100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom

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This week is the release of my book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom, published by Bloomsbury. On the 19th October 2017, copies will hit the letterboxes of everyone who pre-ordered and the next step of my journey in supporting Mindfulness development in schools will begin.

The idea regarding the development of Mindfulness in the Classroom was not born out of the desire to write a book. It grew out of a frustration regarding a lack of mental health support for children and staff. My own research and development of Mindfulness in myself has grown from those first small steps to this blog, www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com, promotion of mental health on Twitter ( @Ed_Tmprince ), Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ) and now the book.

The foundation of the book is to integrate Mindfulness as part of the school day, taking into account the needs of the class and aiming to develop positive mental health skills for ALL children in the class, including ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. Also, a key priority of this book (as has been with the blog) is that the strategies cost no to little money to implement and that it compliments the blog.

Initial reviews have been extremely positive.

“Full of practical activities, there is something for everyone here – even the sceptic. With clear links to different curriculum areas, mindful practice can easily be embedded using the ideas in this book. A great starters’ guide to mindfulness.” –  Aidan Severs, Member of Primary School Senior Leadership Team, @theboycanteach

“This is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to weave mindfulness into the fabric of their primary classroom and practice. Full of practical, ready-to-go ideas, and so simple to use, it’s a must-read for the mindful teacher.” –  Sam Collins, Teacher and Founder of Schoolwell, @samschoolstuff

“The ideas and suggestions in this book are easy for any teacher to use and adapt, regardless of how long they have been practicing mindfulness. We thoroughly enjoy the variety of activities and use them both in whole school and class mindfulness sessions. A wonderful resource that should be part of every classroom.” –  Ellen Glynn, Mindfulness Coordinator

You can order the book now in most countries. Here are some links:

Bloomsbury (UK)- https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/100-ideas-for-primary-teachers-mindfulness-in-the-classroom-9781472944955/

Amazon (UK)- https://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ideas-Primary-Teachers-Mindfulness/dp/147294495X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507960609&sr=1-1&keywords=tammie+prince

Amazon (USA)- https://www.amazon.com/100-Ideas-Primary-Teachers-Mindfulness/dp/147294495X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507960662&sr=8-1&keywords=tammie+prince

Fishpond (Australia)- https://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/100-Ideas-for-Primary-Teachers-Tammie-Prince/9781472944955

Book Depository (worldwide)- https://www.bookdepository.com/100-Ideas-for-Primary-Teachers-Mindfulness-Classroom-Tammie-Prince/9781472944955

Get your book today and let me know what you think!

Inhale… Exhale… And begin!

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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.

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Mindful Facial Massages

 

DesignThe development of mindfulness has, at its heart, the reduction of stress hormone levels. Teaching children a number of Mindfulness strategies allows children to find the ones that best meets their needs and successfully reduces their stress and anxiety.

Massage and the power of touch is naturally relaxing and is a way to reduce these stress hormones. Maria Hernandez-Reid is a researcher at the Touch Research Institute. She says that the lowering of stress hormones not only reduces the feelings of anxiety but also supports a healthier immune system.

Here are some simple personal facial massages that children and adults can do to support their own mindfulness.

Before you begin:

– Ensure that hands have been washed well.
– Play gentle meditation music in the background.
– Sit or lay down comfortably.
– Take some deep mindful breaths to kick start the relaxation

Chin Massage
– Use your index and middle finger of each hand.
– Begin at the top of your jaw near your ears on both sides at the same time and move in a small circular motion five times.
– Move your fingers down the jaw line and move then in a circular motion five times.
– Repeat the motions as you move down the jaw bone towards the chin.
– At the point of the chin, use one set of fingers and repeat the circular motion five times.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Eyebrow Massage
– Use your thumb and index finger on each hand.
– Begin at the area between your eyebrows and softly pinch for a count of five.
– Move your fingers outwards over your eyebrows and, again, softly pinch for a count of fives.
– Repeat the motions as you move towards the temples.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Ear Massage
– Use your entire hand and cup the top of each of your ears and gently squeeze for a count of five.
– Move down the ears, continuing to gently squeeze for a count of five.
– Finish by placing your thumbs in the dent behind the bottom of your ear lobe (where it joins your face) and apply gentle pressure for a count of five.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

Cat’s Whiskers Massage
– Use your three middle fingers of each hand and make a W.
– Place the fingers on either side of your mouth, applying gentle pressure.
– Gently sweep your fingers across the face with gentle pressure as if you were drawing cat’s whiskers.
– Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.

