Benefits of mindfulness

Cognitive benefits: executive function is a set of mental skills that constitutes attention, switching focus, planning, organizing and remembering details. Research shows improvements in behavioural regulation and metacognition.

Social benefits: deficits and excesses in social behaviour can affect learning, understanding, and the classroom climate. Mindfulness incorporated into the classroom can lead to better participation in activities and foster care and respect for others.

Emotional benefits: emotional problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression can affect self-esteem, performance, and social interaction in students. Recent findings suggest mindfulness practice gives the ability to manage stress. A study by Schonert-Reichl and his colleagues, mindfulness practice leads to higher scores on self-report measures of optimism and positive emotions in elementary school students.

Incorporating mindfulness

As a teacher you know that every child is different. Every child learns differently, and every child will feel differently throughout the day. A great starter activity for each day when the students come in at the bell is to have them sit on top of their desks, criss cross apple sauce, having them take deep breaths. Talking to them about how today is a different and new day, anything that happened yesterday doesn’t matter anymore, we start fresh. Walking them through what their day is going to look like (reading the day plan) is an excellent way to knock down some of the anxiety some students may have about not knowing what they are doing.  This simple step at the beginning of each day can help to calm students down from whatever they have brought into the classroom with them.

Other ways to incorporate mindfulness into your classroom may be:

taking a mindful break: this can be anything from a quick stand up and stretch break, or a go noodle dance break. Breaking up the times that students are sitting in their desks for so long is an awesome way for kids to become present again in what they are learning.

mindful listening: my favourite mindful listening task is the dinging of a bell. You start off by telling students to close their eyes and focus on their breathing, you ring the bell and let it run out. Before the second time that you ring the bell, you tell your students to try and listen to the sound for as long as they can hear it.

checking in with your attention: throughout the day while you are teaching, be able to stop your class in the middle of a lesson and have students check in with their attention. Ask students: are you paying attention? Was your mind wandering? If so, where did it wander to? Be sure to let your students know that your mind can wander and it is a normal thing.

mindful ending: leaving a little time at the end of each day for a mindful moment can be great for closures. Have students think about what they have learned or what they have accomplished, and giving them time for their systems to calm down before the bell rings.

why mindfulness?

My sponsor teacher last year was really into incorporating mindfulness into her classroom. Whether it was just playing peaceful music quietly in the background while the students did their work, or sitting on the carpet taking mindful breaths and listening to a chime before starting a new activity.  Students seemed to really grasp the idea and I believe that even if they were just doing it to impress the teacher, it obviously was having an effect on their well-being. I think that mindfulness in a classroom is most helpful with anxiety or disruptive behaviour.

Letting the students have extra time to wind down from one activity and transitioning into another by sitting peacefully and focusing on their breaths, gives them that time to think about how they may need to recharge or how they may better themselves for the next activity.

Here is a link to a starter lesson on mindful listening.