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 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- Top Mindfulness Tips for Supply/Substitute Teachers

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Being a supply/substitute teacher is not an easy gig. Many times you are walking into an unknown classroom filled with children that may find Ann known teacher distressing or a license to test the behaviour waters. A supply/substitute teacher needs to have a tool kit of quick and easy ways to support calm across the classroom. Many mindfulness activities can do just that!

Here are my Top Mindfulness Tips for Supply/Substitute Teachers:

1- BREATHE! Within the first few minutes, teach the children how to do Deep Mindful Breathing. Start off by explaining you are teaching them how they can trick their brain to believe they are calm. Explain the science of this technique. The strategy can be found here.
(You could even tell them it is a secret trick and show them one of the themed Breathing strategies.)

2- MEDITATION MUSIC Have a USB drive that you have downloaded a significant number of meditation songs or, better yet, download a 3-4 hour meditation music compilation from YouTube. Keep the music handy to play in the background while children are doing independent work. It will help to keep a sense of calm. More about this strategy can be found here.

3- MINDFUL DOODLING  Children are usually told NOT to doodle. Explain to them that this Doodling is special and will help them to remember what they have been taught today (relaxes the mind to allow the learning make connections in the brain. Play the meditation music in the background. The strategy is explained here.

4- MINDFUL LISTENING Explain to the children that the Headteacher/Principal has a special mission for them today. When they hear a special bell ring, they are to stop, close their eyes and just silently listen to all the things they can hear inside and outside the classroom. Then when you say stop, they are to quietly write the sounds down and go back to work. At the end of the day, all the lists are collected and given to the Headteacher/Principal. (You must give to the Headteacher/Principal as the children WILL as them!) You can find a special bell here.

5- GRATITUDE Throughout the day, get the children to stop, take three mindful breaths and silently write one thing they are thankful for on their special GRATITUDE LIST. By the end of the day, the list will be long and filled with happy thoughts. Send it home with the children to share with their parents. More information on Mindful Gratitude can be found here.

Sometimes it is the simple things that have the greatest impact.

Mindfulness In the Classroom – Spread Positivity!

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Sometimes, despite our best efforts in teaching children (and adults) about mindfulness, using mindfulness strategies and being mindful, we forget about it in the times of greatest distress unless it is truly embedded in our minds. This is why I believe it is important to have visual reminders that support that subliminal message to take control of our emotions and believe in ourselves.

This post is a simple one. It is filled with pictures that I have created over the last year that can be copied, saved and made into printable posters for your classroom and across the school. All I ask is that there is some acknowledgement that it came from Education’s Voice. Otherwise, use as is appropriate for you and your school.

Please note, some pictures are more appropriate for staff than children and we MUST NOT forget the adults in our schools! They need reminders as well.

 

 

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Test Taking Tips

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As national testing times begin to draw near in many countries around the world, our attention begins to fall on the stress our children are under during these times. With children as young as 6 years old being tested and scrutinised, we cannot get away from the fact that this is having an effect on their health and wellbeing.

Schools are very good at down playing the testing regime of our youngest children; making it a game and being good at putting our children at ease in a variety of creative ways.

However, as they reach 10-11 years old, there is no disguising the standardised test. Even if down played well by the school, the formality required of the test leaves nothing to the imagination. Then, by secondary school, there is no down playing. The stakes are high and results can begin to determine their future.

Despite our best efforts in preparing for these tests and ensuring they have the right skills to be successful on them, test anxiety can throw a spanner in the works; causing children to react in ways that sabotages their ability to show all they know.

The use of Mindfulness as we support children in preparing for the test can give them the edge to perform to their best ability and not allow the stress to impact on the greater spectrum of life. The lifelong skills of dealing with stress will support them not only for the test but for the general stresses in life.

Mindfulness is not about not having stress. It is about controlling how you react to the stress.

The signs of test anxiety can appear as, but are not limited to, irritability, poor performance despite being highly knowledgeable, distracted, over excited, lack of sleep, loose of appetite, excessive worrying, depression, negative, headaches and stomach pains. You also need to be aware that some children can hide their stress very well and that all academic levels of children can experience the stress, particularly high ability as they can be more acutely aware and put additional pressure on themselves to do well.

So, how can we use mindfulness to support children reduce the stress levels associated with testing so that they can be happier, healthier and perform to their best ability?

Top Mindfulness Test Busting Tips:

Mindfulness practiced should be taught, practiced and used BEFORE the week of the test. If you don’t already use mindfulness strategies in the classroom, you should begin approximately 5-6 weeks before the tests so that it can be effective.

