Book Review – What’s Going On Inside My Head? By: Molly Potter

The importance of children’s Mental Health has been hitting the mainstream of societal concerns. The importance in developing positive mental health strategies is now being seen by parents, carers, educators and health care practitioners as a basic life skill. But, sometimes we can find it hard to explain to children what positive mental health is all about.

Molly Potter has created an amazing book that breaks down positive mental health into its different aspects in a child friendly way. Each chapter focuses on a different area of positive mental health in terms that are not over simplified but in a way that helps children grasp mental health concepts that can support them for life. Each two paged chapter is beautifully illustrated by Sarah Jennings and opens up discussions between parent/carer/educator that allows children to learn more about what is happening inside their head in 12 individualised areas. Everything from, “How should I think about myself? to “What do I do with emotions?” to How can I improve my thinking habits?” are a part of this book. Finally, there is a three page section on “Guidance for parents and carers” that provides tips for supporting positive mental health and help develop resilience.

This is definitely a book every home and school should have and use to support the development of positive mental health in children.

This book can be bought at Bloomsbury: https://www.bloomsbury.com/au/whats-going-on-inside-my-head-9781472959232/

or Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whats-Going-Inside-Head-conversations/dp/147295923X/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=Molly+Potter&qid=1559470260&s=gateway&sr=8-5

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#MindfulFocusChallenge- Day 13: Hand Washing Exercise

Many psychologists believe that our emotions begin with a physical sensation, positive or negative. When we focus on positive sensations that are calming, we can emotionally become calm.

Today, our mindfulness practice will focus on positive physical sensations to mindfully be in the moment and anchor us in the present.

Washing Hands Meditation

When we wash our hands in warm water, it opens the blood vessels and tricks your brain out of a stressful state.

– When you go to wash your hands, be mindful of the sensation of the water and soap as your rub your palms, between your fingers and on top of your hands. Breath deeply allowing your breathing enhance the feel of water and soap.

– How does this moment feel?

– How is it making the rest of your body feel?

Repeat every time you wash your hands today.

Respond in the comments, tweet us @Ed_Tmprince or respond on our Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ with #MindfulFocusChallege and let us know how you found this strategy.

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.

 

How To Start Developing Mindfulness in the Classroom

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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 50+ strategies to try and then there is my book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom published by Bloomsbury Publishing in October 2017 that can be found here: http://tiny.cc/TPMindfulness

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/ .

8- Check out my Book by Bloomsbury Publishing, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom. Finout more about the book here: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/the-book/

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

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mini Meditations

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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

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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.

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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!

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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!

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Laughter

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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.

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 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!