CoverIntroductionWellbeing and Its Importance in SchoolsWhat frameworks exist to promote school wellbeing?What is the best approach for my school/district?Valuable Tools and ConsiderationYour Call to ActionStudent Wellbeing InterventionsPositive Emotion Three Good ThingsCounting BlessingsEnvisioning Your Best Possible SelfUnderstanding HumorThree Funny ThingsOutdoor LearningBringing the Outside InBibliotherapyEngagementRecognizing and Utilizing Personal StrengthsARCS Model of CuriosityCarousel BrainstormingGenius HourPerspective Taking and Role-PlayArts IntegrationDrawing and Coloring TherapyCulturally-Enriching and Arts-Based Field TripsCulturally Responsive PracticesSocial Belonging InterventionEmotional Self-Regulation: RULER methodModeling Emotional Self-Regulation SkillsTeacher PraiseRelationshipsModeling Love, Kindness and ForgivenessActive Constructive RespondingDialogue JournalsSecret Strengths SpottingPeer Praise NotesActs of KindnessVolunteeringFast FriendsBuddy BenchMeaningEducating Students about Benefit AppraisalsGratitude LettersSavoring StrategiesTaking in the Good (HEAL)Mental Time TravelBrief Mindfulness ActivitiesMindful BellMindful BreathingBody Scan RelaxationMindful Walking/MovementFive Senses MindfulnessMindful PhotographyMindful Self-CompassionAccomplishmentFuture Thinking & When/Where PlansHope MapG-POWER Goal SettingEmbedded Self-Regulation StrategiesGrowth MindsetGrit and Deliberate PracticeDeveloping Students' Resilience and Coping SkillsHealth and VitalityHealthy Sleep HabitsClassroom Physical ActivityYogaCreative Playground EquipmentHealthy Body Image InterventionStudent-Led Health ProgramSchool-Led Interventions for Teachers and StaffSupporting Teacher AutonomyMindfulness TrainingCompassion TrainingHumor TrainingIncentivizing Physical ExerciseIndividual Interventions for School EmployeesPositive and Reflective JournalingSelf-Regulation and Coping StrategiesSelf-AffirmationSelf Compassion LetterDiscovering and Utilizing Character StrengthsJob CraftingMindfulnessAdditional Interventions to ConsiderDedicated Wellbeing SpacesIndividual Wellbeing Plans for School EmployeesOther ResourcesPROSPER
Addressing Wellbeing In Schools

Modeling Emotional Self-Regulation Skills

Keywords: Elementary Education, High school, Middle School

According to Timm (1993), teacher modeling of healthy mental and emotional skills has a greater impact on student learning than any other tool or instructional method. Teachers can model self-regulation skills by explicitly naming their emotions and describing how they handle them. For example, a teacher might say, “When people start talking about other things while I’m still giving directions, it feels frustrating to me, and I have to take a breath, catch myself, and say, ‘It’s okay, I’m going to try again’” (edutopia, 2019, 1:12). Think alouds and role-playing are great ways to model self-regulation (Parrish, 2018). By modeling how to label and respond to emotions in appropriate ways, students are given vocabulary to self-regulate their own emotions. Students need time to “practice new behavior in a low-stakes way that breaks the desirable behavior in achievable steps” (Parrish, 2018, pp. 13). Teachers must recognize that while modeling is an important tool in helping students learn to regulate emotions and behavior, students may also need other learning tools and scaffolding to practice and apply these self-regulation skills. 

Grade Level: All
Materials: None
Duration: Daily, as needed.
  1. Create an emotion word bank for you and students to draw from when describing feelings (anger, frustration, joy, excitement, etc.)
  2. Frequently describe your emotions and thought processes to your students to teach them how to regulate emotions effectively.
  3. Role-play with your students effective emotional regulation skills, such as how to react when we feel angry or hurt (take a deep breath, count to ten, etc.).

Does it work?

One study evaluated 11 teachers in 3 elementary schools to better understand the underlying factors that lead to strong student-teacher relationships, particularly with disruptive students (McGrath & Van Bergen, 2019). The teachers with positive teacher-student relationships showed evidence of self-regulating and reflecting on their own emotions. They consciously reflected on how students’ behaviors caused them to feel and regulated their emotions in constructive ways. Additionally, teachers used perspective taking to perceive students’ reactions and empathize with them. This led to more caregiving behaviors. Teachers spoke more calmly to their students and  regulated “the intensity of their own emotional displays" (McGrath & Van Bergen, 2019, pp. 346-347). Teachers more accurately identified their students’ emotions which allowed them to administer consequences and teach behavior skills in more appropriate ways  Teacher emotional competence and regulation was associated with a more positive classroom climate (McGrath & Van Bergent, 2019). A study of 26 teachers in Kentucky, USA found that teachers with a high level of emotional intelligence and consistent modeling of emotional regulation skills often had fewer class disruptions and behavioral referrals (Walker, 2001).


Edutopia. (2019, January 12). Teaching self-regulation  by modeling[VIDEO].

McGrath, K. & Van Bergen, P. (2019). Attributions and emotional competence: Why some teachers experience close relationships with disruptive students (and others don’t). Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 25(3), 334-357. 

Parrish, N. (2018, August 22). How to teach self-regulation. Edutopia. 

Timm, J.P. (1993). The relationship between the teacher's state of mind and the affective climate in the classroom: implications for psychology of mind as applied to teacher education. Unpublished master's thesis, Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont. 

Walker, A. E. (2001). Emotional intelligence of the classroom teacher (Order No. 9996964). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304772445). 


CC BY-NC: This work is released under a CC BY-NC license, which means that you are free to do with it as you please as long as you (1) properly attribute it and (2) do not use it for commercial gain.

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