1- Teach them how to breathe. Slow, deep controlled breathing tricks the brain into believing it is calm and reduces cortisol levels which increases our heart rates and puts us in a state of “fight or flight” which is a key feature of anxiety. The key is to exhale longer than you inhale. Get children to sit up, inhale for a count of five, pause and then exhale for a count of eight. Repeat this at least five times. Use this as a part of your everyday practice; at the beginning of the day, during transition times, when you see the class or a child becoming unsettled or before a test or difficult learning task. Explain to the children what Mindful Breathing does and encourage them to use it throughout the day. Be a good model and you use it when needed as well. Show them and have them practice identifying when they are becoming stress and using this simple technique during a test, particularly when they are finding a question difficult or they are becoming overwhelmed. (More on Mindful Breathing can be found here.)

2- Starfish Hand Meditation– This simple but effective meditation combines breathing with the use of touch to refocus and centre the mind thus allowing one to take control of their emotions and calm down. (Find Starfish Hand Meditation instructions here.)

3- Guided Meditations– 10 minutes of meditation can have a dramatic impact on a person’s mental health. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. At first, you will have some children that will find this difficult; staying quiet and focusing on one thing is as hard for some children as it is for some adults. Over time, they will start to relax and meditate in their own way. That is why it is important to develop the practice well before the time for the test. On the day of the test, ensure you allow time for meditation to set the mood of calmness. (Details on how to develop guided meditations in your class and links to free meditations can be found here.)

4- Talk About Their Emotions– Over the period of weeks, give time each week to all children to express how they are feeling and what they are doing to cope with those feelings. Good questions to start discussions are: What emotion are you feeling right now? How does it feel? Is this a good emotion to have in control? How can we change emotions?

5- Mindful Colouring– As teachers, we will feel the growing pressure to use every moment of the school day to focus on the learning and revision the closer we get to the test. However, we need to give children the time to release themselves from this ongoing pressure. Researchers have measured the anxiety levels of children before and after giving time to colour in mandalas and other pattern sheets compared to anxiety levels before and after free form colouring where children draw and colour their own patterns. The time spent colouring pattern sheets showed a significant decrease in anxiety as compared to free form which showed no difference to anxiety levels. The act of colouring allows the brain to relax and focus on one thing; being in the moment of colouring. It allows the brain time to rest and recuperate. (More information on Mindful Colouring can be found here.)

6- Mantra– Have children create individual or class mantras. Combine the mantras with steady, deep mindful breathing will support the development of positive mental attitude and self-belief. Use this as a part of everyday practice and use it just before the testing begins. Have the children create posters and plaster them around the class and school. An example of a class mantra can be found in the picture with this blog. Feel free to print and use as desired.

It is to be reminded that mindfulness is a lifelong skill. Thus,it is to be remembered that we need to develop mindfulness for life long positive mental health and well being. But, we can use key strategies to tackle test anxiety effectively.

Find more strategies here: Mindfulness in the Classroom

Prepare Now for a New Year of Mindfulness

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Ok, so you had the best of intentions to start the academic year mindfully. After a restful summer, you were determined to be mindful. But, before you knew it, you were knee deep in teaching, marking and new policies, all thoughts of mindfulness went out the window.

It happens! That is ok. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Make the development of your own mindfulness and the mindfulness of your class your New Years Resolution.

But, we all know that doing anything cold turkey can be counter productive. So, in preparation for the new Mindful year, get in a little mindfulness practice. Over five days, complete a new part.

Part 1 – Shoulder Relaxation

Part 2 – Mindful Object Meditation

Part 3 – Morning Mindfulnes

Part 4  – STOP Meditation

Part 5 – Meditation

Then, in January, join me for a #MonthOfMindfulness. Keep active in your thoughts and conversations mindfulness strategies. Like all things it takes practice and nurturing. Even if you have practiced mindfulness for a while, refreshing your practice will support your mental well being as well as the mental well being if your class and family.

 

Christmas Mindfulness – Task 3

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As it gets closer to Christmas, the manic scramble continues. For most schools, there is only about a week left until the Christmas holidays. The panic begins to set in as gifts still need to be bought and wrapped, planning sorted for the new year, data concluded for the term, Christmas parties had and the last of the Christmas performances completed.

At the end of the day, there are the tell tale signs of preparations with glitter sticking to every part of your clothes making you twinkle like a star, chocolate wrappers in your pockets crackling like a log fire and coffee stains that remind you of your lack of sleep you had the night before. You are tending to EVERYONE else except for yourself!

This week’s task is to look after yourself! Yes, that is right! In this season of giving, give yourself the gift of personal time. Every day ensure you do something for yourself. It can be as simple as a nice hot chocolate or a hot bubbly bath or it can be a few minutes reading, watching a movie or doing an extra meditation. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just find yourself some time, take some deep breaths and relax into your time.

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.