Beacon Elementary in Harper Woods, Michigan is refocusing students’ negative energy through a ‘focus room’ dedicated to helping students prone to outbursts. Staffed around the clock by two adults -“Mr. B” (Behavior
Interventionist) and “Miss C” (Focus Room Director) with specialized training, the focus room gives students a place to step away from the classroom to not disrupt other students, take a break with games and toys, and practice mindfulness.
Often times the focus room is a suggestion from teachers to students who they feel need a break or may
need a moment to gather their thoughts. Most times the students are escorted by a classroom buddy. Students are able to request a “brain break” when they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad, angry, etc. Videos from ClassDojo are frequently used in the focus room to help students reflect and think of ways to improve for next time.
Beacon also tracks the benefits of the tools students learn in the focus room. During the first quarter of the 2018/2019 school year, the focus room saw a total of 288 first graders but only 83 second graders, showcasing that as students use the focus room and grow with the tools learned there, they are less likely to need to go back year over year. Teachers and students alike have been so pleased with the focus room that it’s even expanded to Tyrone Elementary, so that students in grades 3-5 that continue to have behavioral issues have a place to refocus their energies too.
What do parents think?
Parents are please too! They love the fact that on an “off day”, their child has a safe place to go and attempt to redirect their focus. Mr. B and Miss C take great pride in building rapport with the students so that they feel safe and secure expressing their feelings, needs, and worries. Additionally, it is not always easy for teachers to stop their teaching and address every behavior need throughout the day, but Mr. B and Miss C can help. Sometimes at this age, simply hearing their parent’s voice can give students a sense of calm and can be all the redirection they may need. Parents are accepting of the fact that they may receive a phone call from the focus room when other interventions may not be successful. Staff are also able to message parents directly through the ClassDojo app to let parents know exactly what is going on quickly even if they don’t have time for a phone call.
How has behavior changed?
Behavior has changed, but learning has changed as well. Sometimes we all just need a quiet place to focus on our work, and the Focus Room provides that space, while still allowing the rest of the class to not be distracted by someone else’s behavior. The room is fully funded by the Harper Woods School District. Supplies are received from the district, as well as various fundraising and school improvement programs.
If you would like to bring a Focus Room to your school, Beacon Elementary offered these tips:
- Make sure you have people running it who are committed to building rapport and building relationships. Many times, redirecting behavior is a simple as listening. So many times we are able to find out
that maybe a student didn’t get to eat dinner last night, or that mom and dad had a disagreement that was bothering them. Yet it’s their willingness and their sense of comfort that encourages them to talk with us and give
us the opportunity to help them. One of my most favorite quotes in education is… “Kid’s don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” -unknown
- Have a documentation system. We have a digital Google Form that allows teachers to detail exactly with a student needed the focus room. This data then exports to a spreadsheet that allows us to track trends, ie: time of day, day of the week, frequency, etc.
- Set clear expectations and procedures with parents, so that they are also accountable for addressing their child’s needs. Lay out exactly how the focus room will be used and utilized.
- Use ClassDojo to help guide students through mindfulness practices. You’ll be amazed at how those tools are carried out throughout other experiences the students may be having.
Julie is first and foremost a mom of two amazing kiddos, Elliott and Bennett. She is married to her beautiful wife, Betsy, and is an elementary school librarian.
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