Mindfulness In the Classroom – Mindful Language

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The highly respected psychiatrist, John H Reitman, once said that, “It takes an average person almost twice as long to understand a sentence that uses a negative approach than it does to understand a positive sentence”.

Everyday since most of us were about two years old we have spoken a countless number of words. It doesn’t matter which language we have spoken. Just the fact that we use words to convey our needs, wants, desires and emotions.

As a young child my parents taught me the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” However, far too quickly, I learned that words could be even more powerful than sticks and stones and that words could hurt the deep psyche that can leave lasting scars. Those lasting scars lead to powerful emotions for most of our lives.

As educators, we need to be even more mindful of our words and consider what we are saying and why we are saying.

Negative vs Positive

Negative language often:
* tells the person what cannot be done.
*  has a subtle tone of blame.
*  includes words like can’t, won’t, unable to, not to or don’t.
* emphasises the negative behaviour over the desired positive behaviour.
* does not stress positive actions that would be appropriate, or positive consequences.
* Is ambiguous and doesn’t explain what you want them to do. “Don’t spill your drink! ” (How does a child not spill a drink?)

Positive language often:
* tells the person what can be done.
* suggests alternatives and choices available to the person.
* sounds helpful and encouraging rather than chastising.
* stresses positive actions and positive consequences that can be anticipated.

Examples of Positive Mindful Language choices:

– ” Mary is making right choices.”
– “Remember Mary, we make the right choice.”
– “You have two choices.” ( Then give two positive choices which you are willing to compromise on to get the desired behaviour. It allows a child to feel in control but in a safe range.)
– “I wonder why Mary has hit John.”
– “I like it when Mary sits in her place when she comes into class.”
– “Mary, shut the door quietly.”
– “I can tell you are not happy right now. You are breathing fast, your face is red and you have tears in your eyes. Take some deep breaths with me.”
– Give a child time to calm down with other mindful strategies and then discuss what has happened and LISTEN to what they have to say. Ask guiding questions and repeat your appreciation for how it made them feel and refer to how it has made you feel.
– When having lengthier conversations with a child about their behaviour, end with restating what they did well.
– In the Classroom, end the day on a high note by giving a minute to everyone reflecting on what one positive thing happened that day. Let that be their “exit ticket” at home time.

It is also important for you to encourage kindness and positivity in the words the children use to speak to you and others. Give some time to practice HOW we say things, how we use our words and explore how that makes us feel.

At the end of the day, we must remember that positive language leads to positive self-esteem. If a person has positive self-esteem, than they are likely to have a more even temperament and a healthy balance of the stress hormone, cortisol. Negative self-esteem keeps a person at a heightened stress point with high levels of cortisol which keeps them in the constant moment of fight, flight or freeze.

How positive is your language? Challenge your class and yourself this week, change one thing you say in a negative way and make it a powerful positive phrase. Let the child’s actions speak for themselves.

Note: In addition to positive language, one must also consider the importance of body language. (To be outlined in another post shortly.)

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End the School Year with Mindful Gratitude

 

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I’m sitting here on a Sunday afternoon in the sunshine contemplating the last three weeks of the school year. There is so much to do. Reports have been finished but still need to be printed and signed, the end of year performance is in it’s last days of prep, school trips are being prepared along with the million of things to prepare for the new school year that begins in only two months time. Children are tired, staff are tired and parents are waiting anxiously for the “tag you’re it” hand over that will be coming shortly. We can get lost in the whirlwind of the last few days.

Thankfulness leads to increased well-being and, especially, positive moods by increasing our general happiness that is lasting. The residual effects of happiness stay with us, particularly if we are mindful of the happiness and choose to “waddle” in happiness.

Participating in Mindful Gratitude could be a great way to tackle the end of the year. Spending some time reflecting on the wonder of the year, the achievements, the changes and the time that has passed can offer a respite to the chaos the end of year brings.

