How To Start Developing Mindfulness in the Classroom

image.png

You have made the decision to try teaching mindfulness in your classroom. What do you do next?

1- Take the time to consider your own mindfulness. My personal action research shows that the greatest impact in the development of a child’s mindfulness is the development of the teacher’s mindfulness. This doesn’t mean you need to be an expert. But, it does mean even a rudimentary understanding of how it supports your own well being will allow you the experience to explain it to children.

Have a look at the posts Teacher and Leader Mindfulness or take the #MonthOfMindfulness Challenge. These are great starting points. Also, follow me on this blog, on Twitter, @Ed_Tmprince, and/or on Facebook, https://m.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ . I post lots of ideas to support adults and children a like.

2- Read through the Mindfulness in the Classroom Series. Here you will find approximately 30 of the ideas that are coming in my forthcoming book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom being published by Bloomsbury Publishing in 2017.

3- Choose a couple of mindfulness techniques you feel comfortable with, introduce them to your class and start using the. Have the strategy be part and parcel of your classroom practice. Practice it when they are calm and encourage its use when they are not.

My suggestion is that the first strategy taught and used on a daily basis is the breathing as this forms the basis of several strategies. Basic deep breathing is an easy strategy to teach and encourage through regular classroom practice.

I also suggest about 30 minutes of mindful practice a week which comes to 6 minutes a day. I also suggest that there is at least one guided meditation per week.

4- As you and your class get comfortable, add in new strategies.

Top Tips:

1- This is not a one off. You have to keep at it every day. Some teachers see immediate change and some take a few weeks. This is not a race. These are life long skills that requires a remodelling of thought processes and reactions.

2- Not every strategy will work with every child. That is ok! You will find the same with yourself. If it doesn’t seem to work, move on to a new strategy.

3- Be very clear about the strategies you are teaching them and why. Explain what you are doing and explain the science of it as well. Encourage them to support each other and YOU when they see upset, anger, sadness, anxiety, etc.

4- Let others working with your children know that when they are in the classroom, you are using these strategies and encouraging their use. It can seem a little odd or even naughty to see a child take themselves off to a quiet area, shake a glitter bottle (mind jar) and start doing deep breathing.

5- Let the children see YOU being mindful when required! Modelling the strategies when YOU need them is very powerful!

6- Mindfulness should be taught to a class as a whole and not just to vulnerable groups of children. ALL children need these life skills and when they see it is just a normal thing to do, they will all start doing it and it will have the impact you desire.

7- If all else fails, you need support, want training for yourself or your school or you want to share your successes, contact me through this blog, via Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or through my Facebook page, Education’s Voice- Mindfulness at https://m.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ .

CNow, take a deep breath and give it a try!

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mini Meditations

image

Clinical psychologists from the University of Sheffield have discovered young children’s concentration in class can be significantly improved by introducing mindfulness sessions into their school timetable.

When we think of mindfulness, many times our thoughts go directly to formal meditations. Guided meditations can be an integral part of developing a mindfulness practice; but you can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing their attention on the moment to moment sensations of individual activities. Doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention allows a person to slow down the process and be fully present in the moment as it unfolds and allowing recognition of all senses.

Two Informal Mindfulness Activities

image

Building Stone Towers

Stone Tower Building is like a mini-meditation. 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.

Materials required:
– 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.

image

Chopstick Challenge

This activity is a bit more advance require greater concentration and skill as they have to focus not on the balancing of objects to build a tower but to also manipulate chopsticks to move and stack the objects.

Materials required:

– I bought a ready made kit from The Works (http://www.theworks.co.uk/p/games-puzzles/wooden-chopstick-challenge/5052089164628).

-However, it would be easy to make your own kit which includes a set of chopsticks and small building blocks.
-A few pictures so that children get the idea of the task and a challenge, “How many blocks can you use to make a tower?”
– A place to do the building.

Top Tip for Both Activities

– Remind children to practice active, slow, deep breathing when they are stacking.
– To keep calm, remind the children that if the tower falls, to close their eyes, take three mindful breaths and start again.

Both of these activities require complete focus in the moment and supports the on-going development of mindfulness.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- It Can Make a Difference!

Mindful Thoughts.png

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!

mindfulness 2

mindfulness 1.png

 

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!

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Laughter

laughter2

About ten years ago I was appointed as a Deputy Head Teacher of a school that was in the mist of massive and constant change. The school had persistent and changing challenges which generated a great amount of stress. During that time, I did learned a lot. It shaped my leadership style in ways that a less challenging school would never have done.

laughter1

 I was lucky enough to have an amazing Acting Head Teacher (AHT) at the time and together we tackled more obstacles in one day than most schools tackled in a week or even a month. The work was exhausting! But, the AHT and I had an interesting way of relieving the stress and not letting the challenges get to us, we LAUGHED!

I never laughed so hard than I did on some of the hardest days at this school. It wasn’t those soft little giggles. It was full on, wet your pants, coming deep from the belly and not letting you catch your breath kind of laughs. I am sure those laughs rang through the corridors, much to the disturbance of some of the staff.

On one occasion, a teacher at the end of his career and fed up with the changes happening around him, told the two of us off during a staff meeting for our laughter. He couldn’t understand what we had to laugh about. We quickly told him that we HAD to laugh because, if we didn’t, we would cry. This, of course, was proceeded by our loud laughter ahd his stern look!

Laughter was a lesson I happily took with me to my headship a year later. I was determined that our school would be a school filled with laughter as I knew that laughter brought more laughter and with that a happy attitude can be born even in the most dire times.

So, you can imagine my immense joy when I came across the amazing act of Laughter Yoga!

The website http://laughteryoga.org/english/home states, “It intends to generate mindfulness wherein people become aware of others and become more considerate and selfless. The laughter exercises are in fact less physical in nature and more of a social benefit as engaging with people is an enjoyable thing and leads to a network of sharing and caring people.”  

Laughter Yoga itself is simple, it encompasses clapping, playful exercises, deep breathing and, of course, laughter. The creator, Dr Madan Katari, explains the basic exercise along with variations in this video:

He has identified the benefits of laughter through scientific research as:

-Good Mood and More Laughter: Endorphins are release almost immediately upon the commencement of laughter.

-Healthy Exercise to Beat Stress: Laughter Yoga is like an aerobic exercise.

-Health Benefits: Reduces the stress and strengthens the immune system.

-Quality of Life: Laughter is a positive energy which helps people to connect with other people quickly and improves relationships.

-Positive Attitude in Challenging Times : Laughter helps to create a positive mental state to deal with negative situations and negative people. It gives hope and optimism to cope with difficult times.

People who have tried the exercises say that the fake laughter quickly turns into real laughter. The infectious quality of the ring of laughter begets more laughter. Once again, positivity begets positivity.

Somehow, my AHT and I instinctively knew that, in order to survive the challenges we faced, we HAD to laugh. We had cultivated a strong mindfulness strategy that still rings through the corridors of my school today.

This is a wonderfully fun way to develop mindfulness in your classroom, your school and in your life!

So, what are you waiting for? Let the laughter ring!

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

image

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

#PositivePostItDay – A Growing Mindfulness

IMG_3961

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

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender[1]

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

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

IMG_3977.PNG

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

FullSizeRender[3]

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

FullSizeRender

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

FullSizeRender[1] FullSizeRender[2]

 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

 IMG_3853

IMG_3857

IMG_3854

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- Finger Labyrinth Meditation

 lab1b

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?

11597110-large

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?

l-7bwbig

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.

150361_457330827389_683592389_5349828_8251244_nChildren01 P9150183

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.