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- 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

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Finger Labyrinth Meditation

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Labyrinths have been around for over 4,000 years with labyrinth stone wall carvings, clay tablets and coins dating back to the Bronze Age. Labyrinths have been featured in Greek and Roman mythology and, in the Middle Ages, they started to appear in churches and temples around the world. Labyrinths have been used by many different cultures and religions across time as they have been known to be used for relaxation, meditation and prayer that can bring spiritual and emotional well-being to the lives of those who used them.

Now, labyrinths can be found in hospital gardens, parks, schools and home gardens as they are known for their meditative properties.

What is a Labyrinth?

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A Labyrinth is not a maze; a maze has blind dead ends that are used to confuse and trick the mind. A labyrinth is a spiral course having a single, winding unobstructed path from the outside to the centre that is used to calm and relax.

What is a Finger Labyrinth?

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A finger labyrinth is similar to a full sized labyrinth you would walk except it is on a much smaller and more portable scale. The user traces the path to the centre using your finger rather than with their feet. There are many different kinds of labyrinths differing in size and complexity.

Finger Labyrinths are known to help children relax, feel better when they are sad or scared, deal with situations when they feel ashamed or embarrassed and help them to concentrate.

How to do a Finger Labyrinth Meditation?

  1. Take deep breaths to begin to relax and focus on the entrance to the labyrinth.
  2. Place your pointer finger from your non-dominate hand on the entrance of the labyrinth. If you find this too awkward at first, use your dominate hand. However, over time, keep trying your non-dominate hand. This helps keep the mind focused on the meditation due to the challenge it presents.
  3. Slowly trace the pattern of the labyrinth with your finger allowing your mind to clear from extra thought and focus solely on following the path of the labyrinth.
  4. “Walk” to the centre of the labyrinth and rest momentarily, taking deep breaths observing how you are feeling.
  5. Retrace your path out of the labyrinth.
  6. Sit back, breathe deeply and relax. Observe how you are feeling again.

Note: The same steps apply for a Walking Labyrinth, except you slowly walk the path.

Free Printable Finger Labyriths:

Other Activities:

  • Make a 3-D Finger Labyrinth: http://heatherplett.com/2015/01/make-finger-labyrinth-also-piece-art/
  • Challenge the children to create their own Finger Labyrinths by drawing or using small objects on a flat surface or drawing one in sand/salt/rice.
  • Create Walking Labyrinths using jumping ropes, construction bricks, cones, bean bags, chalk etc. outside or in the hall for children to walk.
  • Challenge children to create their own Walking Labyrinths using jumping ropes, construction bricks, cones, bean bags, etc. outside or in the hall for children to walk.

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Meditations can take many forms and have been around for centuries. The important part is allowing you to be in the moment and letting other thoughts float past.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Doodling

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Time to doodle!

I can almost hear the collective intake of breath at the very idea that doodling can be good for you or have anything to do with mindfulness meditation.

Doodling, over the years, has received a bad rap!

Who hasn’t begun doodling in the margins of their notes during lessons or a meeting? According to a study published by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, doodling while listening can help with remembering details. During the research, subjects were given a doodling task while listening to a dull phone message. 29% of the people doodling improved recall compared to their non-doodling participants.

But, this type of doodling, good as it might be, is not a mindful activity.

The goal of Mindful Doodling is to fully engage with your doodles in a meditative way. It requires slowing down, focusing on the paper and pen and doodling repeatively with full intent. Thus, you become present in the moment.

Thus, mindful doodling:

  • focuses the mind
  • calms the body and mind
  • relieves stress
  • encourages relaxation
  • increases your sense of wellbeing
  • replaces negative or bored habits
  • allows you to be present and aware

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How to do Mindful Doodling?

You don’t need to have any drawing skills for this to work. (This is a good point as I DO NOT have good drawing skills!) There really isn’t any right or wrong way to mindfully doodle. It is not about the end result but about the process that is being taken.

