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September 25, 2017

Must-Haves for a Mindful Classroom

By Kriscia Cabral
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    The shift to create inclusion of social and emotional learning in education continues to move in a forward direction. According to Tina Barseghian, from KQED’s Mind/Shift site:

    “...we now realize the fundamental role that social and emotional well-being play in the attainment of academic outcomes. Learning to channel attention to productive tasks, to sustain motivation when work becomes demanding, and to handle the frustrations of sharing, learning, and communicating with peers are skills that depend on the ability to understand and manage emotions. These are competencies that children and adolescents learn alongside more traditionally academic ones. Demands for these types of interpersonal, intrapersonal, and problem-solving skills increase as students progress through the school years.”

    Our school has adopted the MindUp curriculum. We are doing a book study schoolwide. Every day we share a learning experience that is focused on our minds, our feelings and how to manage them, and ways we can learn and grow. Our classrooms have been revamped to create mindful work areas and places for core breathing. While I am still teaching lessons from our MindUp book, the results of what I’ve implemented so far has been incredible to see in my students.

    There are a lot of lessons to be learned that happen outside the book. There are strategies and tools that can be incorporated into your learning environment to help your students become more mindful and aware of their own social and emotional state.

    I compiled the following list of must-haves in the classroom after conversations with kindergarten thru fifth grade students from my school:

    Calming Jar

    The calming jar is a jar of glitter that can be initially used for sensory stimulation, but offers so much more. We shake the jar and introduce it to students as what your brain looks like when you are angry and frustrated. As the glitter settles, this is your brain calming while you take deep breaths before reacting to a situation. We have a variety of calming jars and students are welcome to use them when they are needed.

    Calming Chime

    Almost every classroom on our campus is now equipped with a calming chime. Have you ever noticed how rigid the ringing of a bell can be? The calming chime rings for about 10 seconds or so. The chime came from our MindUp book, but you can find it for purchase on the Internet with a search of "calming chime." It is used to help students focus on their breathing and ability to listen with intent. Students are supposed to focus on breathing while the chime rings and continue to breathe deeply until they can no longer hear the chime. What has been so amazing is how well students respond to the bell. They understand that when they hear it, their bodies need to begin to settle down, they need to focus on breathing and prepare their bodies for listening.

    Books About the Brain

    There is no better way to connect students to a concept than with a story. We grow empathy for characters, we connect to their situations and use them as a reference when we are trying to communicate our own feelings. Many of the following super finds came straight from the Scholastic Teacher Store. Each story shares a message about how your brain works or how characters work through a strategy or thinking process to make valuable decisions.

    Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak

    The Nervous System by Christine Taylor-Butler

    My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco

    Math Potatoes by Greg Tang

    Brain Power by Mary Atkinson

    Squishies

    Squishies are tactile tools for those who need something to touch in order to ease their minds. I bring in the big stuffed brain to teach about how our brain works and the role of the big three: amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus. The kids like having “Brainy” around as a reminder when they get stressed or angry. I try to get all kinds of squishies to provide lots of options for kiddos.

     

    Soft Starts

    The biggest concern from my students came from how they start their day. They feel rushed and stressed. They said it’s a lot to walk in and have to start working right away. A colleague of mine shared this concept of “Soft Starts.” A soft start is similar to its name: it is a soft way to start the day. This means that when students come into the classroom, they are greeted at the door, then prompted or prepped with “put your mind at ease” activities to warm up their minds for the learning day. Some of my soft start items include: Rubik cubes, puzzles, coloring pages, Geoboards, LEGOS, books, and brain teasers. Really any activity that gets your brain ready for the day could work. I’ve just eliminated the idea of having my students come in first thing and start doing “work.” They come in ready to stretch their brain or prepare it for a day of learning.

    The most important thing about all of these must-haves is that they work for my students. The amount of stress when coming to school has lowered. My students love their soft starts and the conversations we have about their brains are impressive. The MindUp curriculum and strategies we have put in place are helping the students and teachers take a new approach to how we all learn.

    Have you heard of mindful strategies for the classroom? Are there strategies or must-haves that are not listed? Please share! I’d love to add more!

    Thank you for reading.

