A New Study Shows How Mindfulness Education In The Classroom Can Reduce Students’ Sense Of Stress And Lengthen Attention Spans
Not knowing the answer to a question when youre called on in front of the entire class. Forgetting your homework. The kid behind you pulling your hair. School poses a lot of stressful moments, but how children react to them can make all the difference.
A new study suggests that mindfulness education lessons on techniques to calm the mind and body can reduce the negative effects of stress and increase students ability to stay engaged, helping them stay on track academically and avoid behavior problems.
While small, the study of sixth-graders at a Boston charter school adds to a still-growing body of research about a role for mindfulness in the classroom. In recent years, the topic has excited researchers and educators alike as a possible tool to help students face both behavioral and academic challenges by reducing anxiety and giving them a new way to handle their feelings and emotions.
Helping Kids Manage Stress
If we can get the kids who have the most trouble, says Randy Fernando of Mindful Schools, the Oakland, California-based program that brings mindfulness classes to grades K-5 in mostly low-income schools, it helps them, it helps the teachers, and for a lot of these kids its the first time theyve felt peace.
That doesnt mean, however, that mindfulness cant be enormously helpful to children and adolescents in the general population for dealing with the everyday difficulties of todays super-charged, highly stressful kid-life.
Mindfulness reached the tiny island of Nantucket just a few years ago when it was introduced to the Nantucket New School, an independent day school that goes from pre-K through grade 8. It was in part that tight-knit communitys effort to respond in a meaningful way to four teenage suicides that had occurred in less than two years. We realized we could help kids gain tools for stress management at an early age that would transfer into teenage years and adulthood, says Lori Corry, the schools business manager and a passionate proponent of mindfulness. After researching several different programs, a committee devoted to student wellness at the school chose the Hawn Foundations MindUP, a mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculum. The hope is to help kids manage their own stress as they turn into grownups.
Mindfulness Through Guided Imagery
Guided imagery develops children’s imaginations. It also helps to integrate learning with prior knowledge. When you start a new topic in your classroom, have your students close their eyes and slowly talk them through a pretend journey. For example, if you’re studying the ocean, have them imagine getting into underwater vehicles and cruising through the ocean waters, looking for fish, animals, and plants. End the guided relaxation with a few deep breaths, and then they can draw what they imagined and discuss their ideas as a class. You could take them on pretend journeys into outer space to the beach, forest, or a deserted island on a safari or up a volcano — depending on your curriculum topics. Take your children on journeys through relaxation stories to help them calm down and re-energize.
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Creating Yoga Programs And Lesson Plans
Although yoga benefits children, especially in classroom settings, it may be overwhelming for teachers to get started. Integrating a new activity into daily routines and lesson plans can be challenging, especially when there are so many other curricular initiatives that need to be covered.
Similar to planning other lessons, it is important for teachers to lay the groundwork for the lesson. Identifying areas of the curriculum that highlight emotional awareness and then looking at areas where your students would most benefit are good first steps.
Another tactic is to do a stage activity with your students to see if they can identify what situations trigger difficult emotions and what the sensations are. Our My Feelings My Body worksheet is an excellent starting point in helping children identify the sensations in their body and how they are reacting to them.
When making your lesson plans, add in reminders relevant to the pace and students ability to engage fully in their practice . Make sure you are starting with easier poses and work your way up to more difficult ones.
Once youâve decided what kind of yoga practice you are integrating into your classroom, make sure you are making notes where you remind students to breathe or take a break. That way, you can use these cues to help you and your students stay on track and derive the most meaning from classroom yoga.
Yoga For Kids: Simple First Steps In Yoga And Mindfulness Susannah Hoffman
This book is an excellent aid for childrenâs yoga educators, featuring more than 50 poses and activities.
It includes detailed advice on the equipment youâll need to get started, as well as tips to ensure each pose is done safely.
Vibrant photos and illustrations make this an engaging and handy reference for teachers and parents alike.
Find the book on .
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Create A Culture Of Mindfulness In Schools
If a classroom teacher is not able to provide mindfulness lessons to their class, schools often bring instructors in from outside the school. But long-term mindfulness programs can be difficult to maintain in the classroom with this model. With an outside person, programs can work insofar as they can train teachers to keep it up, said Trish Broderick, Ph.D., founder of the Learning to Breathe program and a research associate at the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State University. The advantage of bringing in a program to teach mindfulness is that it can be replicated and used effectively when taught by teachers or school staff who already have a relationship with the kids.
The Mindful Schools program prefers to call its approach an adoptionwhere mindfulness begins at the individual teacher levelversus a rollout, or top-down decision made by leadership to implement a new program. We dont mandate this for all the teachers we let it grow organically, said Camille Whitney, former head of research at Mindful Schools. We encourage any number of people to take the course voluntarily, and encourage it as a group so they can practice and build a program together.
