Teaching Mindfulness In The Classroom

The world today is a stressful place for all ages. Oftentimes the stress of the outside world follows children as they enter the classroom and are bombarded with additional stresses, emotions, and anxieties that come with the school setting. As teachers, we feel the anxieties and stress of our students and families, layered on top of our own, and it can feel overwhelming.

Teaching Mindfulness in The Classroom

Teaching mindfulness in the classroom is a great way to boost social-emotional learning so that students, and teachers alike, can feel equipped to handle the stress and emotions of the day.  Mindfulness helps us to slow down, experience the present moment, and adopt a happy and healthy attitude.  Let’s learn more about the importance of mindfulness and how to help teach it in your classroom.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of being aware of the present moment while having control of your emotions, feelings, thoughts, and body sensations.  For children, in particular, learning to recognize and regulate thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations can be challenging.  Two important social-emotional skills to learn are self-awareness and self-control.  You can help teach and reinforce these skills with young children to increase their positive self-image and well-being. 

When students are stressed and anxious they have trouble focusing, which can make for a difficult day and distracting classroom environment.  By teaching mindfulness, you are teaching children how to focus, how to channel their attention, and how to recognize and appropriately cope with their emotions.  While mindfulness may not feel like a traditional academic skill found in schools, it is becoming increasingly important to focus on social-emotional learning so that kids can bring their best selves into the classroom.

Why Is Mindfulness in the Classroom Important?

Some of the benefits of mindfulness are that it can help children focus and pay attention, recognize how their body feels and what they need, calmly react to stressful situations, and increase positive self-image.  Mindfulness is also extremely helpful for children with learning disabilities such as ADHD and Autism as it can increase focus and regulate emotional responses.

Mental health is a hot topic in elementary school, middle school, and high school.  Mindfulness activities can vary depending on the age group you are teaching, but the more regular mindfulness training students receive, the more emotional regulation and less burnout will be seen.  If students receive mindful education starting in elementary school, by the time they are adolescents they will be able to check in on themselves, independently incorporate mindfulness throughout the school day,  and ultimately have better mental health and high academic performance.

If children are anxious, unable to focus, overly emotional, and distracted, they will not be as successful academically.  In order to help children meet their academic goals, providing them with mindfulness techniques that they can tap into is a wonderful way to set them up for success.  As students practice mindfulness they will learn to channel their emotions, focus amidst distractions, and pay attention for longer periods of time, they will discover that learning comes easily and school becomes a place of calm and safety.

How Can We Teach Mindfulness in The Classroom?

Here are some easy mindfulness exercises that require little to no materials or prep time.  They are appropriate for a number of ages and settings and will help teach the beginnings of self-regulation for learners.  The practice of mindfulness requires consistency, so we recommend incorporating small activities each day throughout the school year.

  1. Pinwheel Breathing - Breathing exercises are a great way to relax, calm down, and focus.  Taking deep breaths helps to regulate heart rate, focus attention, and stay in the moment. A great way to practice mindful breathing is with the visual of a pinwheel. Have your kids blow onto a pinwheel and observe how it spins depending on how much breath they use. They will be able to witness the differences in the amount of breath by the way the wheel speeds up and slows down, and how they need to regulate their breath to find the right speed.
  2. Body Scan - This activity requires no materials at all, which makes it great for spur-of-the-moment situations where children need a quick way to regulate.  Have your students lay down, or sit in their chair with their eyes closed.  Slowly guide them as they scan through their body from their head to toe while working to recognize how each part feels. As they pinpoint and focus on each part of their body encourage them to release and relax each muscle.
  3. Yoga Poses - Yoga is a great way to teach body awareness and control to children. Hold up different yoga cards or demonstrate at the front of the classroom what pose you would like for them to attempt to hold.  Students will have to focus on balance, control, and strength. Yoga also encourages being quiet and calm while really working to control large and small muscles.  Mindful movements help kids tune in to their body and mind, and how each affects the other.
  4. Mindful Eating - During the school day eating can often feel rushed and distracting, especially when in a busy cafeteria.  If you’re able to, offer a snack time in the classroom where there is less hustle and bustle going on.  As your students eat, have them really focus on the flavors, textures, and feeling of the food as they slowly chew and swallow.  Tell them how many times they should chew before swallowing, they will likely be surprised at the difference!
  5. Guided Meditation - There are all kinds of guided meditations available on YouTube, the Calm app, or via podcasts. During a quiet moment, turn down the classroom lights, have your students close their eyes, place their heads on their desks, and follow the gentle guided meditation.  Feel free to join them as you work to slow down, relax, and practice basic mindful meditation.

 

TeacherVision has a whole host of mindfulness resources that can support you in the classroom from self care strategies to social-emotional learning.           

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