Mindfulness, the technique of mastering “living in the moment”, helps us to combat distractions in a busy world. On a personal level, practising mindfulness can be beneficial for the teachers, but the studies are increasingly showing that it can be helpful for the students too. But how can you use it in the classroom? We will share specific tips that will help you to know the mindfulness techniques.
As teachers and parents, we have many opportunities to introduce young people to these practices. The most fundamental way we do so is through our attempts to cultivate mindfulness; to be present, to pay attention and to be aware of our own emotions and responses.
We can also bring this mindfulness practices to the classrooms by providing students with the opportunities to pause, to pay close attention to their experiences and to reflect.
BEGIN WITH THE MINDFUL MOMENT
For middle and high school students, the school day is pretty busy. Science to math to history to English to Spanish, punctuated by the crazy state-fair midway chaos known as “passing the time”. Even in the elementary school, kids spend a lot of their day taking in information, responding to the environment, interacting with others. We rarely give any chance to the students to pause the moment, settle their nervous system and refocus their attention and energy on a new task.
At the beginning of class, or after a transition, you can take a mindful moment; invite kids to close their eyes and take a few deep breaths. They will be able to pay more attention to their studies with their minds being fresh.
PRACTICE MINDFUL LISTENING
Mindful listening is also one of the simplest ways to introduce mindfulness to kids as it is often easier to focus on something more concrete like sound; the instruction to notice your breath can be bit abstract.
TAKE PROPER BREAKS
- Taking proper breaks can be helpful for the students to freshen up their minds, they will be able to pay more attention to their work after they feel refreshed. A teacher once introduced a technique in some seminar, which helps the students to get fresh. In the ongoing class, the student who felt lazy or bored was allowed to ring the bell. The moment he rang the bell, the class would stop, and the teacher would give a break to the students. In this way, any student who does not feel like studying can ring the bell and get a break for a short time.
- It helps in enhancing the productivity of the students, and when they resume learning, they are completely fresh and active. Putting the students in control allows them to take the ownership of the mindfulness practices in class, and it also gives the teacher valuable information about when student’s attention is wrong.
IT NEEDS TO BEGIN WITH THE TEACHER
Before we can expect children to be mindful, it is important that we are mindful. When we speak about the benefits of mindfulness to the staff in the school, it could be the first time most of them would hear of the technique, and many would say they would like to learn more. There can be numerous teachings on this to the teachers also as they need the mindfulness activities at the same level.
A variation on the attention break above is to have the teacher announce a short attention check. You could do this in the middle of the lecture or during the middle of the independent or group work time. Ask students to pause and check in with their attention. Make sure that the wondering of the mind is completely normal and to be expected. The important thing is to notice what the mind is doing, and then to understand you now have a choice about where to direct your attention. We cannot force kids to pay attention, but the more we practice this, the more skilled they will become at monitoring their attention and redirecting it when necessary.
BOOKS CAN BE A GREAT HELP
There are some nice ways to explore mindfulness with books. One of the texts that can be used is The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. There can be the reflection of the child’s friendship with the snowman and how wonderful it was to see, but also how sad we felt that it could not last forever. There is also an option of a picture book about a boy who was afraid of monsters who lived in his cupboard, using this as an analogy to think about fear.
END WITH A MINDFUL MOMENT
Recently a middle school teacher at a school talked about yelling homework reminders at teenagers at teenagers somewhere. She has incorporated mindfulness into her lesson closure every day for the whole school year. At the end of the class, she took 3-5 minutes to have kids close their eyes and focus on their breath. She has them think about what they have learned and what they accomplished. She gives them quiet time to settle their nervous systems before their next class and then ends with a positive statement about how hard they have worked and how proud she is of them. It makes the students end their day with the mindful moment.
Thus, it is not that difficult task for the students to learn and the teachers to teach.