It's officially spring now, which means summer is finally on the horizon. In the classroom, that means students (and let's be honest, teachers as well) are counting down the days! This is the time of year where students can act out a bit more, lose focus and motivation, and give teachers a hard time. And teachers can start to feel frustrated and tired. The energy in the classroom could sure use a boost, right?
Mindfulness can provide such a boost. Present-moment focused activities can increase mood and motivation by pulling everyone into the now, away from fantasizing about summertime and back into the flow of learning.
So how can a teacher provide such activities during a busy day in the classroom? We recommend building in a brief (even 2 minutes is enough), daily “mindfulness break” and designing it so that it feels like a special time during school. This can be done, for instance, by asking students to move their chair away from the desk or sitting somewhere else in the room, away from the desks and chairs.
When is the best time to practice mindfulness in the classroom? Mid-day would be an ideal time as this is when kids tend to get a little restless. Of course you can tailor this into your classroom routine anytime it feels appropriate to you.
Here are a few quick exercises that can help kids learn to become more present, ease their frustration with the school day, and reset their brains for success:
1. Deep Breathing – ask the children to breathe in through their nose while counting “ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5” then breathe out of their mouth with their lips pursed in an “O” shape while counting “5, 4, 3, 2, 1”. For older kids, it helps to explain the purpose of this” while the brain is focusing on counting, it doesn't think as much about bad or challenging things.
2. Ocean Breathing – same type of breathing as above, but better with younger kids: ask the children to breathe in through their nose and breathe out with purse lips in an “O” shape, pointing out how the breath sounds like ocean waves. Have the children close their eyes while breathing and imagine being on a beach. Let them know they can go to this “beach” anytime!
3. Sensory Feeling – ask the children to choose from some small objects such as sea shells, stones, putty, or anything else that might have an interesting texture or shape. . Have them split into partners or small groups. Ask them to hold the object in their hands, close their eyes, and spend a minute or two noticing how the object feels. Ask them to describe the temperature, texture, shape, weight, hardness/softness, etc.
Mindfulness activities during the school day helps kids (and adults) to relieve anxiety, reduce restless feelings from sitting, provides a brain break, and re-energizes everyone to finish the day strong. Look for more such activities in my future newsletters and posts.