Take a look through the Gratitude ideas that may be the perfect solution to celebrating the end of an exciting year.

Thankful Wall– Each day until the end of the year, give each child a post-it note and have the children write one thing they have been grateful for his year. It could be big like mastering multiplication or small like getting to be in the same class as their best friend. Watching the gratitude grow gives children a visual link to gratitude.

Gratitude/Thankful diary– Each child has their own diary that they write, draw or glue in things they are thankful for in their lives. In times of upset, they can look through their diaries to remind themselves of all the things that make them thankful.

Thank You cards or letters– Old school! But, it is a powerful tool allowing children a tangible outlet to show gratitude to the people who have made a difference in their lives!

Gratitude Video– Get the children to work in small groups to make a series of videos acting or telling everyone in a creative way the things they have been thankful for this past year as part of a “Welcome to Your New Class” video for the next year’s class.

ABC Gratitude Book– As a class or as small groups, create an ABC Gratitude book with each letter being something they are thankful for. Have the children illustrate and make into a book to share with younger children.

#WeekOfGratitude– This is a five day activity to help yourself and your children mindfully focus on the good things in life. It is all explained here: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/weekofgratitude-mindfulness-development/

Maybe you have a great idea! Share it with us in the comments below and help us all end the year being Mindfully Thankful. It will make us all feel good and focus on the important things in life.

Mindfulness For Children – Top Test Taking Tips for PARENTS

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As outlined in the post, Mindfulness in the Classroom – Test Taking Tips, despite our best efforts as teachers in preparing children for these tests and ensuring they have the right skills to be successful on them, test anxiety can throw a spanner in the works; causing children to react in ways that sabotages their ability to show all they know.

The use of Mindfulness as we support children in preparing for the test can give them the edge to perform to their best ability and not allow the stress to impact on the greater spectrum of life. The lifelong skills of dealing with stress will support them not only for the test but for the general stresses in life.

We need to remember that Mindfulness is not about not having stress. It is about controlling how you react to the stress.

As parents, we can mindfully support our children before, during and after the test.

Before:
Support any homework:  We know that, at times, the homework can be confusing and frustrating for both the parent and child. This is a good time to practice a simple 10 Second Mindfulness exercise together, STOP.

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10 Second Mindfulness- STOP
This is a simple but effective strategy to refocus our attention.
S– Stop what you are doing.

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.

P– Proceed with what you were doing.

Remind your child that it is ok to get things wrong sometimes and not everyone is perfect.

– Discuss How They Are Feeling: Developing emotional intelligence is to get children to understand that their emotions are valid. It is not bad to have emotions, good or bad. It is how they deal with and react to these emotions that makes a difference. Talk about emotions like you talk about the weather- Often and every day!
* What emotion are you feeling right now? How does it feel? Is this a good emotion to have in control? How can we change emotions?

During:

SLEEP! The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:

Children 6-13 years: Recommended- 9-11 hours Appropriate- 7-8 hours
Teenagers 14-17 years: Recommended- 8-10 hours Appropriate- 7-11 hours

We should never underestimate the power of good sleeping habits. Children who are persistently sleep-deprived seem irritable and overactive, seek constant stimulation, are easily distracted and don’t concentrate well.

To help ease your child to a peaceful sleep, use a Guided Sleep Meditation like one of the following:

Everything Will Be Ok: https://youtu.be/FPdANK5jLWE
Always Do Your Best: https://youtu.be/nRD-vwY95JM
Dealing With Emotions: https://youtu.be/OfeJ91mleFE
Deep Sleep (for teenagers): https://youtu.be/kUEUm0BcgBo

Eat Well! Make sure they have a good evening meal as well as a good breakfast. It gives them the energy to take on the challenges of the day. Add a simple Mindful Eating exercise to get the day started.

