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 is featured HERE.). 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!

#21DaysOfSummerMindfulness Challenge -Day 3 – Developing Mindfulness in Children

Day 3

One important aspect of mindfulness in children is diverting them from the negative habit of crying, wringing of hands, screaming or whatever unhelpful habit they use in stressful situations to a positive, calming and reflective habit.

One simple strategy that seems to work for lots of children is the Starfish Hand Meditation. It is a great way to divert and refocus the mind.

Today’s challenge is the Starfish Hand Meditation.

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How to:

1- Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

2- Spread your fingers out like a starfish on one hand.

3- Take your index finger from the other hand and trace around your fingers and hand; taking deep breaths and exhaling fully as they trace.
As you do this, concentrate on only how it feels and let other thoughts float away.

4- Continue until you feel relaxed and calm.

Top Tips:

– I usually tell children to breathe in when they trace up a finger and breathe out when they trace down the finger.

– I also tell children to slightly linger and push a little harder when they get to the webbing between the thumb and index finger. This point is considered the acupuncture point called Union Valley. By stimulating this point, it is suppose to help reduce muscle tension and relieve stress

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– It is important that you share these strategies, if possible, when the child is in a calm state and practice in a calm state. Then encourage its use when signs of distress appear.

Encourage your child to do it whenever they are feeling anxious, upset, mad, etc.

Once they are calm, discuss how this strategy made them feel. How did their body feel? How long did it take to calm down.

This is one strategy I have witnessed children and ADULTS using with consistency and independently after only showing and trying the strategy once.
Don’t forget to share your child’s #mindfulmoment and successes in the comments, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).
Note: In order to give proper credit, I researched where this specific meditation came from. It was adapted from the Five-Finger Meditation credited to Mike Bell (pp. 87-88 in Planting Seeds).