Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment – our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings. It allows us to honor our strengths and our limitations without judgement, to let go of past failures and the worries of the future, to live in the present moment. It has the power to help us find a sense of calm and contentment, to alleviate stress and worry, and to instill growth mindset.
So how can we promote these qualities in our students? How can we establish a community that allows for this growth mindset, this openness to the present moment, this willingness to seize learning opportunities as they arise, to play to strengths and embrace failures without judgement? Here are a few strategies to try!
Daily Mantras. Have students write a mantra, a goal, or an affirmation for the day on a post-it and keep it on their desk through the day. Students might even want to work with the same mantra/goal/affirmation for a period of time (a week, a month). If students need a break, they might even create a collage or a work of art related to their mantra to serve as a visual reminder of that goal. The act of creating such a work of art might be a practice in mindfulness in itself!
Movement Breaks. Our students spend so much time seated, static, and sedentary. Movement is essential for a healthy body and a healthy mind. Incorporate stretching, dancing, or yoga breaks as a brain break. I’m partial to yoga myself (Yoga 4 Classrooms offers some great activity cards based in yoga and mindfulness), but you might have students choreograph something based on a menu of movements and perform it, explore physical levels and pathways, and investigate the elements of dance (body, space, time, movement, energy). Movement allows students a chance to bring themselves back to a place of physical and physiological readiness for learning…capitalize on it!
Listening. Music is a powerful way for students to regulate their emotions. “Soundtrack” your classroom to give students cues as to what their learning environment should look/sound like. Allow your music choices to reflect whether it is time to work quietly or to collaborate, to signal transitions, to regulate the mood of the classroom. You might also create a listening corner where students can go to listen to peaceful music if they are feeling stressed.
Allow for arts-based differentiation. If students are struggling with a task, see if you can offer arts-based differentiation for the task, giving students a chance to express themselves creatively. For example, if a student is struggling with a writing task, allow them to create a piece of artwork to communicate the key points of their writing assignment, and then create an artist statement based on this artwork (see Arts-Based Strategies for Writing). Allow students the opportunity to develop self-awareness about their strengths and areas for growth, and use an area of strength to tap into that area that needs refinement.
Enjoy using these and other mindfulness strategies with your students!