     

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

     

    The shift to create inclusion of social and emotional learning in education continues to move in a forward direction. According to Tina Barseghian, from KQED’s Mind/Shift site:

    “...we now realize the fundamental role that social and emotional well-being play in the attainment of academic outcomes. Learning to channel attention to productive tasks, to sustain motivation when work becomes demanding, and to handle the frustrations of sharing, learning, and communicating with peers are skills that depend on the ability to understand and manage emotions. These are competencies that children and adolescents learn alongside more traditionally academic ones. Demands for these types of interpersonal, intrapersonal, and problem-solving skills increase as students progress through the school years.”

    Our school has adopted the MindUp curriculum. We are doing a book study schoolwide. Every day we share a learning experience that is focused on our minds, our feelings and how to manage them, and ways we can learn and grow. Our classrooms have been revamped to create mindful work areas and places for core breathing. While I am still teaching lessons from our MindUp book, the results of what I’ve implemented so far has been incredible to see in my students.

    There are a lot of lessons to be learned that happen outside the book. There are strategies and tools that can be incorporated into your learning environment to help your students become more mindful and aware of their own social and emotional state.

    I compiled the following list of must-haves in the classroom after conversations with kindergarten thru fifth grade students from my school:

    Calming Jar

    The calming jar is a jar of glitter that can be initially used for sensory stimulation, but offers so much more. We shake the jar and introduce it to students as what your brain looks like when you are angry and frustrated. As the glitter settles, this is your brain calming while you take deep breaths before reacting to a situation. We have a variety of calming jars and students are welcome to use them when they are needed.

    Calming Chime

    Almost every classroom on our campus is now equipped with a calming chime. Have you ever noticed how rigid the ringing of a bell can be? The calming chime rings for about 10 seconds or so. The chime came from our MindUp book, but you can find it for purchase on the Internet with a search of "calming chime." It is used to help students focus on their breathing and ability to listen with intent. Students are supposed to focus on breathing while the chime rings and continue to breathe deeply until they can no longer hear the chime. What has been so amazing is how well students respond to the bell. They understand that when they hear it, their bodies need to begin to settle down, they need to focus on breathing and prepare their bodies for listening.

    Books About the Brain

    There is no better way to connect students to a concept than with a story. We grow empathy for characters, we connect to their situations and use them as a reference when we are trying to communicate our own feelings. Many of the following super finds came straight from the Scholastic Teacher Store. Each story shares a message about how your brain works or how characters work through a strategy or thinking process to make valuable decisions.

    Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak

    The Nervous System by Christine Taylor-Butler

    My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco

    Math Potatoes by Greg Tang

    Brain Power by Mary Atkinson

    Squishies

    Squishies are tactile tools for those who need something to touch in order to ease their minds. I bring in the big stuffed brain to teach about how our brain works and the role of the big three: amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus. The kids like having “Brainy” around as a reminder when they get stressed or angry. I try to get all kinds of squishies to provide lots of options for kiddos.

     

    Soft Starts

    The biggest concern from my students came from how they start their day. They feel rushed and stressed. They said it’s a lot to walk in and have to start working right away. A colleague of mine shared this concept of “Soft Starts.” A soft start is similar to its name: it is a soft way to start the day. This means that when students come into the classroom, they are greeted at the door, then prompted or prepped with “put your mind at ease” activities to warm up their minds for the learning day. Some of my soft start items include: Rubik cubes, puzzles, coloring pages, Geoboards, LEGOS, books, and brain teasers. Really any activity that gets your brain ready for the day could work. I’ve just eliminated the idea of having my students come in first thing and start doing “work.” They come in ready to stretch their brain or prepare it for a day of learning.

    The most important thing about all of these must-haves is that they work for my students. The amount of stress when coming to school has lowered. My students love their soft starts and the conversations we have about their brains are impressive. The MindUp curriculum and strategies we have put in place are helping the students and teachers take a new approach to how we all learn.

    Have you heard of mindful strategies for the classroom? Are there strategies or must-haves that are not listed? Please share! I’d love to add more!

    Thank you for reading.

     

    Smiles,

    Kriscia

     

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Susan Cheyney

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