Instructing mindfulness at school at each grade stage: 10 ideas

contributed by April Tyrrell and Kelly Teach Thought Personal

While the researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at the Waisman Center are not yet ready to release evidence-based mindfulness curriculum practices, Lisa Thomas Prince and Lori Gustafson, outreach specialists at Flook and CIHM, offer the following Tips for families who want to delve deeper into mindfulness practices positive classroom atmosphere.

10 tips for starting mindfulness in school at any grade level

1. Create a quiet space in your classroom

Find a time and/or place where you and your students can pause for a few moments and find a sense of comfort in the stillness. Notice how we become aware of things around us and within us in new and different ways.

This can work for you as a teacher when designing instructions or responding to student work, or the spaces in which the students themselves work. If you are unable to create such a space for students, using white noise (e.g. can help mask background noise or still “overactive” minds. We even made our own mix of it Background noise when reading and writingto.

2. Pay attention with intention and curiosity

Have students try to perceive sounds, textures, colors, shapes, and other features of their surroundings. (These can also be excellent writing suggestions.)

As a teacher, if you are able, try a mindful eating practice and explore a food slowly and with quiet awareness using all your senses before you eat it—noting the smells, colors, textures, and any sensations of pleasure or displeasure true.

Being in the moment is both a cause and an effect of mindfulness. Mindfulness is rooted in the present. Thoughts of yesterday, tomorrow, or even yourself in the context of an afternoon or school year or activity are the opposite of being present in the present.

3. Use guided meditation daily

Explore the breath with students by having them close their eyes and explore a guided meditation each day before class. Sam Harris’ Waking Up app might be useful here for older students, while Moshi is useful for younger students.

4. Offer caring wishes

Practice caring and compassion for yourself and others by making wishes like, “May we be happy, may we be safe, may we be full of love.” You may giggle in August, but in May? They may just wish you affection in return.

Caring wishes can be used when we are feeling uncomfortable before an exam, when reading aloud, or simply to send kindness to another person, knowing that we all want to be happy.

5. Practice gratitude

We can cultivate gratitude in a simple way; For example, we can take a few minutes to reflect on the good things that happened during the day, keep a list of people and things we are grateful for, and/or create a gratitude journal with words and pictures. Write about it, talk about it, reflect on it.

6. Keep it simple

While advanced mindfulness can be incredibly powerful, for the classroom, keep it playful, simple, and “child-centered” (rather than “centering the practice of mindfulness”).

7. Be patient

These ideas will require patience to develop as a skill in students. Start small – quick activities. Accept challenges as they arise. Help students understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. There’s no reason mindfulness can’t be successful in a K-12 classroom.

8. Model it – or let others do it

Observe others “being mindful” so they can see what it looks like in different forms, contexts, and applications. This can be live or via YouTube or even videos made by the students themselves.

Many people misunderstand mindfulness, zen, meditation, and other “mystical” practices, all of which often amount to quieting the mind by losing “self.”

9. Transfer it

Help them take it beyond the classroom by offering tips, resources, ideas, and more for being mindful in their daily lives. (After all, isn’t that the point?)

10. Diary about it

What it is, what it isn’t, when it “worked”, when it didn’t work, what the benefits were, what other aspects of growth daily mindfulness practice could lead to, etc.

More tips for teaching mindfulness to children of all grade levels

11. You don’t have to make it “funny,” but you can’t make it dry. Make it “alive” and vibrant because every moment is alive and vibrant.

12. Use a variety of “places” and “occasions” for mindfulness: in the classroom, outside, standing in line, with eyes open and closed, before and after a test, with lights on and off, etc.

13. Identify celebrities who meditate or practice mindfulness. (Here’s hip-hop artist Big Sean explaining that he “meditates daily” and is urging schools to teach kids about mental health. However, be aware of the explicit language before just playing the song in your classroom. )

14. Explain the benefits – starting with cognitive well-being. Tell them to take care of their brains at least as well as they take care of their bodies (that they clean and wash daily).

Teaching mindfulness in every class

Teaching mindfulness in every class

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