#MindfulMayChallenge

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Developing mindful practice is a life time endeavour. Even as it becomes part of our daily habit, we need to take a moment to consider our mindfulness, how we use it and how it makes us feel.

The more mindful we become and how that mindfulness supports our positive mental health and well-being, the deeper our mindfulness becomes.

This is true for both our children as well as ourselves as adults. With this in mind, we have set up the #MindfulMayChallenge.

Each of the five weeks in May will have a new Mindful Focus along with both adult and child friendly strategies. You, your family, your class and your school can take part and develop mindfulness together.

How to take part?

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1- Pledge to take part in #MindfulMayChallenge. Let us know by reply to any of our social media sites and post this badge on your social media, website or school/work display.

2- Read the Overview for each week so you are aware what is coming up. Below is a list of suggested general activities you can be prepared to use, especially if you are using this in your classroom or work place.

3- Each new week will begin on a Monday. Thus, the first week will actually begin on Monday 30th April in order to give 5 full week’s. On the Saturday before the week begins, a new post on www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com will be posted to support the challenge.

4- Engage with Education’s Voice through each week’s blog post (www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com), Twitter (@Ed_Tmprince) or Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ) by sharing where the challenge has taken you that week (at home, at school or work place). Ensure you use #MindfulMayChallenge in your posts!

5- If you have any questions, please feel free to ask by emailing me at evmindfulness@outlook.com .

#MindfulMayChallenge Weekly Overview

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Week 1: 30th April-6th May 2018
Mindful Object– Take time each day to notice something specific about an everyday object.

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Week 2: 7th May-13th May 2018
Mindful Smell– Take time each day to notice a specific smell in your surroundings.

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Week 3: 14th May-20th May 2018
Mindful Body– Take time each day to notice how different parts of your body feel.

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Week 4: 21st-27th May 2018
Mindful Touch– Take time each day to notice how everyday objects feel.

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Week 5: 28th- 3rd June 2018
Mindful Taste– Take time each day to notice the taste of foods and drinks.

Suggested Activities

1- Keep a photo record of mindful moments each day.
– create a weekly collage
– Share daily photos or collage with others (don’t forget to add #MindfulMayChallenge)

2- Create a display (classroom, staffroom, workroom) and add your Mindful Moments using pictures, post-it notes, drawings, etc and watch mindfulness literally grow.

3- Use the #MindfulMayChallenge flower sheets to journal each day with a few words or drawings to document the month. (found below)

4- Set a specific time each day for your mindful moment so that it becomes a habit. You only need a minute or two once you explain what the #MindfulMayChallenge is all about.

5- Remember to check each Saturday for the next week’s challenge post.

Find more mindfulness strategies for children and adults here: www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com or for more ideas for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury. More information can be found here.

 

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Mindful Presence – Take a Knee

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Mindfulness is an everyday psychological capacity to be in the present moment and allowing calmness to fill the moment. It is not some sort of magical cure all for life. The key to mindfulness is not waddling in the emotions you feel but to be present within the emotions.

Presence refers to the stability of mindfulness, which means the degree to which you are grounded in awareness itself.

I was reminded of this while watching the movie, After Earth, starring Will Smith and his son, Jayden Smith. The movie is a morale tale disguised as a Sy-Fy movie. Mindfulness is the key to their survival (though mindfulness is never mentioned). Their ability to not allow themselves to be overcome by emotions but to use emotions to their advantage is their supreme weapon.

The use of Mindful Presence was highlighted several time by “Take a knee” scenes. Watch this movie clip to get a better understanding:

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We may not be in a space ship wrecked in a hostile environment. But, many times our brains don’t know the difference. The stress created in everyday life can make us feel as if we are fighting for our lives. The panic over test scores, Ofsted inspections, parental complaints, staff morale, children’s behaviour, community perception, paper work, rules, laws, family responsibilities… I could go on forever. The Freeze, Flight, Fight mode is so primal and so automatic that, at times, we don’t even realise we are in this constant state of anxiety. Sometimes we just need to STOP and TAKE A KNEE!

How can you practice Mindful Presence?
A quick and simple way to practice Mindful Presence is to STOP.

10 Second Mindfulness- STOP

This is a simple but effective strategy to refocus our attention.

S– Stop what you are doing. Root yourself in this present moment.
T– Take a deep breathe. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for a count of one and exhale for a count of 8.
O– Observe what is happening around you at this moment: sight, sound, smell. How do you feel?
P– Proceed with what you were doing.

Do this as often as you need during the day. Those few mindful moments can change your reaction to what is happening around you leading to a better positive response that changes the course of events.

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You may want to make a few copies of the photo with the acronym and put it in key places as a gentle reminder to “Take A Knee” and give yourself a mindful moment.

