Mindfulness in The Classroom – Mindful Singing

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Mindfulness is about allowing yourself to be in the moment. It is allowing yourself to accept this moment without judgement and wallow in the present.

When we are teaching children the important life skill of mindfulness, we should endeavour to show children that mindful moments are all around them and that, with a little consideration, can help them to relax and joy life more fully.

Something that we know brings joy to many people is the act of singing and, with it part of the curriculum, this is another way to bring mindfulness to the forefront in an integrated way.

Singing is made up of deep breaths and long exhales which is natural calming strategy. We also know that music itself can have meditative properties. Thus, with just a little tweaking, we can also develop a mindful technique that can calm and relax children while also bringing joy. Many people sing when they are happy. With the right songs, they can make you happy when you are sad.

How to do Mindful Singing:

– Begin by having children sit up comfortably with their hands in their laps. Then have them take three deep belly breaths bringing their attention to their breath.

– Explain to children that while they are singing to ensure nice, deep breaths are taken and focus on how the sound vibrates through their bodies as they sing. How does the sound feel in your mouth? Against your tongue? In your throat? In your chest? How does singing make you feel emotionally?

The key is to bring awareness to the moment of signing and bask in the joy of the sound without judgement.

Some mindful songs for children that reinforces mindfulness can be found here, http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76Tcrfnqwv4br4i_TG6Z9LlEp0L545tr , or here:

Sing as if no one is watching!

A Teacher’s Mindfulness- A New Year Begins Part 2 Mindful Object Meditation

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Our work days seem to be filled with thoughts flitting between lamenting what has happened in the past to what may happen in the future. Only 10% of our stress is due to what happens. 90% is due to what we think might happen. Mindfulness is returning your attention to the present.

However, as teachers, we get so caught up in the needs of our children, we forget about our own needs. We remind our children to be mindful and practice mindfulness strategies. However, we forget to practice mindfulness ourselves.

We need to give ourselves a reminder and can do this through the Mindful Object Meditation.

Mindful Object Meditation

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, take 3 *deep mindful breaths paying attention to the air flowing in and out your body.

*Deep Mindful Breath- Inhale for a count of 5, hold for a count of 1 and exhale for a count of 8.

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

Mindfulness In the Classroom- Mindful Handwriting

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The key to Mindfulness in the Classroom is that it really does become part and parcel of the class itself. It is not an add-on that takes extra time; but part of the everyday life and mindful learning. So, consideration needs to be made when we consider the curriculum we are bound to deliver and the life skill of mindfulness. This consideration makes you a good role model for your children as they can see that mindfulness can be part of adult life.

The practice of handwriting can be a very mindful activity as long as we take appropriate consideration to the task at hand. The rhythmic motion and repetition required for handwriting, particularly for joined-up/cursive handwriting, can lead to true focus on the present moment.

In addition, research by Indiana University has shown that the brain activity from freehand drawing action was stronger, firing off in three different areas, while the tracing and typing motions barely stimulated the brain at all.

So, Mindful Handwriting can truly develop the mindfulness development of the brain while also stimulating other areas that support academic development.

How to do Mindful Handwriting:

  • Play a selection of meditation music for the length of time you want the children practicing their handwriting.
  • Before picking up the pen/pencil, have the children sit up tall (as if they are a puppet with a string at the top of their head that is pulling them up straight)  with their hands in their laps or on the table/desk they are to take three deep belly breaths, having them focus only on their breathing.
  • Then, they are to begin writing. During the time, gently remind them to focus on the movement of the pen/pencil and the marks they are making. Encourage them to recognise the feel of the movement and the vibrations created as the pen/pencil causes friction with the paper. Encourage the same rhythmic breathing as the writing flows.
  • When the music ends, have the children put down their pen/pencil, put their hands in their laps/table/desk and take three deep belly breaths.

In the beginning, you may want to have the children discuss how they were feeling during the handwriting session.

This mindfulness strategy can easily be integrated into the handwriting expectations of your class or school with no additional time required during the normal day.

#21DaysOfSummerMindfulness Challenge- Developing Mindfulness in Children

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The younger the child, the closer they are to mindfulness. Children generally enjoy being in the moment and enjoying life to the fullest, particularly when they within the safe confines of a supportive, loving family.

However, as they get to school age, they have to deal with a wider world without their parents at their side. They have to deal the stresses and anxieties of life more independently. It is during these years patterns and habits on how we deal with these situations form.

By developing a child’s natural tendency to be mindful into tools with coping with life, they will grow into Mindful adults who are able to take on life’s challenges with success.

The #21DaysOfSummerMindfulness Challenge has been developed to support parents and adults in developing children’s mindfulness during the summer holidays/vacation.