  1. Draw, by freehand, a border around the outer edge.
  2. In this step you can do one of three things:
  • Draw a string inside your border. ( A string is a simple curved line/squiggle that will lend structure to your design as your pattern will emerge accordingly from the contours of the string. The string divides the border into sections.)
  • Draw straight or angled lines free hand within the border dividing the area into smaller sections.
  • Choose a corner of the border and begin step 3.
  1. Start creating your doodle with patterns drawn with a pen or marker along the contours of the string, lines or border. Allow the pattern to reveal itself naturally. There is no right or wrong. You can use very simple shapes, lines, dots, squiggles and more. Shade as you desire and be mindful of and deliberate with each stroke.
  2. Keep going until you are finished. You will know when this is.
  3. Enjoy your creation!

Remember: There are NO mistakes. So, no erasing is allowed. Embrace the mark you have made and use it to continue your meditative journey of mindfully doodling.

Top Tips:

  • You can use any size paper you desire. It can be as small as a post it note or as large as a poster. It is up to you. However, I suggest that in the beginning you start on a smaller sheet as you get the hang of this mindfulness activity.
  • The finer the points of the pens/markers, the finer the detail will be in the doodles.

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How to share Mindful Doodling with children?

Again, there is no right or wrong way to teach children to doodle mindfully except encouraging children to be present in the moment as they are doodling. Impress on the children that there is no mistakes in the process and allow each mark to lead to the next mark.

Playing music, as described in my post Mindfulness in the Classroom- Music, will support the meditative nature of the process.

Now, get to doodling!

*Note: Some people call this Zendoodling or Zentangle.

 

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Music

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Some of our earliest memories may be of our mother or father singing to us as a child. It is likely to be one of the earliest memories for our parents having instinctively gone to song to calm a fussy infant down.

Music is very common in most cultures with traditional lullabies being passed down from generation to generation. It is therapeutic for the parent and child alike.

One conclusion made by some mental health clinicians is that the vibrations in music help to release the tension in the cells and organs, thus relaxing the body. Maybe this is why we can hear music in some of the oddest places; elevators/lifts, dentist offices, waiting rooms, etc. They are trying to keep us calm.

So, if music has the ability to support our calmness, then surely this can be used as a simple mindfulness technique used in the classroom. Playing low music in the background as the children transition to a new activity or as they work diligently on their maths problems and writing, might be a way to support behaviour management in the classroom while also supporting children’s learning. Some research even has shown that music can increase the speed at which children do their school work.

So, music in the classroom is something to consider.

If you do decide to use music in your classroom, you must be mindful of how music makes you feel and that some music may not be appropriate; especially music with deep base or high pitch sounds that may actually cause you to feel upset. Trying a variety of musical selections would be best in identifying which ones are best for you and your class. This can be easily achieved via doing a simple search on Youtube for “mindfulness music” or “meditation music”. They come in varying lengths, with some more suitable for children than others.

Some that I have come across on Youtube that children have found soothing are:

1 Hour Yoga Music: Yoga for Kids & Children, Meditation Music, Calming Soft Instrumental Music- https://youtu.be/Zd-ybxrTyvs

Relaxation For Children – Quiet, Music for Learning, Harmony & Positive – CUTE FOALS- https://youtu.be/DBNaIRZ3AIg

RELAXING YOGA MUSIC FOR KIDS In Classroom, Children, Kids Yoga Music & Meditation Music for children- https://youtu.be/jbe6R2lmvwY?list=RDuMyMPb-ix-E

While free can be good, there are some relaxing CDs and compilations that are good to use in the classroom. My favourite is called Yoga & Mindfulness- Music for Buddhist Meditation. But, there are loads out on the market with free samples to listen to so you can gage if they are appropriate.

Top Tip: I use the soothing music while children are coming into assembly. Once everyone is seated, I have all the children close their eyes and do deep breathing; there favourite is snake breathes. For those that have problems with the idea of closing their eyes, I have a soothing scene projected on the large screen to focus on while breathing. Then, at the end of the assembly, I do the same again as each class leaves the hall. Assemblies are calmer and more in control.

How do you use music in the classroom?