By Teachers, For Teachers
Many educators are introducing classroom activities involving mindfulness as a way to improve students’ attention and focus, as well as calm their nerves.
If you haven’t heard of mindfulness before, or you have heard of it but are not exactly sure what it is, let’s take a look at what it is all about. In a nutshell, mindfulness is being aware of your present feelings and emotions. You are essentially being “Mindful” of the present moment and using “Mediation” to focus your thoughts. The overall goal of using classroom activities involving mindfulness is to control your mind to bring your thoughts onto the present moment.
There has been a body of scientific research that illustrates the positive effects that mindfulness training has on a child’s mental health and well-being. Besides improving attention and reducing stress, it can also boost a student’s memory and academic performance. In just a few minutes a day, we can help to improve our students’ social and emotional skills, and help them reduce stress and anxiety so they can live a happier, healthier life.
This strong base of research, along with its growing members of supporters, is now spreading through schools across the globe, and has brought together a community that has the potential to make a real difference on our students’ well-being. The mindfulness-in-education movement is sweeping the nation, and it’s time for you to jump on the bandwagon. Here are a few tools to get you started.
There is really no “Right” way to practice mindfulness in your classroom, or any set instructions for you to follow. However, there are a few basic guidelines that you can follow and adapt to your students’ needs.
Start off with 60-second exercises and increase the time as your students gain confidence and experience. You can start by having your students sit quietly and comfortably in their seats with their feet planted on the floor and their hands on their laps. Have them close their eyes and listen to their breath as they breathe in and out. Encourage students to count each breath as they inhale (… 1) and exhale (… 2) to help keep their mind focused, trying to lengthen their breath each time they breathe. Once they get the hang of it, you can increase the amount of time to five or even 15 minutes.
If you feel that some students are reluctant to try this or any of the mindfulness techniques, then try showing them a video about how their brain works. Research shows that when students know more about the brain and how it works, then they have a better understanding of what it can do for them.
According to the Cfchildren.org, “Mind Yeti is a free, easy-to-use guided mindfulness resource designed to help kids calm down, focus themselves in preparation for learning and better connect to themselves and others.” This mobile web app uses animated videos and metaphors to help young children understand complicated concepts. Its interesting soundscapes make mindfulness fun, and children who have used it claim to feel calmer immediately after using it.
Mind Yeti has three distinct sessions that it concentrations on: Calm, focus, and connect. There are four sessions under “Calm” that each last about 3-4 minutes long. This is the best tool for settling your brain (or as they call it your “Hubbub”) by using your breath. There are also four session under the topic “Focus” that each last between 5-6 minutes. This is the best tool for focusing your attention on what’s happening right now. The last topic is called “Connect,” which is a tool to help you find gratitude and kindness for yourself and the world around you. These four sessions last between 3-4 minutes each.
Mind Yeti can help students focus at the beginning of the day or them calm down at the end of the day. It’s a great way for children to focus their attention so that they can be the best learners that they can be.
Headspace is another great tool to use in the classroom. This app offers ten free sessions that your students can use over and over again, or you can purchase a subscription for $12.99 a month or $94.99 a year. Honestly, the ten free sessions are all your students really need. However, it is well worth the price tag if you want more specific sessions like how to treat depression, anxiety, etc.
Children will like the simple visualization exercises, along with the graphics and videos that go along with it. However, the sessions last from anywhere to 10-15 minute, so it is recommended that children who have experience with mindfulness mediation use this app. If students are just beginning to learn about mindfulness, then Mind Yeti would be a great tool to introduce this concept. Once students get the hang of it, then they can move onto the Headspace app.
Science has shown that taking a few minutes a day to mediate can have a profound effect on your mental health and overall well-being. It is a great tool to teach students now when they are young, because it is something that they can take with them and use forever.
Do you use mindfulness in your classroom? What are your thoughts about it? Please share your comments in the section below, we would love to heat what you have to say.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.