Simple, effective tool for helping kids keep anger in check
What's It Like?
Calm Counter is an emotions education and in-the-moment calming exercise app that can help kids learn how to handle stress, anxiety, and anger in a positive way. Calm Counter helps kids with special needs, social challenges, stress, anxiety, or anger issues learn self-awareness as they begin to identify when they need a break and practice calming down.
The very brief, narrated social story that teachers should first present to students using this app models for kids how labeling their feelings helps manage them. The story also helps kids become more self-aware and comfortable with anger, an emotion that the story reminds us happens to everyone. The exercise itself opens with a phrase kids will have heard in the social story: "I need a break." Then the screen turns bright red with a sad, mad face on it and the number 10. Kids tap the screen again, the screen color gets lighter and the face a little less angry and the number 9 is displayed. The colors, numbers, and faces continue to become lighter and happier with each tap, all the way to 1, where the kid is prompted to take a deep breath and see if they feel calmer.
Is It Good for Learning?
Calm Counter can be exceptionally useful to help kids get their negative emotions in check and bring themselves back to center, for those kids for whom the old standby technique of counting to 10, breathing (with some extra visual and verbal support) works. For others, this may not be a sure bet. It would be helpful if the developer could include more optional settings, such as changing the colors and faces, especially for kids who may "feel" colors differently or prefer to draw their own angry and calmer faces. Kids who may tap the devices too firmly when angry may also not be a great fit to use this app without teacher involvement from start through completion.
Once they learn the method, Calm Counter empowers kids with a way to ask for a break in order to regain their emotional center in a healthy, concrete way.
How Can Teachers Use It?
In the classroom, teachers should first read the social story or listen to it narrated with their students to help them understand the gentle calming method that's provided on the other half of the app. Calm Counter can be used as a general lesson on emotional intelligence for the entire class, or as individual support for students who are having frequent meltdowns or anger issues. (At first, teachers may want to help those students tap the calming tool whenever they get anxious or angry to show them how to do it as calmly and usefully as possible in emotion-filled moments to ensure the safety of the device and the student.) The Calm Counter exercise opens with the phrase, "I need a break." In conjunction with the use of this app, teachers may want to use that phrase when they are frustrated and model the Calm Counter method for students. Also, consider copying and posting the 10-to-1, color-coded faces somewhere in the classroom so students can be reminded of the method when not using the app.