Mindfulness in the Classroom – Colour Meditation

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Have you noticed your class drifting off, especially when learning a new topic or skill that is more difficult? Their eyes glaze over, they become more fidgety, shout-out, work avoidance and more.

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. He goes on to say, “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping.

The key to mindfulness is not being in the present every moment of the day. That is not possible and not appropriate for a successful life; you do need some time to reflect in order to improve and prepare for the future. The key is being able to refocus yourself in the present at your will and not at the will of your meandering thoughts.
Refocusing without judgement is a positive mindful activity that allows children to take a breather, allow a moment to step back from the work and then continue in a mindful way that allows for maximum progress.

One way to help children to remain focused in class is to use Colour Meditation.

Colour Meditation
– At the beginning of the day, get each child to choose a colour and decide to notice that colour on a given signal (This could be the ringing of a bell, code word, etc.)

– Have children take a minute to notice the objects and people wearing that colour. (I like to choose colours that I think will be more difficult to come across as it does make me really stay focused in the moment.)
– 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.

With this mindful task, you may find that the world becomes more colourful.

Find more mindfulness strategies on www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com and in the Bloomsbury book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom by Tammie Prince ( Bloomsbury Link,  Amazon Link )

 

 

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Mindfulness in the Classroom – Autumn Mindfulness

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Autumn is an amazing season. The crisp, cool air, the fluttering of leaves falling to the ground and the smell of nature changing as it prepares for winter. Appreciating the world around us allows for a deepening of our mindfulness practice and no one does it better than children.

Why not celebrate this change with some of these Autumn filled Mindfulness ideas.

Leaf Meditation

Find a place where your class can have a few minutes of quiet space; maybe it is in your school’s nature area, in a local park, a walk through some woodlands or, if all else fails, the classroom with access to lots of newly fallen leaves.

Have the children:
– Pick up the leaf and lay it in your hands.
– Notice the colours, the different in shades of colours and fading of one colour to another colour.
– Notice the veins in the leaf, the main stem, the edges of the leaf.
– Feel the leaf. Run their fingers over the top and bottom; along the edges. Notice the differences. Rub it against their face or over the top of their hand. Use nerve endings that normally are not used to feel objects. Notice the difference.
– Smell the leaf. Note the scent. Inhale deeply and notice the memories it may bring up.

Have them close their eyes and take a minute to breathe deeply and allow themselves to be in awe and wonder of the moment they have had with the leaf.

Autumn Nature Walk
Take the children on a nature walk. While on the walk, periodically have the children stop and notice one object (flower, stone, stick, leaf, etc) or sound (bird chirping, water trickling, car passing, etc) and spend a few moments appreciating that one moment. Repeat several times. When they get back to class, have them recreate their walk through drawings or doodles while listening to soothing Autumn themed meditation Music. ( https://youtu.be/w0szAwgybZs )

Walking Labyrinths

Create Walking Labyrinths using leaves, stick, pine cones, etc for children to walk.

How to do a Walking Labyrinth Meditation?
1. Take deep breaths to begin to relax and focus on the entrance to the labyrinth.
2. Children are to slowly walk the path of the labyrinth, focusing on one step at a time taking a deep breath on each step. Once at the centre of the labyrinth, they turn around and return to the entrance.
3.  When they are finished, have them sit back, breathe deeply and relax. Observe how you are feeling again.

PlayDough Mindfulness

Have children make their own Play Dough adding Autumn themed spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, all spice or pumpkin spice to enhance the smell. Use the Play Dough to create a nature mandala. Find the instructions for making the playdough and creating the mandalas here.

Autumn Meditation Music

Set the scene in the Classroom by using Autumn Meditation music like this one: https://youtu.be/w0szAwgybZs . It mixes nice calm music with the sounds of nature. It is useful to use during transition periods, writing or handwriting periods.

Happy Autumn everyone!

This post was reblogged on  Collaboroo (www.collaboroo.com ). Collaboroo is a growing community of like-minded teaching professionals who love what they do. Together the connect, collaborate and create to teach happy. They want to make education accessible, enjoyable and achievable for every child.

 

Book Review- 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework by Jenna Lucas

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Bloomsbury continues to add quality resources to their ever expanding education division with a book by Jenna Lucas in the #100Ideas series. The ageless topic of  homework is one that schools have been grappling with for many years. Parents hate it because it can be a fight at home and teachers hate it as it takes even more time to chase after it or mark it. As a Headteacher, I am constantly having to reflect on and balance the needs of all.

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework is a little gem of a book that makes homework a practical, engaging activity for the whole family. Thus, homework doesn’t become a fight ending in tears but a fun exploration of the home and local environment that develops lifelong skills and embeds school learning experiences after school hours.