First Bite Mindful Eating Exercise

1- Have your LOOK at the food they will be eating. Silent,they are to observe what it looks like? What do you notice?
What colour is it?
Is it small or large?
2- Have your child smell the food.
Does it have a smell?
What does it smell like?
3- Have your child, very slowly, put the piece of food in their mouth but not chew it! Leave it on the tongue.
How does it feel on the tongue?
Can you taste anything?
Does it smell differently in your mouth?
5- Have your child begin to chew slowly; one mindful chew at a time.
Does the taste change?
How does it feel in the mouth?
6- Try to get them notice when they swallow, and see how far you can feel the food into your body.

Be Flexible and Calm: Don’t over plan the days your child will be taking their tests. Follow their lead and do as much or as little as they want on the evenings. Sure, you may have paid for a club on the evening of the tests. But, if they don’t feel like going don’t! Change it up! Go for a walk! Grab an ice cream! Watch a movie! Be FLEXIBLE!

Afterwards:

CELEBRATE! Remind them that it doesn’t matter what they get on the test. There are far more things that the test does not measure, like their love for art, their sporty skills, their kind heartedness, their passion for creativity, etc. Do something that celebrates THEM!

But, MOST IMPORTANT of them ALL is to teach them THIS TOP TEST TAKING TIP:

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Parenting is not easy. But, by adding some mindfulness into your life and the life of your child, you ease the journey you take together as they become adults.

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Loving Kindness

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According, Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools, “ One in ten children and young people aged 5 to 16 has a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder and around one in seven has less severe problems.”

The Week of 6th-12th February 2017 is  #childrensmhw, Children’s Mental Health Week. Promoted by http://www.place2be.org.uk/ , it is to make us aware of the mental health crisis that we are dealing with on a day to day basis. This year’s theme is- spread a little kindness.

The use of Loving Kindness in mindfulness development is good not only for the child but for the people around them no matter what time of the year.

So, how can we spread a little kindness this week and EVERY WEEK of the year?

#RandomActsofKindness– Change the attitude of a class from whining and moaning to one of appreciation and gratitude.

  • Discuss with children what a random act of kindness is and come up with a list of RAKs for at least the number of children in the class.
  • Write these RAKs on individual slips of paper, fold and put into a hat/bag/bowl and allow each child to take one RAK. (NO TELLING! It is a secret!)
  • Alternatively, each child can come up with their own RAK. (They are more likely to be able to do this after they get the practice of RAKs.)
  • During the given time frame, the child is to complete the act WITHOUT saying they are completing the RAK. (This will also take some time as at first, they will want to tell everyone what they have done. The point of RAKs is to do a RAK without recognition. This will be the ultimate level of this mindful practice.)
  • After the given time frame, as a class, discuss how completing the RAK made them feel and how they think it made the other person feel.

Thank You Cards– Old School, but a simple way to spread a little kindness. Have each child make Thank You card for someone thanking them for their love, caring, help or any other thing that person has done for you.

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#PositivePostItDay– #PositivePostItDay was started by a young lady in Canada called Caitlin Haacke. After being bullied herself, she decided to take a stand against bullying. She single handily started the movement of positivity that is sweeping the world.

You will need lots of post-it notes! But the idea is simple.

  • On the day, have the children discuss what we like in other people and in ourselves and then have them write at least two positive notes; one to themselves and one to someone else.
  • Allow the children to stick the notes EVERYWHERE; on the person, on a door, on a table, on a wall, etc. Fill your classroom, area or school with these little positive notes.
  • At the end of the day, have the children discuss how being positive effected them. Was it difficult to think of something positive about another person? Was it difficult to think of something positive about themselves?

Loving Kindness Song– 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.

This Loving Kindness Dance Remix is an upbeat song that brings combines Loving Kindness with the joy of singing and great to use every day!

Loving Kindness Meditation Dance Remix:  https://youtu.be/93mj4PaiOUo

Loving Kindness Meditations– Guided meditations focuses the mind on one aspect.  For Loving Kindness meditations, it focuses our minds of being kind to ourselves and to others.  It really is about spreading kindness.

