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Mr Deane Lindhorst
04 June, 2024

Meet the Zones of Regulation: A Journey in Emotional Self-Regulation at BCB

Empowering Students Through their feelings

Discover how The British College of Brazil integrates the Zones of Regulation into their social-emotional learning curriculum to foster independence and emotional self-awareness among students

At the heart of education lies the nurturing of independence and self-regulation in young people. The less children depend on us as teachers and adults to solve their problems or navigate their world, the more we have succeeded in our mission. While this applies to the academic skills we teach in the classroom, it equally applies to the self-regulation we nurture through the social-emotional aspects of our curriculum.
A key part of our approach to social-emotional learning (SEL) at the British College of Brazil is fostering increased self-awareness of emotions and developing a common language for communication, problem-solving, and emotional understanding. To achieve these aims, we have two research-backed tools in our SEL toolkit. The first is the PASS assessment. PASS stands for The Pupil Attitudes to Self and School - an online assessment that gives students an opportunity to explore their social and emotional well-being in a school context and provide insights for teachers. PASS, its implementation, and its impact will be discussed in a follow-up post. This post will focus on the second tool in our well-being kit: the Zones of Regulation.
The Zones of Regulation is an approach to developing self-regulation – the ability to self-monitor and control one’s behavior - in young people and adults alike. The project was developed by Leah Kuypers, an Occupational Therapist from the United States of America. Her project was born out of years of educational experience, and powerfully she argues that “learners of all ages need to be taught regulation competencies aligned with their developmental continuum and be given the opportunities to practice the skills in a safe and supportive environment.”
This journey starts by providing a simple way to think and talk about how we feel on the inside. Various emotions – all of which we experience at different times in our lives – are sorted into the four colored zones seen below. Phase 1 of this project was launched in the 2023/2024 academic year. Primary children were introduced to the zones through whole school assemblies and tailored class lessons. Our little learners in early years were introduced to the idea through the wonderful book ‘The Color Monster’ by Anna Llenas. Emotional check-in charts were introduced in classrooms and have become a daily habit for children at BCB. Throughout the day, children are given opportunities to show how they are feeling. The check-in charts have normalised the idea that throughout the day we experience different emotions, not all of which are pleasant! The simple act of recognising an emotion is sometimes enough to help settle or refocus. Even we adults should remember to check in with ourselves sometimes. Checking in helps us build empathy and compassion instead of feeling frustrated or alone. In our little community, we have certainly found that being aware of our own feelings and those around us has positively impacted how we relate to one another and ourselves.  Our real-life experiences are backed by a wealth of cognitive and neuroscientific research that affirm our belief that as we become more aware of our feelings, we have more time and energy to focus on the business of school – growing and becoming better versions of ourselves.
Phase two of the project, to be started in the 2024/2025 academic year, will see the BCB community learning specific co-regulation and self-regulation strategies related to the different zones. What can we do if we are in the blue zone and feeling down? What can we do to settle ourselves and get ready for learning if we find ourselves in the excitable yellow zone? These are questions we will explore through a series of termly lessons next academic year. I look forward to the next stage of our journey into emotional self-regulation.