As students get older, it is easier for them to understand mindfulness. While they are more likely to understand mindfulness, intermediate students may be more reluctant to participate in it. For this reason, I recommend demonstrating a variety of mindfulness activities so that each student can find what works for them. I think that a good activity to start with is Mindfulness and the art of chocolate eating (the chocolate can be replaced with raisins if you wish to use a healthier option.) While students enjoy a treat, they begin to learn and practice the foundations of mindfulness. This website offers several other activities for children at this age. It is important to choose activities that give students something to focus on. Whether you use chocolate eating, breathing buddies, or any other activity that you find, it will serve as an anchor. Students focus on their anchor so that their minds wander less frequently. Keep in mind that mindfulness takes practice. It isn’t reasonable to expect your students to be able to stay focused on the activities for more than a minute at first. With guidance and practice, they will be able to keep their thoughts in the moment for longer periods of time and quickly bring them back when they begin to wander.
“Mindfulness and the Art of Chocolate Eating.” Meditation in Schools , MindSpace , http://www.meditationinschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Mindfulness-and-the-Art-of-Chocolate-Eating.pdf.
Roman, Kaia. “7 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids Mindfulness.” Mindbodygreen, 2 Apr. 2015, http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18136/7-fun-ways-to-teach-your-kids-mindfulness.html.
Mindfulness can be a difficult topic to introduce to young children; however there are many books available that explain it in a way that makes sense to them. One book that provides a good starting point for incorporating mindfulness into your classroom is I am Peace by Susan Verde with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds. It starts with a young child who says that they feel “like a boat with no anchor” and that “there are times when I worry about what might happen next and what happened before.” When reading this book to your students, it would be useful to stop for discussion and ask students if they ever feel this way and what causes these feelings. Encouraging students to make connections to the story will help help them to build an interest in practicing mindfulness which will result in more engagement. After the child in the book explains how they feel, they use breathing, acts of kindness, connecting to nature, and their senses to become more centred and learn to live in the moment. By practicing the techniques that the child from the book uses, your students can learn to find peace in the classroom, on the playground, or at home.
Verde, Susan, and Peter H. Reynolds. I am peace: a book of mindfulness. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017.
Before studying how to integrate mindfulness into the classroom, I decided to research just how effective it is as a classroom management tool. I came across a documentary featuring students from a grade 7 class in San Fransisco. At the beginning of the documentary, very little learning was happening. The teacher was constantly stopping the class to move students only to have them talk to their friends from across the room. The school was suspending students more often than any other school in the city. The school’s administration decided to bring in a mindfulness specialist twice a week in an attempt to resolve the situation.
At first, most of the students were uninterested in practicing mindfulness. The specialist spent most of her time trying to get the class to be quiet. After having little progress in the first few sessions, she asked anyone who didn’t want to participate to raise their hands. She then asked each of these students why they did not want to participate. Most of their reasons were that it is boring or unentertaining. After some discussion, some students were asked to leave the room. The specialist explained that the program required student participation and disruptive students take away from the experience for the rest of the class. After this, students began to take the program seriously.
After several weeks of practicing mindfulness, the classroom dynamic had completely changed. 80% of students in the class found mindfulness effective when they needed to calm down and 58% found that it helped them focus in class. Students who used to be sent to the office on a daily basis could now sit through a class without disrupting others. One student even went on to receive an award for the greatest GPA increase in the school.
This documentary shows what an incredible tool mindfulness can be both inside and outside of the classroom. It helps students become calm, focused and ready to learn. It can be done quickly and quietly, meaning that students can use it during class without disrupting anyone else. When a student learns mindfulness, they can use it whenever it is necessary for the rest of their lives.
Long, R. (Director). (n.d.). Room to Breathe: Mindfulness in the Classroom[Video file]. Retrieved November 06, 2017, from http://viuca.kanopystreaming.com/video/room-breathe
Mindfulness is the act of focusing one’s attention on the present moment and accepting all thoughts, feelings and sensations. Practicing mindfulness has many benefits such as improved focus and emotional regulation, as well as decreased stress levels. This is something that I have recently incorporated into my own life and I feel that it would be an extremely effective classroom management strategy. Some examples of mindfulness exercises that can be easily integrated into any classroom are breathing exercises or body scans. These can be done in as little as a minute meaning that they can be used effortlessly as part of a routine or when they become necessary.
Mindfulness practices have grown in popularity in recent years and some schools have even used it to replace detention. When students break the rules, rather than being punished, they are asked to go to a designated mindfulness area and take a moment to calm down using strategies that they have learned in the classroom. Schools that have made this change have experienced an increase in attendance and a decrease in suspensions. Through this inquiry I hope to find strategies for integrating mindfulness practices into the classroom and using them in a way that will be most effective as a classroom management tool.
Tarantino, Hadley. “Mindfulness in the Classroom.” Inpathy Bulletin, Inpathy, 27 Apr. 2017, inpathybulletin.com/mindfulness-in-the-classroom/.