Mindfulness is a state of being; of being in the present without any thoughts/feelings about the past or the future. It is about focussing attention in the present and being aware of one’s current thoughts, feelings and state of mind and body. This will be very beneficial in a classroom setup as it ensures that the children and the facilitator alike are present in the now.
The points below highlight some key benefits that mindfulness can induce:
• Reduced anxiety and stress.
• Reduced impulsive behaviour.
• Improved self-regulation.
• Improved awareness of self and others.
• Improved calmness.
• Improved attention.
• Increased interest to learn.
So, how do we incorporate this into our classrooms?
Oftentimes, we find children and, sometimes, even ourselves pre-occupied with invasive thoughts because of which we end up feeling dissatisfied with the session. Other times, the noise in the classroom makes us feel that the learning flow is disrupted, both for the children and the teacher. However, incorporating mindfulness can make a huge difference here.
Some simple ideas that can bring about a marked difference in how we interact with children and how they respond to us are:
Communicate your call for attention! Unless we effectively communicate that we are calling for everyone’s attention, any effort is futile.
Use a sound: Whenever you feel that the noise is disrupting, having a sound that calls for attention works well. Get your group used to a sound (a bell/a knock/a jingle, etc.), so that, whenever it is heard, everyone’s focus shifts to that.
Sing an action rhyme: Singing an action rhyme and ensuring that everyone joins in also helps. This usually works well with younger children.
Harness the power of silence: Sometimes, just keeping quiet or placing an object in the middle of the room and saying nothing can be effective in converging the group’s attention.
Once you have their attention focussed on an object/sound/action, introduce the group to a mindfulness activity to further bring their mind and body into the present.
Participate! Always remember to participate as much as possible; this approach makes the child feel at ease and encouraged to get involved.
Accommodate these activities even when the group is calm! It is, in fact, beneficial to do these activities even when the children are already calm or quiet because it helps them learn and internalize these ideas and even use them voluntarily when they feel overwhelmed.
Some mindfulness activities that can be incorporated into a classroom are:
Five deep breaths: Tell the children that we will all close our eyes, put our hands on our stomach and take five deep, slow breaths. Guide them to breathe in and out and to notice how their stomach rises and falls. This is a sure shot way of bringing everyone into the present.
Pebble focus: Keep a set of pebbles handy with you. Distribute them (in groups or individually) and ask the children to observe them and think of three things that they can understand/derive from them. They can share this with the group in turns. Pebbles can be replaced with any other object as well.
Draw your emotion: Mindfulness includes awareness of what we’re feeling as well. Children sometimes have difficulty naming their feelings, but drawing them can be a great way for a child to pay attention to what he/she is feeling at a given moment. This also serves as an entry point to work with them and really understand what might be distracting them.
Simon says! This classic game integrates mindfulness of the body and mind in the simplest yet fun way. Tell them that we will all do different actions by saying “Simon says” followed by the action. They are to do the action only when they hear “Simon says.” If you name an action without saying “Simon says,” one need not do it. You can even give the children turns to call out actions.
When we speak of incorporating mindfulness, it is for both the students and the teacher. A mindful student adds energy to the classroom which becomes infectious but this coupled with a mindful teacher makes the session fun and fulfilling for everyone. More importantly, the benefits of mindfulness go beyond the classroom; it improves the overall quality of life, so children or adults, mindfulness is for everyone!
The author has a background in community-oriented work and believes in the power of people’s ability to self- actualize. She enjoys spending time and engaging with children to empower them to do the same. She can be reached at [email protected].