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Why Mindfulness in the Classroom?

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Over the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure to work with Collaboroo ( https://www.collaboroo.com ) and presenting two free online workshops, Mindfulness for Teachers ( https://youtu.be/geshpfZyApQ ) and Mindfulness in the Classroom ( https://youtu.be/L9s3xT8wuP0 ).

Mindfulness is a life-long skill that is important for ourselves and our children for good mental-health and well-being. This is not a strategy that is for a specific group of children in this modern high pressure education system. All people who partake in mindfulness are rewarded with a way of better dealing with the stresses of life.

However, for our most vulnerable children, mindfulness can become a life-line.
I believe that J.G. Larochette from Growing Mindfulness In Education ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/290873981368847/?fref=ts ), sums up the importance of Mindfulness for Teachers and Mindfulness in the Classroom.

As we are naturally wired for survival, we have mirror neurons that are wired to reflect what we see. This while very important for real survival moments is very destructive in many other situations. Take being a classroom teacher as an example. If you have students who have a lot of trauma or chronic stress they are more likely to not feel safe in their own bodies and their behaviors will follow that. If a teachers mirror neurons start to become default mode he or she will begin to mirror stress, chaos, and be in fight, flight, freeze mode as a defense mechanism. This will then cause the whole classroom environment to be chaotic and escalate trauma and stress. However if the teacher is able to stay self-aware, present, regulated, connected, and keep activity in the prefrontal cortex, over time students will begin to mirror that. In other words, educators can actually be a mindful mirror that will change the classroom learning environment. This isn’t easy at all but it is beyond needed especially in schools where students have deep trauma. #BeaMindfulMirror”

Where to begin? Why not start with the two recorded workshops by Collaboroo:
Mindfulness for Teachers ( https://youtu.be/geshpfZyApQ ) and Mindfulness in the Classroom ( https://youtu.be/L9s3xT8wuP0 ).

Have a read across this blog ( www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com ) for a number of strategies for both teachers and children and start trying a few.

You can also find more than 100 Ideas for Mindfulness In The Classroom in my book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom, that can be found on Bloomsbury here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/100-ideas-for-primary-teachers-mindfulness-in-the-classroom-9781472944955/ or on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ideas-Primary-Teachers-Mindfulness/dp/147294495X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522490100&sr=1-1&keywords=tammie+prince

Let Mindfulness begin with you!

Mindful Refocus

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There can sometimes be a misconception about mindfulness. Some people believe that mindfulness is a way of escaping from stress or a way of keeping stress away from you. This is untrue.

Mindfulness will not become some magical shield from stress in your life. No matter how little stress we may have in our lives, our brains will always perceive the most stressful event, no matter how small, as being extremely stressful. Mindfulness gives you the tools to deal with the stress of life.

The key to mindfulness is not getting rid of stress, it is learning how to react to stress.

Even with the best will in the world, our lives get taken over by life. We begin the morning with good intentions; we meditate, we take mindful moments while we brush our teeth and make our tea. But, as our day gets into full swing, our old habits set in and our reptilian brains take over. We react without thought or purpose. Our cortisol levels rise and rise until we are an exhausted heap of human mess.

So, what can you do about that?

Mindful Refocus

Mindful Refocus allows you to return your awareness to the present moment. In order to give myself a frequent reminder, I choose a mindful object.

Once you are dressed for the day, choose an object you are wearing to be your mindful object. It can be a ring, your id badge, necklace, tie, shoes, your watch, a button on your shirt, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is something you will see several times.

During the day, at any point you notice your mindful object, touch it, and complete a Mindful Refocus.

This simple meditation takes only seconds. But, it gives mindful focus for those few seconds and calms the mind so that you can be the best person possible.

Mindful Refocus Activities:

1- Deep Breathing– Take three, deep mindful breaths paying attention to the air flowing in and out your body.

2- Sound Meditation– Close your eyes for a moment, stop and listen to the sounds around you. Focus on the pitch, vibration through your body or distance of the sound.

3- Colour Meditation– Choose a colour that you will decide to notice. Take a deep breath and notice five things with that colour.

4- Shoulder Relaxation– Breath deeply and, on the exhale, allow your shoulders to drop towards the floor as if someone is pressing them downward. Repeat a few times, noticing how your body feels as your shoulders relax.

5- Count Backwards– Take a deep breath and count backwards from 60. Concentrate just on the counting, allowing your body to relax more with each number.

Always remember that mindfulness is not about getting rid stress but how we react to the stress.

Find more mindfulness strategies for children and adults here: www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com or for more ideas for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury. More information can be found here.

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Spring Mindfulness

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The different seasons allow us to explore mindfulness with children in different ways. Spring allows our senses to come alive and examine our senses in a way like no other season.

