Mindfulness in the Classroom- Every Little Bit Counts

Design

This past week has been a busy one for many Primary schools across England. It is collectively known as SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) Week for Year 6 children. The instructions for giving the tests are strict and must be given at specific times on specific days. Over a period of four days they take six different tests. Anyone who works in a primary school or is a parent of a Year 6 child, will know about the overwhelming stress that this puts on the children; particularly as they have become much harder over the last few years.

This year has been no different, except that I felt helpless with supporting the Year 6 children at my new school. The tests were scheduled for my third week of school! The school had not been teaching any of the strategies for mindfulness and it made me sad that I may not be able to help this group of children properly prepare themselves mentally to face the challenges the tests would present.

After some discussion with the class teacher, I decided to teach the children a few basic mindfulness strategies.

First, we discussed how they were feeling about the tests, considering the emotions that were attached to these feelings and how our body responds. Of course, what they told me was of no surprise; nervous, scared and anxious. We discussed how this was normal and then I explained what was happening in their body with the brain triggering stress hormones to set off the primitive “fight or flight” response. I then asked them if they would like to trick their mind and body into believing it was clam. They whole heartedly agreed.

We discussed three basic strategies:
(Click on each strategy to take you to details of the strategy.)

1- Basic Deep Mindful Breathing– Including the One Minute Meditation
2- Starfish Meditation– To support those more active and sensory based children
3- Guided Meditation, particularly Visualisation- We used The Magic Shell Meditation in full and used their “magic shells” each day of testing to hold on to their worries and concerns during the testing so the wouldn’t bother them.

During the testing week, in the morning before the tests began, I spent time on the first two days of the tests with the class, supporting them through some breathing and visualisation exercises they had learned. On day three and four, I was unable to do this because Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) decided it was time to inspect the school (In my third week at the school! This is were my own mindfulness was significantly used and will be featured in another article.). However, the staff had paid close attention to my modelling and continued to use the strategies with the children the last two mornings.

The result?
I will let the children explain. (I received these letters and cards.)

Will this positively impact on their final results? I am not sure. It was only a few weeks. But, I do know that they have quickly learned a life long skill that has supported their mental health and well-being this past week and, with that success, many will continue to use the strategies as they move into secondary school.

Mindfulness, every little bit counts!

Christmas Mindfulness – Task 2

Design.png

The Christmas trees are being decorated, the cards are being made, the gifts are being wrapped and the Christmas songs are being sung.

The chaos that makes up this time of the year can be exciting and stressful. There is no time like this time of the year where the pace is full steam ahead and our energy levels are dwindling quickly. All the jolliness and festive mood can effect us and our children in more ways than we can count; some good and some not so good.

When we are mindful, we learn that it is ok to have the emotions that are swirling around in our heads.  What matters most is how we react to those swirling emotions. This week we will continue on our Christmas Mindfulness journey together!

This week’s task is to JUST BREATHE! Use the holiday season for conscious moments of calm and peace of mind. Find moments to take three conscious breaths a day. Each day, choose a different focus for those breaths. It could be to notice a certain colour during the breaths, smell, sound, etc. Take a moment to just enjoy what is happening around you!

Extra: Developing Mindfulness in the Classroom this month could also same your sanity.  Why not try some simple strategies that will calm the children and bring the gift of mindfulness into their lives.

Mindfulness in The Classroom – Mindful Singing

image
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 Beginning Part 4 STOP Meditation

image
Developing mindfulness has a lot to do with shifting of perspectives. We have some deeply laid neuropathways that allow us to fall into a habit of reactions. We don’t even realise we are reacting; we just do it. Those automatic responses more deeply ingrain responses; many which are negative or destructive to our own health and well-being.

when we are working with children, we can get easily caught up in their emotions, upset, anxiety and frustrations. A vicious cycle can put you on edge and creates reactions devoid of all mindfulness.

You need to focus on changing that perspective and challenging your response

So, if the day is starting to get on top of you, try this quick and easy strategy.

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.

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.

You may want to make a few copies of the photo with the acronym and put it in key places as a gentle reminder for giving yourself a mindful moment.

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

image

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

image.png

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- Day 20 – Developing Mindfulness in Children

Pebble meditation.PNG

Hands-on and creative mindful activities that involve both tangible objects and nature allows for a playful and fun activity that encourages mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh developed this specific meditation, Pebble Meditation,  for children that engages the mind, develops gratitude, relieves stress, increases concentration and helps children deal with emotions.

How to do a Pebble Meditation:

    1. Have your child collect four pebbles, rocks or shells before the meditation. (This could be part of a Mindful Walk.) Ensure that have something to store their pebbles in so that the meditation can be redone as often as desired.
    2. They are to sit up straight and relax; placing the four pebbles in front of them.
    3. The child picks up the first pebble and says, “Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh. Flower, fresh “(3 breaths). The words “flower, fresh” are repeated quietly for three in and out breaths. Repeat with the three other pebbles.
    4. Breathing in I see myself as a mountain, breathing out, I feel solid.” Mountain, solid. (3 breaths)
    5. Breathing in I see myself as still, clear water, breathing out, I reflect things as they really are.” Clear water, reflecting. (3 breaths)
    6. Breathing in I see myself as space, breathing out, I feel free.” Space, free. (3 breaths)

 

Top Tips:

  • You can start and end the meditation with the ringing of a bell or chime.
  • As your child learns the meditation, they can lead the others in the meditation.

 

Further resources to go with the Pebble Meditation can be found here:

 

  • After they become confident in this meditation, encourage your child to come up with their own meditation for the four pebbles, ie loving kindness, gratitude, friends, etc.