It doesn’t matter WHEN you start. It is just that you give children opportunities to develop their mindfulness so that they start the new academic year with some tools that will support a successful school year.

So, get ready! Day 1 starts tomorrow!

Don’t forget to share your child’s #mindfulmoment and successes in the comments, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Body Scan

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Dealing with the aftermaths of uncontrolled emotions takes up a large percentage of time in schools. Children are learning, developing and dealing with a number of social situations. Most of the time, the situations are positive in nature and everything moves along smoothly. However, there are times that the situations are not positive to everyone and children become annoyed or upset with what is happening. It is during these times they are starting to lay the neuropaths in the brain on how they will react to those situations. They are beginning to develop the default habits.

Teaching children how to do a body scan will help them to identify the warning signs of annoyance and upset allowing them to then use other mindful strategies that allows them to deal with the situation in a better way. What needs to be pointed out is that it is ok to be annoyed or upset. These are valid emotions. But, we need to be in control of how we react to these emotions.

Body scans allow us to develop the skills to pay attention to how our body feels, allowing us to pick up the warning signs of subtle moods. Body scanning also teaches us how to notice, enjoy and nurture our positive feelings.

The key to teaching body scanning in the beginning is to practice it before the children are annoyed and angry in order for them to fully understand the process.

Basic Steps for a Body Scan:

1- Have children sit or lie comfortably with their hand relaxed in their lap or to the side and close their eyes.
2- Children are to take three deep breaths allowing their body to fully relax and sink into the floor on the exhale.
3- Then with each deep breath, they imagine the air going to a different part of the body, noticing the sensations in that part of the body and then exhaling any tension they may be feeling in that part of the body. Are they noticing tingling, warmth, coolness or pressure? Continue to move to each different part of the body as you scan either from the top of your head to the tips of your toes or vice versa.
a. Scalp
b. Face
c. Neck and shoulders
d. Torso
e. Arms
f. hands
g. Hips and bottom
h. Legs
i. feet
4- Once the whole body is scanned, have them take a deep breath, wiggle their fingers and toes and slowly open their eyes; bringing awareness to the whole body.
5- Questions to ask the children:
a. Does your body feel different or the same from before you started the body scan?
b. Where there any parts of your body that felt tense and you needed to relax?
6- Explain/remind children that when they become annoyed or upset, they can speed up this meditation to identify what is happening with their body in order to use their favourite mindful strategy to calm down.

When developing this practice with children, explore how they might be able to use this as a strategy when they are feeling annoyed or upset; identifying scenarios and even role playing situations that Body Scanning can change the outcome of difficult situations.

The idea is that children start to recognise the sensations they have in their body normally and when they are upset or angry. When the sensations of upset or anger start to appear, they choose to react in a positive manner in order to develop positive mindful reactions.

Body scans can also be used as a regular part of a class’s meditation practice as it is a very relaxing practice and builds on positive control of self.

Theses are some useful resources:

Children’s Body Scan Meditation Script: http://2bpresent.com/2012/11/childrens-body-scan-meditation/

Children’s Body Scan Guided Meditation: https://youtu.be/jJlozFWohz0

4 Minute Body Scan Guided Meditation: https://youtu.be/ZM3eYRODNbc

Body scan is another useful strategy for children and adults alike to develop mindfulness.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- It Can Make a Difference!

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This week has been a good week! My passion is teaching and as a Principal/Headteacher, the opportunities for me to teach have become fewer and fewer. So, when I get the opportunity to stand in front of a group of people and facilitate their learning of something new, I feel happy.

This week I put on a two hour training for teachers from four different schools on Mindfulness in the Classroom. If you have been following my blog and the Mindfulness in the Classroom series, you would have read about the strategies I shared. Add my passion and enthusiasm for mindfulness and my ever growing understanding of mindfulness and I was a bundle of bubbling energy sharing research of others and my own research and modelling the strategies.

There is no denying the impact that mindfulness has had on the children in the trial classes across my academy. Here is a sample of the impact on the number of times the children got angry/upset in a week and the points gained on a happiness scale. A total of 150 children took part in the trial and 47 children were surveyed before the mindfulness strategies were employed.  Children’s ages ranged from 5 years old to 11 years old. This short study was over a period of 10 weeks.

Class # of times per week child gets angry/upset Pre # of times per week child gets angry/upset Post Reduction of # of times per week child gets angry/upset Happiness Points Gained/child Amount of time per week spent on mindfulness
Class A 16.5 10.75 -0.64 +0.28 20 min/wk
Class B 35 9.75 -2.8 +1.44 35 min/wk
Class C 17 10.25 -0.68 +2 35 min/wk
Class D 60.5 22.5 -3.8 +1.5 30 min/wk
Class E 35.25 17 -2.03 +1 15 min/wk
Total 164.25 70.25 -2 +1.27 Average 27 min/wk

The trial teachers were given approximately 2 ½ hours of training on mindfulness strategies and encouraged to use whichever strategies they felt most comfortable with and were appropriate for their classroom.