Check Out Classroom Yoga In 10 Minutes A Day Workbook
This digital yoga and mindfulness workbook is a wonderful resource to easily integrate these much-needed practices into your classroom whether its in-person, virtually, or a hybrid of both. And, to do so within just 10 minutes a day!
The ready-to-use workbook contain everything you need to do yoga in just 10 minutes a day for 16 weeks of the school year. Its super easy to use. Just download, print, and play! And if youre teaching virtually, you can easily share it online with your students and families!
I used week 1 postures with my p1 class this afternoon & they were fab, they loved it. Thank you for such a well planned resource, everything in the one place. Annie S
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Integrating Mindfulness In Your Classroom Curriculum
Now more than ever, teaching mindfulness in the classroom is a necessity. Our children are stressed and anxious. Teachers and parents are stressed and anxious, too. Our lives are busy, and we often find our thoughts buzzing over the past or worrying about the future. We need mindfulness because it teaches us to live in the present moment, enjoying and experiencing whats in front of us.
Educators know that children learn best when they are comfortable, safe, and relaxed. Imagine if, along with giving our children the gift of lifelong learning and the tools to become kind and productive adults, we could also give them the gift of mindfulness — using their breath and mind to lead a happy and healthy life. In turn, teachers will reap the benefits of mindfulness, as well — we all know that a happy teacher has a happy classroom.
Following are four ways to incorporate mindfulness into your curriculum and bring calm to your classroom.
How To Get Started With Yoga In The Classroom
When I asked a group of kindergarten teachers which challenges in the classroom kept them up at night, heres what they said:
- Their bodies need to move, and they have a hard time sitting still.
- Their engines are running high, and they have a hard time settling down.
- They are constantly interrupting each other and not listening to one another.
- They find it hard to make time to do everything that is beneficial to all the students.
- Many of the children lack self-control and are very impulsive.
- A lot of the children have self-regulation issues and have a hard time focusing on specific tasks.
Does this sound familiar?
Ive been hearing that children everywhere are having dysregulation issues. Some people say its due to increased technology use and over-scheduled lives. Whatever the reason, many early childhood teachers are turning to yoga and mindfulness to help their children calm down and focus in their classrooms.
Teachers are hearing about the benefits of yoga:
- increases strength and flexibility
- promotes interaction between adult and child, as well as between multiple children
- improves their fine and gross motor skills, as well as their coordination
- develops self-confidence, self-expression, and body awareness
- promotes a healthy, active lifestyle
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Research On Effectiveness Is Mixed
Despite anecdotes from schools that have seen positive results from using mindfulness practices, the research on its effectiveness is varied and lacking.
In a 2018 study by researchers Anna Long, Tyler Renshaw, and Devon Camarota, a sample of 73 predominantly African American 5th graders from an urban, high-poverty alternative school were managed using either behavioral or mindfulness-based approaches. One group was managed using the good behavior game, which reinforces positive behavior through either earning or losing privileges from a student-generated list, including snacks, a preferred activity, or small trinkets. In the other group, students were taught mindfulness skills and encouraged to restrain themselves from participating in inappropriate behavior by stopping, taking three deep breaths, observing themselves and others, and proceeding positively.
The results found that neither strategy was notably more effective than the control group, in which students received a warning after the first infraction, a seat change after the second, and a phone call home or office discipline referral after the third. However, those in the mindfulness group indicated that the practice was slightly therapeutic.
Long, an assistant professor of school psychology at Louisiana State University, said that although her study did not show benefits of mindfulness-based interventions, other research suggests that the practices have potential to make a positive impact in the classroom.
Mindfulness Guards Against Anxiety
Medical experts have firmly established the relationship between emotional imbalance and abysmal performances in school. Thankfully, one of the benefits of mindfulness is that it reduces stress and anxiety. Meditation also helps college students manage their emotions better and this position is underpinned by ongoing work by Mark Greenberg at Penn State University.
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Where To Get Equipment
Where can I get the mats? Several equipment companies sell them for fairly reasonable costs. Start small and purchase five if you can. Perhaps you can use them as centers in your classroom. You can also check with the Physical Education teacher in your school to see if they have any they want to discard or are willing to loan. Also, local fitness centers may be willing to donate some new or gently used mats if they know it is going towards education, as they can write it off on taxes.
Mindfulness And Yoga In Schools: A Guide For Teachers And Practitioners Catherine Cook
This is among the first research-based resources to help teachers and other educators set up a classroom yoga program.
The book includes detailed evidence for the effectiveness of yoga and mindfulness in improving educational outcomes, as well as photographs, scripts, and figures to help craft a school program suited to your context and grade level.
Find the book on .
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How To Teach Yoga To Children In Schools
If you are interested in integrating yoga into your daily classroom activities but need help to get started, check out the tips below .
- Create a space and choose a consistent time to practiceDesignate a time for yoga practice and add it to your classâs daily schedule. Always begin with a shorter session and move any furniture necessary to allow children to spread out.
