A growing trend in classrooms across the country is the concept of mindfulness. According to biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is the act of “paying attention on purpose” to the present moment, with a “non-judgmental attitude.”
Why is mindfulness important?
There are plenty of reasons to incorporate mindfulness into your classroom. Here are just a few:
- Help students understand, recognize, and handle their emotions
- Improve experiences for different types of learners
- Enable students to practice deepened awareness, concentration, and insight
- Increase students’ capacity for compassion and empathy
- Reduces stress — for everyone!
How can I incorporate mindfulness in my classroom?
When it comes to space, there are many ways to create a comfortable place for mindfulness that don’t break the bank. Here are a few of our favorite design strategies:
- Create a Student Break Area by using a bookshelf or piece of furniture as a divider. This can create a nook for quiet time.
2. Too cold to go outside? Use soft seating as an indoor alternative to grass. You can create a calming or relaxing Reading Lounge simply by adding a rug or some pillows on the floor.
3. After quiet time, set up the room for group reflections. You can have students circle up in chairs, Book Club style.
4. Design for the five senses. Some popular exercises include guided exercise on eating snacks mindfully, scenarios that require movements using different parts of the body, or even leading a mindful meditation session using chimes. Try using a Flexible Layout, with each station group doing a different activity.
5. Get outside! When the weather is nice, let your students connect with the sights, sounds, smells, and feels of the outdoors. One prompt is mindful walking, which you don’t need any fancy tools for. As the class walks, you can guide your students to focus on the moment and use their senses to observe their surroundings. As their minds wander, have them take deep breaths to bring focus back to their bodies. Simply being outside is a great way for students to build awareness of their surrounds and reflect on how space impacts their learning.
Bumps in the road to mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness time in classrooms is clear, but not everyone is convinced. Some parents might raise flags from a religious or productivity standpoint. But fear not! Sometimes showing does a better job than telling — think about offering mindfulness sessions for parents or community members. And there is no one way that mindfulness looks — some people might prefer some quiet time drawing or reading.
Lastly, if you think you don’t have time for mindfulness, you are probably too stressed! Think about carving out time for your students (and yourself!) outside of class: before school, at lunchtime, or after school. Gradually, as students and other teachers get used to the idea and practice of mindfulness, it can start trickling into your daily routine.
For more resources such as videos, lesson plans, and guided exercises on introducing mindfulness in the classroom, check out Mindful Schools.