping skills. Students will identify times when they feel strong emotions and how to use self-control coping skills in everyday situations.

Another engaging and interactive activity my kiddos enjoy closer to Christmas is this set of Christmas sELF Control Boom Cards. Digital resources offer a great way to make resources more accessible to students. Boom Cards are more fun than traditional slides and provide a new way to engage students. With EAL and younger learners, this resource with audio on every slide, is perfect to use. 

If you’re looking to stock up and save on Self-Control resources, you might want to check out this Self-Control Mega Bundle that comprises all the resources mentioned in this post. Want to start small but still have enough to support your interventions? This Self-Control Counseling Bundle might just be what you need. 

Which is your favorite self control activity to use with your students?

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