Here are a few that you may find useful for your class and yourself.

Loving Kindness Meditation for primary children: https://youtu.be/YRwQrzogy-g

Loving Kindness Meditation for primary children :  https://youtu.be/-9_ZHnltMe0

Loving Kindness Meditation for upper primary children and teenagers: https://youtu.be/sz7cpV7ERsM

Loving Kindness Meditation for adults/ teenagers: https://youtu.be/MKtXw-tivZg

The world is a harsh place. Join me in spreading a little kindness around the world.

Share your ideas and don’t forget to use the hashtag #childrensmhw

#WeekOfGratitude

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It has been a turbulent year across the world, to say the least. The anxieties of children and adults have been at an all time high. Somehow, in the mist of this upset and confusion, negativity can start to spiral out of control leaving us in a state of disparity and we loose sight of what is good in our lives.

Sometimes, we just need to STOP and count our blessings. We have lots to be thankful for.

Thus, I declare the week of 20th November 2017 #WeekOfGratitude!
Exploring and celebrating gratitude allows us and our children to mindful consider the good things in life in a variety of ways. Supporting and encouraging the development of the “bright side of life” gives us the ability to evaluate life with more balance. Life is made of up good and bad things.

This gratitude strategy gets children to explore the different aspects of gratitude.
A Week of Gratitude:
– Determine how the children will record their week. Some ideas are:
o Simple table divided into five squares
o A large flower with five petals
o A circle with four inner rings creating five consecutively smaller sections
o Create a small booklet

– In the beginning, discuss with children (Document what they have said):
o What does gratitude mean?
o When do we feel gratitude?
o What is that feeling or feelings?
o How does it make others feel?
– Each day, give the class 5-10 minutes to write and/or draw according to the theme of the day
o Memory Monday- Describe a happy/good memory.
o Thoughtful Tuesday- How have others been helpful to you?
o Whimsical Wednesday- Describe a fun or funny memory.
o Thankful Thursday- What are they thankful for in their life?
o Family Friday- Describe what is good and special about their family.
– Finish the week with time to share, discuss and explain their work with partners, small groups or whole class. Discuss the questions explored before the week’s activities. How do they compare? Has their understanding of gratitude changed or grown? How? Why?

Find links to each day’s outline and picture promote here.

Updated 27th October 2017

#PositivePostItDay – A Growing Mindfulness

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I want to thank you right now. I want to thank you because you have taken this moment in time to read this post and, that alone, makes me happy and if you do not read even one more word, I still will feel deep gratitude.

Do you really know what gratitude is? Have you ever pondered the idea?

Gratitude is an emotional state of mind. To be gracious means to have an attitude towards life that gives us, as humans, a sense of rational and personal well-being. It is a strong feel good emotion that releases endorphins that relaxes the body and makes us feel happy. That is why positivity begets positivity! It is ADDICTIVE!

On Tuesday, people around the world celebrated #PositivePostItDay. The day began a few years ago by a young lady in Canada called Caitlin Haacke. After being bullied herself, she decided to take a stand against bullying. She single handily started the movement of positivity that is sweeping the world. Her belief that positivity begets positivity that began as an anti-bullying campaign, has led to children and adults alike considering their words carefully and filling the world with kindness, love and appreciation.

Gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness. Teaching children (and adults) to be thankful for the abundance in their lives as opposed to focusing on the actual material objects refocuses on emotions and feelings that raises self-confidence.

As Tuesday unfolded, I was filled with happiness seeing thousands and thousands of children and adults showing gratitude for each other and for themselves! The power of words has never been stronger.

@ecsaibel from Marin, CA, USA

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The children showed a depth of perception that went beyond the simple, “Thank you!”.

@LeeAraoz from Broadway Campus in Long Island, New York, USA

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People became creative and symbolic in their notes. Love and compassion were at the heart of what was happening across the schools.