You can use one massage or a combination of massages. Try out a variety of ways to find what best fits you and your class.
Top tip: Encourage deep, even mindful breathing during all of the massages and have them focus on the feel of their fingers against their skin.

If you like this, try Mindful Head Massage.

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Using Play Dough Part 2


In Mindfulness in the Classroom – Using Play Dough Part 2 , we continue to explore ideas of using Play Dough to develop mindfulness in the classroom that we began in Part 1.


Worry Stones

How to Make a Worry Stone:

– Give each child a small ball of dough. A good option at this point is to do a Play Dough Meditation outlined in Part 1.
– Get each child to slightly flatten the ball into the palm of the hand.

– They then place the slightly flattened ball on the table and press their thumb into the centre leaving a thumb sized indention.

– With damp finger tips, softly smooth the edges and cracks.

– Air Dry for 3 days or Oven Dry for 20 minutes at 200c

– Decorate as desired or leave more plain and Stone like.

– Coat with a thin layer of Modge Podge or PVC Glue. Repeat. (This will seal and give a smooth surface to the worry stone.

How to Use the Worry Stone:

Hold the stone between the index finger and thumb and gently move your thumb back and forth across the stone. While doing this, take deep, slow belly breaths focusing on the feel of the stone in your hand and the feel of the air as you inhale and exhale.


Finger Labyrinth 

How to Make a Finger Labyrinth from Play Dough:

You will need:

– large ball of Play Dough and a smaller ball of Play Dough

– Large piece of aluminium foil or wax/baking paper

– Rolling pin

– Photo/ print out of a finger Labyrinth you would like to make

How to Make a Finger Labyrinth:

– Take a larger ball of Play Dough and flatten into a large, thin round circle on a piece of aluminium foil or wax baking paper.

– Following the photo or print out, trace out the design into the dough

– Break off smaller pieces of the small ball and continue to roll out into a thin string and place on the lines drawn, applying pressure to join the dough and smooth the surfaces.

– With damp finger tips, smooth all edges.

– Air Dry for 3-4 days or combine OvenDry/Air Dry by oven drying for 15 minutes at 200c and then allow to air Dry for 1-2 days.

– Once dried, seal with two coats of Modge Podge or thin PVC glue.

How to use a Finger Labyrinth:

Take deep breaths to begin to relax and focus on the entrance to the labyrinth.

-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.

-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.

-“Walk” to the centre of the labyrinth and rest momentarily, taking deep breaths observing how you are feeling.

-Retrace your path out of the labyrinth.

-Sit back, breathe deeply and relax. Observe how you are feeling again.


Stone Tower Stones

Stacking stones to make towers have a very meditative quality as children concentrate to balance the stones. It gives children the opportunity to be quiet, think and focus just on what they are doing. Their silent fixed attention is fully in the moment of balancing the stones.

Traditionally, natural stones would be the preferable option. However, children will enjoy making their own “stones” and when connected to the Play Dough Meditation in Part 1 allows children to also use their own creativity.

Materials required:

– Give each child a ball of dough. You can use a variety of colours and even swirl a few colours together.

– While listening to calm meditation music, have the children make a variety of sizes and shapes.

– Allow to air Dry for 3-4 days. You can seal with Modge Podge or PVC glue or leave rough.

How to Build Stone Towers:

– 
 A collection of “stones” of different sizes, ensure that a large amount have some flatness on each side. But also include a variety of colours and roundness.
– A few pictures of stone towers so that children get the idea of the task and a challenge, “How many stones can you use to make a tower?”
– A place to do the building
– Optional: a camera so the child can take a picture of their tower or paper and pencils so they can make a sketch of their finished tower.
These are just a few examples of how Play Dough can be used to facilitate mindfulness in the classroom. What activities have you used that are successful?

Read Mindfulness in the Classroom – Using Play Dough Part 1 

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Using Play Dough Part 1

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Play Dough has been known for its therapeutic properties. The squishing and pounding, pinching and moulding provides a Kinesthetic/ kinaesthetic learning opportunity that can be used to enhance the development of mindfulness.

Over the next two posts, I will outline how to make your own play dough and ways of using the play dough in mindful practice.

Play Dough Recipe

  • 2 cups/ 260 g flour
  • 1 cup/ 130 g salt
  • 1 cup/ 235 ml water
  • Optional: food Colouring, essential oils or spices

Mix flour, salt and water together to form a dough. If the dough is too dry add a few drops of water. If the dough is too wet, add a little bit of flour.

Optional: once dough is formed add extras as desired; 2-3 drops of food colouring, 2-3 drops of essential oil or 1-2 teaspoons of fragrant spices.