The book is divided into several sections: Student 5 a day, Literacy, Maths, Science, Topics, The arts, The outdoors, Technology, Finding out and Learning nuggets. Each with a wealth of ideas, teaching tips and bonus ideas.

While all the sections have quick and easily accessible homework ideas, I am particularly impressed with the Student 5 a day section with its emphasis on child wellbeing and development of very mindful skills. My favourite is Idea # 1- Student 5 a day!

Another bonus of the ideas is that most require little or no marking! Also, the Teaching Tips really do make it clear how to get the most out of the work the children produce.

The homework ideas can equally be good for in class activities and lessons allowing for great diversity in the use of the book.

Conclusion:
This is a great book for a teacher to have in her/his arsenal of resources to support the creative planning of teaching and learning.

To find out what Jenna says about her book, watch this video of my short interview with her recently at Bloomsbury offices.

You can follow Jenna on Twitter @JennaLucas81 and you can purchase her book on Bloomsbury here or on Amazon here.

 

Mindfulness In the Classroom Guest Blog- Breathing Buddies

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Guest Blogger:  Lesley Ravenscroft, Central Regional Coordinator for the Thrive Approach

“When you breathe in, you inspire; when you don’t breathe, you expire.” (Apocryphal answer to a biology exam question). 

Breathing is natural, right? Our body does it largely without our conscious awareness. We become aware of it during some situations. I often find myself non-consciously holding my breath during underwater scenes in movies; I nearly died during ‘Finding Dory’!

Moreover, inhabiting perception and being able to recognise our bodily sensations are a first base for the physicality of emotional regulation. It is even more important to teach this when we are working with traumatised children who may, of necessity, have had to de-sensitise themselves from feelings due to toxic stress. They may be less sensitive to the social engagement of others and less able to tolerate and integrate strong feelings such as fear.

We would conceptualise fear as an instinctive response to threats to survival. For mammals, this includes separation from a care-giver as our survival depends on the Adult–Child relationship.  Our senses pick up sensory cues, then our amygdala scans the incoming sensory information and, if we have come to associate those cues with threat, the amygdala triggers the fight/flight or freeze responses. In the hyper-aroused flight response, we experience a racing heart, sweating, sick feeling, deeper breathing. This is mediated by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. In the hypo-aroused freeze response, we experienced foggy thinking or confusion, numbness, dissociation, shallow breathing, slow heart-beat. This is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system. It involves the release of opioids and acetyl-choline.

We cannot underestimate the importance of breathing – particularly a long out-breath – for calming and regulating these systems. This is because the Vagus nerve acts like a brake on the heart every time we breath out. This means that the longer the out-breath, the more active the brake and the slower our heart-beat. Controlled breathing can override the fight, flight, or freeze response set off by the amygdala and enable mindful behaviour.

Breathing Buddies (aka Teddy Bear Belly Breathing) can help small people calm their nervous system and have giggles with a Transition Object in school, or it is even a great way of calming before reading a story at bedtime.

In a school, children are invited to bring a favourite teddy/stuffie (or I have even seen a favourite fire truck!) into school. They can play with it and snuggle it and then lie down comfortably on their backs with the teddy on their tummy, near their naval. Offer cushions and pillows for them to find a comfy position with arms and legs placed outstretched. The idea is to make them aware of their breathing, so ask them to breathe in so that their buddy goes up as you count to three and down for the count of three, giving their buddy an ‘up and down’ ride. Ask them to notice how their tummy feels with their buddy on it at different parts of the cycle. “Feel how your tummy is pushing on the bear.” The point is to repeat the breathing rhythm and to do this to regulate any child who is dysregulated by separation or the thought of the school day ahead. They can pretend that their teddy is real and that they are rocking it to sleep. Play along by saying things like, “I can hear a bear snoring; I think you have sent it to sleep!”

Once regulated, the teddies may accompany the children to class or even stay around a special teddy bears’ tea party table to keep them safe, though as Transition Objects, the child needs easy access. Breathing Buddies can be repeated for any transition and before home time too. Many children are not too sure of time and building this into routines can provide very clear signposts to the passage of the day.

Other types of regulated breathing could be introduced by blowing bubbles or by blowing on cuts and grazes, all the while fostering a longer out-breath to act as a regulator and slow the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

Ultimately, if the children are used to doing mindful breathing as part of their daily routine, they can be prompted to use it during a crisis as part of self-regulation. Breathing “…as if they were giving teddy a ride…” is great for steadying and grounding the alarmed mind. Of course, mindful strategies must be held within a safe and responsive relationship to be truly successful, so enjoy those relationships with the small people and their Breathing Buddies.

