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1-2 minutes


Primary / Junior / Intermediate


Drum (optional)


To help students learn techniques to notice their energy and emotion levels, and to regulate and refocus

  • Patterned clapping
    • Lead a clap sequence and students repeat it.
  • Orchestra leader
    • Mimic a conductor and students pretend they are playing an instrument. Students follow the tempo created.
  • Count to 10
    • Raise hands and count slowly to 10 and then back to one, while students follow.
  • Drumbeats
    • Beat a drum or tap desk slowly. Students stand and walk around the room following the tempo.
      • Reflect as a class on the reason for re-focusing, make the link to students’ emotional state.
  • Consider using materials that will support the cultural identity of your students. Take a moment to discuss the significance of the instrument (e.g., Indigenous drum and association with heartbeat).

Behavioural self-regulation involves focusing attention, engaging working memory, and controlling sudden responses that can disrupt the emotional climate of the classroom, and inhibit learning (McClelland et al., 2007). Students who participate in these types of group-based refocusing activities demonstrate improvements in behavioural self-regulation, and academic outcomes (Diamond, Barnett, Thomas, & Munro, 2007; Tominey & McClelland, 2011).

Diamond, A., Barnett, W. S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007). Preschool Program Improves Cognitive Control. Science, 318(5855), 1387-1388.

McClelland, M. M., Cameron, C. E., Connor, C. M., Farris, C. L., Jewkes, A. M., & Morrison, F. J. (2007). Links Between Behavioral Regulation and Preschoolers’ Literacy, Vocabulary, and Math Skills. Developmental Psychology, 43(4), 947-959. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.43.4.947

Tominey, S. L., & McClelland, M. M. (2011). Red Light, Purple Light: Findings From a Randomized Trial Using Circle Time Games to Improve Behavioral Self-Regulation in Preschool. Early Education & Development, 22(3) 489-519. doi:10.1080/10409289.2011.574258