@SaccoEric and @CCGSMS from Clifton-Clyde Grade and Middle School in Kansas, USA

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The emphasis was on building, not just a positive day, but a positive culture. A positive culture is not a one day wonder. It needs to be repeated over and over again.

@principalkubiak from Cordelia Hills Elementary School in Sonoma, CA, USA

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The magnitude of the number of positive notes began to get mind boggling! Children were not happy with writing just one note, they had to write several notes. It was snow balling; leaving everyone in its wake on a wave of happiness!

@tsschmidty and @HarborViewElem from Harbor View Elementary in Corona del Mar, CA

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 Everyone left these schools feeling valued, loved, cared for and worthy of being a part of the community.

 @Ed_Tmprince and @Green_Lane_PA from Green Lane Primary Academy in Garforth, England

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Over and over, the power of the words the children had for each other was overwhelming and powerful!

The effects began to spread past the school gates. Green Lane Primary Academy received one to two written compliments from parents nearly every day this week!

So, what now? We can’t have #PositivePostItDay every day, right? Or… can we?

OF COURSE WE CAN!

One child asked his mother on Wednesday if we could be positive that day as well.

It is important that we are teaching the children and ourselves that we need to be mindful of our gratitude. We need to remind ourselves how it felt on #PositivePostItDay and remember that WE made that happen with our own attitude. The attitude is what made the difference on that day!

As stated before, gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness. It is a perfect way to either start the journey of teaching children the lifelong skill in being mindful or to enhance mindfulness already being developed.

If you want to find out more about #PositivePostItDay read #PositivePostItDay. It really can be done on ANY day you want it to happen. Get other schools to join you and MAKE it happen!

If you want some simple ideas on how to keep that snowball rolling in the development of gratitude, read Mindfulness in the Classroom- Gratitude.

In the meantime, share your ideas in the comments section. I would love to hear about the impact showing gratitude has had on your school or your own lives.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligence

Some experts say that mindfulness is the foundation of emotional intelligence.

Google’s, Search Inside Yourself, programme looks at the latest research in neuroscience and ancient contemplative wisdom to help their leaders fight distraction and to grow emotional intelligence by being more present in the moment.

In the Google training, participants undergo attention and mindfulness training exercises designed to build emotional intelligences. Google believes that these skills are crucial for successful leadership and performance of its employees.

If Google, a highly successful multi-national business, puts this much significance on mindfulness and emotional intelligence, shouldn’t we, as educators, want to be developing these skills in all children to allow them to be successful as well?

Exactly what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is the capacity of individuals to recognize your own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

Then, the first step in developing emotional intelligence is to get children to understand that their emotions are valid. It is not bad to have emotions, good or bad. It is how they deal with and react to these emotions that makes a difference.

What are a few mindful strategies to develop emotional intelligence in children?

  • Talk about emotions like you talk about the weather- Often and every day!
    • What emotion are you feeling right now? How does it feel? Is this a good emotion to have in control? How can we change emotions?
  • Use Inside Out (The Movie)- Many teachers find this movie a useful resource for teaching about emotions and controlling emotions.  There are a lot of resources online that have been created by teachers and parents using the movie.  A couple of useful free resources are:
  • Track your emotions with a diary or chart
    •  Have the children track their emotions for the day or at a certain time each day. Discuss how they are feeling? How does their body feel? Why do they believe they are feeling this way? What can they do to change their emotion if they are not happy with the emotion?
  •  Guided Reading- During guided reading sessions, have the children identify the emotions of the characters. Questions: Have you ever felt these emotions? Can you relate or empathise to how they are feeling? What could they do to change their emotion?
  • Recognising Emotions- Emotion Card Activity
    • This helps children to accurately recognise and name their own emotions and is appropriate for both ASD, children that have problems with emotional awareness and all other children. Emotion Cards
    • Using an Emotion Thermometer- Free printable emotional thermometer pictograms- Emotion Thermometer

 

What have you found successful in your classroom?