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 About the Author:  Lesley has worked in teaching for thirty years, starting with 4-7 year-olds and, most recently spent 19 years as a SENCO in a mainstream secondary school. She wishes she had known about the Thrive Approach earlier. She can be contacted on Lesley.Ravenscroft@thriveapproach.com

Find out about other breathing strategies at Mindfulness in the Classroom- Breathing or in Part 1 of the book on Breathing by Tammie Prince, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers:  Mindfulness in the Classroom published by Bloomsbury.

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Teacher & Leader Mindfulness- Autumn Meditation

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Stop! Take a deep breathe and look! Autumn seems to be firmly here.

The air has a new crispness, the trees are undressing themselves as the technicolor leaves whip around and fall to the ground as the wind blows around you. There is a new earthy scent. Autumn is here.

When did that happen? For those that work in schools, this time is filled with the fast pace of settling into a new school year, Parents’ Evenings, data analysis, resource making and more. We juggle our days either like novices or pros and it all depends upon the day or moment.

Stop! Take a deep breathe! Autumn is here!

Take five minutes now to take part in this lovely Autumn Mediation to help you relax and find peace within your Mindfulness practice.

Autumn Meditation

For this mediation, you will need a fallen Autumn leaf.

Find a space where you can have five uninterrupted minutes. Maybe it is in your back garden, in a local park, or a walk through some woodlands. It may even be that you collect a leaf while out and about and complete the meditation within the comfort of your home. It really doesn’t matter as long as you have your leaf.

– Pick up the leaf and lay it in your hands.
– Notice the colours, the different in shades of colours and fading of one colour to another colour.
– Notice the veins in the leaf, the main stem, the edges of the leaf.
– Feel the leaf. Run your fingers over the top and bottom; along the edges. Notice the differences. Rub it against your face or over the top of your hand. Use nerve endings that normally are not used to feel objects. Notice the difference.
– Smell the leaf. Note the scent. Inhale deeply and notice the memories it may bring up.

Close your eyes and take a minute to breathe deeply and allow yourself to be in awe and wonder of the moment you have had with the leaf.

Proceed with a new found calmness and appreciation.

Happy Autumn!

 

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.)

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Assemblies

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In my opinion, the development of Mindfulness should be a whole school initiative that sees the development of these life long skills by adults and children alike (and parents). It should be a part of the everyday life of the school and part of the school’s deeper ethos.

Whole School assemblies are a great way for the leaders of the school to use and model Mindfulness and emphasise the importance the practice has in your school. The use of basic mindfulness strategies can have positive impact on Assembly behaviour and continue calmness for children and staff following the Assembly. I have personally used the strategies with assemblies a big as 450-500 children.

Before using the strategies for the first time, set a basic ground rule.

Ground Rule:
If you choose not to take part in the mindful breathing, meditation or Follow Me game, they are to be respectful to all others who have chosen to partake and sit quietly. (This may have to be reminded a few times. But, the vast majority will take part and many who don’t at first Do eventually start participating or continue to be respectful.)

How do I use Mindfulness in Assemblies?

1- Meditation Music:  I ensure that meditation music is playing as the children come into the hall. The calm music sets the scene and expectations for the Assembly. (A variety of music can be found in the blog post Music or on my YouTube channel.) The expectation is silence. But, seldom do I have to remind the children of this expectation.

2- Follow Me game: It is similar to Simon Says without the verbal aspect. Children MUST be paying attention and following the hand movements you make. The hand movements are slow, deliberate movements that flow with the music being played. (The focused attention and concentration required for this activity is relaxing and puts children in the moment.)

3- Mindful Breathing: When the last class is being seated, the leader guides the children and staff through one of these breathing meditations:

– One Minute Meditation: You verbally guide the children through 15 deep mindful breaths (Various breathing techniques can be found here. However, the two that I am partial to for large assemblies are the basic breathing and the snake breaths.)

– Starfish Meditation: The strategy can be found here and is usually a whole school favourite.

4- Mindful Singing: 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. How to use this strategy can be found here.

Note: At anytime during the Assembly that the children seem to be becoming more talkative or less attentive, guiding everyone through a few deep mindful breaths usually settles everyone. Also, end the Assembly with either Mindful Singing or Mindful Breathing.

The content of the Assembly is now yours to choose.
I hope to share some of the assemblies we do this year that have a clear, direct or indirect focus on Mindfulness development.

Top tips:

– Be in the hall BEFORE the first class arrives. This works best when everything is in place and you are playing the music and playing Follow Me as they come in and sit down.
– Periodically, remind children of what they are doing, why and how it helps them.
– If you are still unclear about how this work, please let me know and I will help accordingly.

When children see adults using Mindfulness strategies successfully, they will see the value of these skills.