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How Big is the Problem?

The Zones of Regulation framework is a cognitive-behavioral approach created to assist individuals in comprehending and handling their emotions. A crucial aspect of this framework is discerning appropriate and inappropriate reactions when faced with difficulties, as well as evaluating their true magnitude based on certain factors. When children understand this concept, they can better manage their emotions and respond appropriately to situations. This lesson plan is designed for grade 4 students (ages 9-10) and explores the size of the problem strategy and its application in different scenarios.


  • Students will learn how to classify problems in different sizes according to certain criteria.

  • Students will understand that there are expected reactions, emotions, and solutions based on the size of the problems.


Starter/Warm-up (5 minutes)

To start the lesson, you can share some real-life examples of challenges that you or other people have encountered in recent days. You can engage the students by asking them thoughtful questions like, "Are all of these problems the same?" and "What makes them different?" This will encourage them to reflect on the diverse nature of problems.

Main activities (30 minutes)

  • Navigating the size of the problem: Explain to the students how we can categorize problems based on their size. Use the Zones of Regulation curriculum graph to illustrate this concept and discuss different examples of problems for each size. Encourage the students to participate in the discussion on the factors that determine the size of a problem, such as the number of individuals affected, the time required for resolution, and the consequences for both oneself and others. Then, initiate a collaborative brainstorming session to encourage students to provide examples of problems that correspond to each size category. Write down the answers on a whiteboard or flipchart.

  • Expected vs. unexpected reactions: The goal of this activity is to establish a connection between our emotions and the responses we exhibit when confronted with different problem sizes. It is crucial to emphasize the significance of aligning our reactions with the magnitude of the issue at hand. To initiate a discussion, you may ask, "What happens when our reaction doesn't align with the size of the problem?" To engage students, show them the various scenarios presented in the slides and encourage them to analyze whether the reactions depicted are proportional to the size of the problem. If there are disparities, facilitate an exploration of alternative, more suitable reactions.

  • Problems, reactions, and solutions: Divide the students into small groups and give each group a sheet with three pre-existing problem examples and two blank cards for them to create their own scenarios. Additionally, provide a chart with four columns: one for problem description, another for problem size, a third for expected reactions, and the final column for proposing viable solutions. Once the groups complete the charts, they can either present their findings or engage in role-playing scenarios.

Closure (5 minutes)

To wrap up the lesson, take a moment to recap and reinforce the main takeaways:

  • Review the understanding that problems come in various sizes, delineated by specific criteria.

  • Emphasize the importance of aligning our reactions with the size of the problems we face.

  • Highlight the potential consequences of unexpected reactions and how they can affect the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of others.

Follow-up activities

  • Encourage students to explore practical scenarios presented in videos, books, and other audiovisual materials. Promote group discussions where they identify problems and corresponding reactions by applying the size of the problem strategy.

  • Implement the size of the problem strategy in real-time situations within the classroom. Prompt students to identify the size of a problem as it unfolds. Guide them in determining the expected reactions and potential solutions.


The Zones of Regulation curriculum, by Leah M. Kuypers (Chapter 4, lesson 12, pages 122-124)

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