- Plan your lessons with intentionTeachers should consider the purpose of integrating daily yoga into the classroom. By coming up with a theme or emotional purpose , children can work toward something. Including visualization and breathing exercises will also help children work toward the goals you are setting.
- Integrate opportunities for relationship and community building among peersYoga does not have to be an individual practice all the time. Incorporating cooperative games where children help each other and engage in visualization activities as a group can help with community building and increase trust among classmates.
- Use resourcesIf youâre overwhelmed, donât be afraid to ask your colleagues for help. This article will also provide you with several books, online courses, activities, and exercises you can use in your classroom when getting started.
Conveying Mindfulness To The Classroom
kids honing mindfulnessImagine that your brain is a TV, I told the little gathering of understudies I was going by at the rustic Oregon school where I acted as an advocate. Furthermore, you have a remote.
I then requesting that they change to a pitiful channel and notice how it affected them. Presently we should transform it to an upbeat channel. How did that vibe? What contrasts did they take note?
We honed this for some time, the understudies alternating to perceive how a wide range of various channels made us feel. We attempted it while holding tree posture. The understudies saw that specific musing made it less demanding to adjust others made it harder.
What they were realizing, obviously, was the manner of which to be aware of their musings and how those contemplations influence their bodies.
They were additionally discovering that they could coordinate their considerations that none of us is ever stuck on only one channel that care gives us devices for managing effectively with all way of difficulties and troubles.
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Explaining Mindfulness To Students
In the brain, the amygdala tries to protect us but can mistake stress for danger. The hippocampus stores memories but shuts down when the amygdala is upset. The prefrontal cortex accesses information from the amygdala and the hippocampus to make decisions, but decision making shuts down if the prefrontal cortex cant access any of that information. We need mindfulness because it helps us calm down, and that, in turn, allows us to make good decisions.
Teacher Trainings In Yoga For Children
With a growing number of yoga training options for teachers, choosing the right program to suit your classroom is important.
When looking for a training provider, consider the following:
- Is the style of yoga a good fit for your class?There are many styles of yoga that vary in speed, technique, and underlying theory. Be sure to choose to train in a style that will suit the educational aims of your class .
- Is the training suited to your age group?Kids will benefit more from a classroom yoga program when the poses are at a difficulty level suited to their age. Be sure to keep this in mind and select a course that includes the foundational basics.
- Is it formally accredited?To ensure youâre getting the highest quality training, consider looking for a training provider recognized or accredited by a formal association or body, such as Yoga Alliance.
Another tip for finding good in-person training is to take a class with the trainer beforehand. That way, you can see if their teaching style is likely to suit you and the needs of your classroom.
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How To Prepare A Yoga Lesson For A Montessori Classroom
For our classroom material, one of our teachers suggested we create a lesson with a few cards showing simple yoga poses on a shelf with a mat tucked away in a corner. The lesson is kept simple and includes a small wooden tray to hold 4 5 laminated cards with pictures of a child in basic yoga poses, a small box of wet wipes, an empty small container to discard used wipes, and a yoga mat rolled up to stand in a corner close by.
The teacher introduces and demonstrates the simple lesson:
- Discuss when it is time for yoga. We choose this as an opportunity to talk about feelings, emotions, and when there is a need to calm down.
- Bring the mat to a quiet space and unroll it.
- Carry the tray with the yoga lesson.
- Clean the mat with a wipe.
- Lay out the cards and practice each pose slowly with intention.
- We count our breath and hold each pose for 3 breaths.
- When done with each pose on the cards, lie down on the mat for a few minutes.
- Clean up the mat with a wipe and roll it up neatly to put it away and restore the work.
Once the teacher has introduced the lesson, the children are eager to practice. With teacher guided lessons and picture cards, children learn the poses and become well-versed with the practice of sitting still and breathing. We have since seen children in their classrooms choose their own time and space to roll out the yoga mat and practice poses, breathe, or simply lie down to calm down.
Childrens Mental Health And Yoga: 3 Research Findings
Several research studies have highlighted the benefits of yoga in improving mental and physical health. Specific improvements that are significant to classroom settings include improved outcomes in behavior, stress reduction, and emotional balance.
To help test outcomes in classroom settings, researchers will often incorporate daily yoga interventions over a period of a few months to a year to study the impact on childrenâs mental health. Butzer et al. and Chen and Pauwels both incorporated 15-minute yoga activities daily.
Butzer et al. reported improvements in second- and third-graders behavior, specifically in attention span and the ability to focus on work and stay on task. They also noted improvements in social-emotional learning.
Chen and Pauwels implemented the Yoga Ed Tools for Teachers program for a full year for approximately 5â15 minutes per day. Results showed that daily yoga practice improved student mental, social, and physical wellbeing.
These emotional indicators suggest that students who practice yoga may feel less stressed and more resilient when confronted with stressful situations. Overall, yoga was found to be an excellent remedy for reducing negative emotions and distress in children.
Although research provides generalized benefits, there are more specific benefits associated with integrating yoga into your classroom outlined in the next section.
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