All teachers recorded an increase in their own personal mindfulness. Those teachers who did show the greatest growth in their mindfulness development tended to have the classes that showed the greatest progress in the reduction of angry/upset incidences and an increase in their happiness scores.

One real success was a Year 1 child who scored his happiness at school as a 1/10. He expressed his displeasure at being at school and could recount very quickly how other children annoyed him, made him angry and disturbed him in and out of class. After 10 weeks, he scored his happiness at school as 9/10 and said he very seldom got angry or upset and when he did he used a combination of mindfulness strategies. The class teacher confirmed that the dramatic change in attitude seen in this child was significant and he was beginning to make excellent progress across all areas of learning.

But, don’t just take my word for it, here is what some of the children had to say about what they have learned.

The training was on Wednesday after school.  By Thursday afternoon, teachers were already reporting the impact of implementing the strategies the very next day!

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The entire Mindfulness in the Classroom series can be found at https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/category/mindfulness-in-the-classroom/

Once you have tried a few strategies, please take a moment to comment and feedback on the effectiveness of those strategies.

Remember, breathe deeply and be mindful of the moment!

Press Play

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”
― Jay Asher

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I remember my first day of school. I was a five year old with hair pulled into pigtails on either side of my head. I was so excited as I carried my “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” snack box to my classroom. It was in the basement of an old three story school. The classroom was filled with wondrous things.

There was a long chalkboard on one side of the room with a long row of tables and a record player in the corner. The air smelled of damp chalk mixed with the fragrance of old kool-aid and oatmeal pies. Mrs Miller stood in the front of the class of eager eyed children and so my life in education began.

As I think about that classroom and look at the classrooms of my school, I note some of the similarities. There are no chalkboards. However, there are white marker boards. That smell of chalk dust is gone and it is replaces with the chemical smell of the erasable markers. The tables are still there. But, I notice that they are set up differently. There is a more collaborative feel to the environment. The record player is gone as well. There MIGHT be a CD player.

This is where the changes really begin. I notice the interactive boards in the front of class attached to the teacher’s laptop. On several tables I also see children working in collaboration on projects or research. There is an Ipad or two floating around the class and the class have their attention drawn to the board and the teacher from the next class over pops up on the screen. He begins to teach the children how to create their own animated video; encouraging them to have a go. The class teacher facilitates the learning, pausing the video and asking thought provoking questions. The children respond, make progress and collaborate in a way that would make Steve Jobs or Bill Gates proud!

This makes me think about how education has changed. The way I learned is a far cry from how children today learn. However, how I grew up is a far cry to how children are currently growing up.

For example, technology in my house while growing up consisted of the Clapper lamp that you clapped two times to turn off a light that was two inches from you and the child remote control which consisted of me standing next to the tv while my father called out, “Turn!”, so that I would turn the dial to the next channel, all ten of them! There were no mobile phones; we actually were on a party line! Who remembers them?! Digital clocks consisted of little plates flipping over to tell the time.

I could go on. I think you get the picture. So, because of this technology, our brains have been wired in a certain way and learning is a particular process not all that dissimilar from our own parent’s learning.

Fast forward to today. As soon as a child can sit up, they are learning how to manipulate technology! Within minutes, they learn how to make things happen on an iphone or ipad! I have seen two year old happily ‘reading’ a book, changing pages with the flick of a finger! How about the five year old creating a virtual world in Mindcraft? They know how to change channels on the tv with a remote control, flip through the 200+ channels, record a programme they like and pause to go to the toilet! Again, I could go on and on!

So, because of this technology, their brains ARE wired differently and the learning process IS different!

We can’t lament the change in the learning process. We can’t go back in time and MAKE children learn the way we did. It won’t happen! Should we even want to go back to the time of children sitting in rows while a teacher drones on about facts, telling off children for talking about their learning and insisting on only one way to do things ‘properly’!

We have children who are far more advanced in their learning than ever before. They ARE active learners. They know how to collaborate, discuss, imagine and create.

Our teachers have been reflective on this change and have been flexible in their own practice to support this change. They are becoming facilitators of this process and I have never been prouder of my profession Who have bravely and boldly held true to the needs of the children. It hasn’t been an easy job lately. However, our ethos supports our drive to stand up for our children.

Life is different. Our children are different. The future is an unwritten text that THEY have the responsibility to write. We can’t press the rewind button. It doesn’t exist! All we can do is be flexible to the change and press PLAY!

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein