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Teaching Self-Awareness and Self-Management Strategies in Elementary P.E.

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) has become a big buzzword over the past few years within the educational landscape. Since we as physical education teachers are the only content area in school to teach across the psychomotor, cognitive, and affective domains, we are well-positioned to help teach students to utilize the 5 competencies of SEL to help them in relation to their holistic development.

One of these SEL competencies that we can help to develop in P.E. class is self-awareness. Self-awareness is defined as students being able to identify how they are feeling at any point in time in relation to their emotions. Another one of these SEL competencies that we can help develop in P.E. class is self-management. Self-management is defined as students being able to use strategies and tools to help regulate their emotions appropriately.

While there are many ways that P.E. teachers can decide to focus on developing these skills of self-awareness and self-management, one particular way that I have found to do this is to utilize a tool called the Zones of Regulation. The Zones of Regulation is designed as a color system to help students label how they are feeling (self-awareness) before utilizing various strategies to help them regulate these emotions to help them feel like their best selves (self-management).

In this blog, I will share how I use the Zones of Regulation in my classroom and share a few simple and engaging physical activities to help you teach self-awareness and self-management to your students!



Having your students share how they are feeling in class is important. Making this type of check-in a part of your classroom routine for your students on the way into the gym can be helpful in illuminating what kind of mood any of your students might be in as they enter your P.E. space.

To do this check-in quickly, I borrowed an idea that I first saw from Andy Hair many years ago to turn this question into one that students can answer kinesthetically by having the various Zones of Regulation colors/emotions laid out on the floor and upon entering the gym, students can simply step or jump on the color zone that they feel like they are in at the moment. As they do this, I usually make some mental notes about who I see choosing the Yellow Zone and Red Zone in particular, and I try to catch up with them while the other students are engaged in our instant activity to see what is going on and how I may be able to help.


If you like the look of these floor decals, you can get them by clicking here. To keep them from getting messed up from all of the foot traffic after printing, lay them out how you want on your floor and cover with a self-sealing vinyl/laminate product called Con-Tact Paper. Mine have lasted the entire year so far and show no signs of getting messed up, even with heavy daily foot traffic!


If your students are anything like mine, they love tag games. Tag games are great ways to maximize movement time and because you can vary the conditions of what students need to do to re-enter the game once tagged, it makes them a very versatile tool to help teach a wide variety of content.

“Zone Tag” is an activity that was born from this thought process as a way to help teach my students about self-awareness. “Zone Tag” is a 4-round scooter tag game, with each round focusing on the emotions within the 4 different colors of the Zones of Regulation (blue, green, yellow and red). If my students got tagged, they needed to come over to me by the projector and complete the sentence starter on the screen like you see in the pictures below before re-entering the game. They filled in the first blank of the sentence starter with one of the emotions from the color zone of focus for that round and then filled in the rest of the sentence with an example of when they have felt that emotion before.

ZoneTag 1

Upon the end of each 2-minute round, I asked for students who felt comfortable to share their example with the class as a way to open up more dialogue surrounding the different emotions within a particular-colored zone. This activity worked very well to introduce my students to the concept of self-awareness.


Once my students demonstrated some competency related to self-awareness by being able to identify how they are feeling and the different situations and reasons why they might feel those certain emotions, it was then time to introduce them to the concept of self-management.

Self-management within the context of the Zones of Regulation involves recognizing that the Green Zone (happy, focused, ready, calm) is where we feel like our best self, and as such, it is the state that we want to spend as much time in as possible as we go through our daily lives. With this said, it is also important that students recognize that experiencing other feelings in other colored zones besides green is normal and will happen, and as such, we need to learn strategies and tools to help us get back to the Green Zone.

This is where the activity “Regulation Tag” comes in. This is a 3-round scooter tag game, with each round focusing on 1 particular self-management strategy that students can use to help them return to the Green Zone when they recognize the emotion they may be feeling currently has them in the Blue Zone, Yellow Zone or Red Zone. If my students got tagged during this game, they needed to ride over to the bins around the perimeter of the gym that housed the necessary equipment to perform the self-management strategy seen in the pictures below. Once they completed the self-management task a few times through, they were able to re-enter the game.


Upon the end of each 3-minute round, I asked students to share whether or not they thought that the self-management strategy that was the focus of that round helped them to feel more calm, focused or relaxed and the reasoning behind their answer. This activity worked very well to introduce students to the concept of self-management and if you are interested, you can get these self-management strategy posters by clicking here.


Now that my students had become familiar with a variety of different self-management strategies, these tools became part of my gym’s “calm down corner.” I placed the necessary equipment items in some bins, printed out the strategies as posters, and taped them to the wall for the kids to use at any point in class if they are feeling those strong emotions that place them in the Blue Zone, Yellow Zone or Red Zone.

So far throughout the first 11 weeks of school, some of my students have utilized this space and the strategies independently when the need arose while others have needed some guidance and facilitation to do the same, but overall, teaching these skills and strategies and providing a physical space in the gym dedicated to this has been helpful to my students.

Self Regulation

Have you taught self-awareness and self-management strategies to your students? How did you go about doing it? Have you and your students found it to be helpful? Comment below!

9 Responses

  1. Awesome stuff. We also use the ZOR and I will definitely take advantage of your resources and ideas. Thank you, Ross.

  2. I like the use of the stickers on the floor in the gym. My school started using Zones of Regulation a few years ago when we had a behavior unit put in our building. Many teachers were unsure of this program as it was going to bring in students from other schools into our culture/school community. I have the Zones of Regulation set up like a ladder next to the gym door so if a student is having trouble I can ask them to go tap the “zone” that he/she is in and we can have conversation about what happened to make them feel that way and discuss a strategy to move themselves into a more positive zone.

    1. Hey Paula. Unfortunately, I had to take the linked resources down due to a copyright issue. I apologize.

  3. I love this idea and plan to put it in place. I clicked on the link for your self-management strategy posters and received Pokémon’ activities instead. Would love if you could share the link with me again. Thanks

    1. Hey Tabitha. Unfortunately, I had to take the linked resources down due to a copyright issue. I apologize.

  4. Hey man is there any possible way to get a hold of the self awareness zones of regulation? I see you said you had to remove them but was just wondering if they are somewhere else for purchase or download. Thank you

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