Keep the dough covered when not in use as it will begin to air dry.

Calming essential oils: lavender, rose, chamomile, clary sage

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Play Dough Meditation

  • Set the scene by having all the children find a comfortable sitting position and put on some calming meditation music.
  • Give each child a small ball of the play dough and instruct them NOT to play with it, roll it or squish it.
  • Once everyone has their Play Doh, begin the meditation. Have them take three deep belly breaths.
    • Instruct them to look at the Play Dough. Getting them to notice the urge to squeeze it.
    • Is the Play Dough hot, warm or cold?
    • How would you describe the colour of the Play Dough?
    • Have the children move it from hand to hand. Does the shape change?
    • Notice the smell of the Play Dough.
    • Push a finger into the Play Dough. Can you see your finger print? What does it look like?
    • Then instruct the children to continue to squeeze, roll and make into shapes. Remind them to concentrate only on the Play Dough, how it feels in their hands and the smell of dough.
  • Complete the meditation by having the children take three deep, belly breaths.

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Play Dough Mandala

The word, mandala, is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit that means “circle”. The circle is the basis of a design that has intricate geometric shapes that draws attention to the centre and inspires quiet contemplation.

To make a mandala each child will require:

  • A ball of Play Dough
  • A selection of seeds, beans, flowers and shells to create the mandala
  • Wax/Baking Paper
  • Picture samples of Mandalas

How to Make a Play Dough Mandala:

Roll out the ball of dough so that it makes a circle on a piece of wax/baking paper.

  • Using the selection of seeds, beans, flowers and shells, create a design by pushing the items into the dough. I suggest that they begin with the centre and slowly continue to create circular designs working your way outwards.
  • When finished allow to air dry for 3-4 days or oven dry at a temperature of 200c for 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully, as the dough can sometimes begin to rise. If it does, remove from the oven, using a dry dish towel, lightly press down to flatten the mandala. Allow to cool and complete air drying if required.
  • Once the mandala is dry, cover in a coating of Modge Podge or PVC glue to seal.

The mandalas can now be used as part of a Mandala Meditation.

Note: Younger children may not fully grasp the circular patterns of mandalas and the designs may be more chaotic. That is fine. It is their designs.

 

Mandala Meditation

    • Play a selection of meditation music for the length of time you want the children to meditate. Usually this is one minute per year of age, ie 6 years old= 6 minutes
    • Children are to sit comfortably and take three deep belly breaths.
    • They are to look at the mandala, focusing on the centre of the design while still breathing at a steady rate.
    • Gently guide the children in a soft voice, letting them know it is ok for their gaze to wonder to other parts of the mandala, noticing the designs, colours and ways the lines meet each other. As the meditation comes towards the end, encourage them to focus back on the centre.
    • In the last 30 seconds of the meditation, have the children close their eyes and get them to recreated the design in their mind, continuing even, steady breaths.
    • Complete the meditation with three deep mindful belly breaths.

 

For more uses of Play Dough in Mindfulness, read Part 2 coming soon.

 

 

 

5 Minute Mindfulness Strategy – Releasing Emotions

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Stress is a part of life. It always has been and it always will be. Trying to find mindfulness strategies to minimise how we react to stress is the key to life-long peace and well-being. The younger we are, the better we will be able to cope with what life gives us and use it to our advantage.

When we are stressed, our emotions overwhelm us. These emotions fight for attention and send our heart rates speeding. The emotions demand attention.

This simple 5 minute mindfulness strategy is a modified Japanese relaxation technique which allows us to give focused attention to various emotions in order to achieve peace and mindful relaxation.

This technique is appropriate for children and adults and requires only your hands and a quiet place.

How to:

Each of the fingers are associated with different feelings or attitudes.
* Thumb: Helps combat emotions like worry and anxiety.
* Index: Can help combat fear.
* Middle: Helps control anger and indignation.
* Ring: Emotions of sadness and depression; helps you to be more decisive.
* Pinky: Helps to calm anxiety, increases optimism.
Using the opposite hand, apply pressure to each finger by holding it tightly, focusing on that emotion and allowing yourself to release the negative energy of that emotion. Allow yourself to be a peace with the emotion without judging yourself. Breathe deeply for 15 breaths as you focus and release. You will begin to notice your pulse in the finger being held.

Complete the meditation, by applying gentle circular pressure to the palm of your hand as you smile and prepare for the rest of the day.

The key to this strategy is that you acknowledge your emotions, you give them some time that they demand. But, you control the way in which they are acknowledged and then put them to rest.