Did you know that 80% of U.S. students report feeling stressed sometimes or often? (1) You know what this means, right? It’s time for all of us to learn how to use mindfulness in the classroom.
The world of education is becoming increasingly stressful for students and educators. If you’re like me, you’re wondering – what can we do to help?
Practicing mindfulness activities in the classroom can help students alleviate stress, improve mental health, and have an overall more positive experience at school. So what have we got to lose?
Ready to learn how to use mindfulness in the classroom? Read on for the ultimate guide!
Click to jump to…
- The Importance Of Mindfulness In The Classroom – the WHY
- Getting Started With Mindfulness In The Classroom – the HOW
- Mindfulness Classroom Ideas – the WHAT
The Importance Of Mindfulness In The Classroom – the WHY
Mindfulness in the classroom has been shown to have many positive benefits for students. Studies have shown that it can… (2)
- Help combat the negative effects of stress
- Reduce negative behaviors in the classroom
- Improve student academic performance
- Increase engagement during school lessons
Sounds pretty good, right? And on top of that, mindfulness can help us teachers as well.
When we practice mindfulness alongside our students, it can help teachers create a more positive learning environment, communicate more clearly, and manage student behaviors more effectively. (3)
With all these benefits, it’s a wonder that mindfulness isn’t a required part of the school day…!
If you’re getting any pushback from families or admin about using mindfulness in your classroom, I’ve linked my sources at the bottom of this article. Show them those articles – the research is undeniable.
Getting Started With Mindfulness In The Classroom – the HOW
Okay, so you’re on board with using mindfulness for your classroom. But how exactly can you get started? Good news – it’s actually much easier than you would think.
I’ve got 5 guideposts to help you jump in with teaching mindfulness to your students.
- Start small. 5 minutes a day is plenty to start with mindfulness. Or every other day. Or once a week. Whatever feels doable for you. Don’t feel like you have to do anything big or elaborate that will throw off your academic pacing or get in the way of your schedule. 5 minutes is all you need.
- Repeat yourself. Mindfulness isn’t mastered after one try. A simple mindfulness exercise can be used again and again and still have plenty of benefits. This is good news for teachers, because it means we don’t need a super long list of mindfulness ideas. Having four or five mindfulness practices that we do with our students and repeat is just fine. In fact, the more they’re repeated, the deeper they’re learned.
- Routine it. Any time we are trying to incorporate something new into our day, it’s so helpful to make it part of a routine. Find a time of day that you could tack on a five minute mindfulness exercise, and stick with it. It might be at the end of your morning circle, right after recess, or in the transition between two academic lessons.
- Uncomfortable is okay. These kind of exercises can feel uncomfortable or silly to anyone doing them for the first time, so don’t be surprised if your students express that! Embrace their reactions and assure them that feeling uncomfortable is normal. Praise them for giving it a go and for trying something new. In time, it won’t feel weird.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are so many easy mindfulness exercises and lessons out there. Don’t feel like you need to go down an internet rabbit hole to find them. I’m sharing my favorite ones below.
Mindfulness Classroom Ideas – the WHAT
Alright, now we’re getting to the good stuff. Here are some concrete examples of mindfulness activities you can literally try out tomorrow with your students. These are easy to create on your own, but if you want them planned, prepped, and ready to print, you can get them right here in my Mindfulness Curriculum.
Here are some of my favorite mindfulness lesson to teach in the classroom:
1. Mindful Breathing
Breathing is an extremely important part of mindfulness. It’s a great place to start with students, because it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
There are lots of simple breathing exercises intended to help students focus on their breath. Here are a couple you could try:
In bubble breathing, students breathe in for 5 and then out for 5, pretending they are blowing a big bubble as they breathe out.
In star breathing, students trace their finger around a star, alternating breathing in and out on each side.
2. Mindful Bodies
We can help students be aware of their bodies with simple movements paired with breath. This chart shows some examples of basic body positions that can help us bring awareness to our breath and body.
Have fun with these! Encourage students to try the different poses – the first time will be full of giggles and wobbles, and that’s okay. As you use them more during movement breaks or morning circle, your students will get used to them.
Eventually, you can encourage deep breathing and even closed eyes to help your students connect with their bodies and breathing.
3. Being Present
It’s human nature to worry about the past and the future, and this is certainly true of our students.
Learning how to be grounded in the present is a very helpful mindfulness activity you can try with your students.
This simple exercise – 5 Fingers To Be Present – is one example of helping students be present and focus on what’s around them.
- First, students notice 5 things that they can see around them.
- Then, they try to focus on 4 things they can feel in their current position.
- Next, they find 3 things they can hear in their surroundings.
- Then, they try to focus on 2 things they can smell.
- And finally, they notice 1 thing they can taste.
This exercise is a great tool for de-escalating a student or for refocusing a group.
4. Self Affirmations
A big piece of mindfulness is being aware of the thoughts that pop into our minds throughout the day. We can help our students fill their minds with positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts.
Self affirmations are a great way to start training our minds to think positively. Starting the day with self affirmations can be a positive way to kick off the school day with a bit of mindfulness.
You can also let students have a little affirmations display where they can easily see these positive “I am” statements throughout the school day.
5. Mindful Meditations
While the word “meditations” may feel overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of simple guided meditations you can do with your class. In fact, there are a number of wonderful children’s books with collections of these. You can pull these out to do between lessons, after recess, or at the end of the school day.
Another meditation activity is calm coloring. Put on some calming music, and give your students 5 minutes of silent, mindful coloring. You’ll be surprised at how beneficial a little break like this can be!
Now You Know How To Use Mindfulness In The Classroom
I hope you are feeling confident and ready to start using mindfulness in your classroom. The benefits are undeniable, and it’s a tool that you can keep in your teacher belt for years and years to come.
Which part of mindfulness are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments! xoxo Laura
(1) Anxiety & Depression Association of America
(3) University of California, Berkeley
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