Celebrate that Spring has sprung with these mindfulness activities.

Flower Breathing

Each day we take about 20,000 breaths. This automatic bodily response keeps us alive and helps to regulate our emotions. When we bring attention to our breathing, we take control of our emotions and reactions through mindful purpose.

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First, get children decorate their own five petaled flower for meditation. For older children, have them add their own positive mantras that they want focus on.

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Once complete, have the children place it near where they work. They trace the flower and Inhale, hold at the point and focus on the positive mantra (if added), exhale and keep going until you’ve gone around the whole flower. Then touch the centre, breathe deeply and close their eyes for a moment.

Cloud Meditation

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Children have a natural mindfulness, particularly when it comes to nature. Now that Spring has begun to peak out from behind the greyness of Winter, the cloud meditation taps into this natural inquisitiveness.

How to do Cloud Meditation:

– Have children sit or lie down with a good view of the clouds.
– Begin by having them take five deep mindful breaths.
– Ask them to stare at the clouds while you ask them these questions to guide the meditation.
Are the clouds fluffy or thin?
Are they moving?
Are they making shapes of things you know?
Are they all the same colour?
What does the sky look like behind the clouds?
– Give them some silent time to just gaze and mindfully explore the clouds.
– Complete the meditation by discussing what they noticed and what emotions were felt.

Sensory Meditation

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Spring brings rebirth to our senses as flowers begin to make their way towards the warm rays of the sun, animals come out of hibernation and the world comes alive once again. Spring allows us to mindfully explore our five senses: sight, taste, Smell, touch and hearing.

Dedicate a week to the senses; appoint each day to a different sense.

– At the beginning of the day, identify the sense to focus on and discuss what they are already noticing. Then, decide to notice that on a given signal. (This could be the ringing of a bell, code word, etc.)
– Have children take a minute to notice.
– Guide them by asking them questions:
-Have you noticed something or someone you have never noticed before?
-How many different things are you noticing? (I always surprise myself when I   buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car EVERYWHERE!)
– Have the children make a mental note about this #mindfulmoment and congratulate themselves for being in the present and proceed with their learning/work.

Mindful Healthy Eating

Spring brings a burst of fresh fruits and vegetables. Explore mindful healthy eating by trying a variety of new foods. Find the instructions to facilitating mindful eating here: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-mindful-eating/

Easter Yoga

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Spark the imagination through the use of these amazing Easter Yoga Poses and Easter Egg Hunt: https://www.kidsyogastories.com/easter-yoga-poses-game/

Happy Spring Everyone!

Book Review by Sharon Stephenson – 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom


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Note: Sharon Stephenson is a primary teacher and Assistant Headteacher At Eldon Grove Academy in Hartlepool. She can be followed on Twitter @shazzasteph.

I purchased this book after developing an interest in encouraging mindfulness in the classroom with my class of year 2 children.

The book is very easy to use with ideas grouped into sections. Each idea has a teaching point and takeaway idea. This makes it an easily accessible toolkit to pick and choose which area to focus on with specific groups of children without having to read the whole book and follow in a particular sequence.

My pupils particularly enjoy starting with a yoga pose to focus on breathing. Their favourite mindfulness activity so far has been the gratitude jar (which has encouraged them to focus on something positive from the day). The pupils took the idea and developed it into a book to reflect on their own personal positive experiences which they will share with their families when they are ready.

As the ideas are explained with key points they are easy to prepare. It has also been useful to read the quotes to see how the techniques have been tried and tested.

I will continue to develop this further within school.

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom is written by Tammie Prince and published by Bloomsbury. You can find more information on the book and where you can order the book here.

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Guest Blog: Empowering Question Meditation by Gill Hancock

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About the Author: Gill Hancock is a KS1 practitioner, working in an International school. With 20 years experience of KS1, KS2 and KS3 students, Gill firmly believes in the practice of mindfulness to empower students to think about the present moment in the ever increasing pace of modern life.

Gill tried out Empowering Question Meditation with her class with these results.

Asking questions can help to ground and focus our minds to support our development of emotional intelligence. I asked a year 1 class what they really liked about themselves and why brought some very interesting responses.

“I am brave because it makes me feel good to stand up for my friends.”

“I am kind because I can help people.”

“I am a risk taker with my learning and this helps my brain.”

“I like that I can focus to learn new things.”

“I am an exerciser and this makes my body healthy.”

“I am strong so I can help my mum and dad with jobs.”

“I am a super swimmer so I can soon swim without water wings.”

Follow Gill on Twitter @GillHanock

Find out about how to use Empowering Question Meditation or other mindfulness ideas at www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com or in the book by Tammie Prince, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom published by Bloomsbury.