Mindfulness in the Classroom: Techniques to Improve Focus, Reduce Stress, and Boost Learning
Mindfulness is a major buzzword whether you are working in teaching, business, or hospitality. As a society, we are learning more and more about mindfulness and how this can help us to develop our sense of self, combat mental illness, and deal with stressful situations. Although mindfulness is encouraged in adults and teens, children are often overlooked.
For many children, the stresses and pressures of the world and the education system can make it difficult to concentrate, take in new information, or enjoy school. As a teacher, introducing mindfulness in the classroom is a great way to make a lasting impression on a child’s life. Through mindful techniques like breathwork and meditation, children can improve their focus, reduce stress, and ultimately boost their learning experience.
If you are new to mindfulness or simply want to learn more about different mindful techniques, below we look at how you can bring mindfulness into your classroom.
How Can Mindfulness Practices Benefit Students in the Classroom Setting?
Mindfulness practices can benefit students in the classroom setting in many ways. Many of the mindfulness practices taught in a classroom can also benefit children outside of the classroom and can be used as coping techniques throughout their lives. In fact, children who are taught mindfulness techniques at a young age are more likely to continue using these practices as they get older, making it easier for them to deal with stressful situations.
It has never been more important to teach children how to deal with stress and anxiety, as mental illness in children continues to rise. Teaching these techniques as a standard practice in schools will help mindfulness become the norm. The benefits of teaching mindfulness practices to children in the classroom setting include:
- Reduced stress and anxiety: The main reason for regular mindfulness practice is a reduction in stress and anxiety. Through different techniques, children can learn how to take control of their overwhelming feelings and emotions, rather than allowing their emotions to take over them. When a child is feeling anxious or stressed, they are less likely to want to learn or retain any of the information you give them.
- Increased self-awareness: Being mindful and developing a sense of how we feel and why we feel the way we do can increase a child’s self-awareness. This helps them to recognize their emotions and triggers and deal with them in a healthy way. As children increase their self-awareness, they will improve their self-esteem. Building self-esteem in children is a core component of bullying prevention, which unfortunately often happens in the classroom.
- Improved focus: Mindfulness practices can help children bring their focus and attention back to the classroom, which allows them to stay more engaged and focused during class time.
- Improved social skills: Through mindfulness practices, children can better understand themselves, therefore, better understand their classmates and peers. Mindfulness activities can develop compassion, kindness, and empathy in students, which will improve their relationships both in the classroom and outside of it.
- Encourages positive behaviors: Mindfulness practices teach us how to be kinder to ourselves, which in turn, helps us be kinder to others. If you want to reduce bullying in the classroom, teaching children positive behaviors is a fantastic way to achieve harmony.
- Boosting academic performance: Through the many benefits listed above, mindfulness can be used to boost academic performance and success. After all, children do better in an environment where they feel safe, nurtured, and supported.
Connecting to our breathing can provide an instant calmness and is something that children should develop at an early age. As children’s minds are constantly going from one thing to the next, they may find it difficult to concentrate on important topics for a long period. Through mindful breathing, children can learn the importance of slowing down and going within.
This will improve your student’s focus within the classroom, especially if done at the start of the day. By concentrating on the length of your exhale and making it longer than your inhale, you can instantly relax your mind and body. Use these techniques to calm down your younger students after break time and see a major improvement in the classroom.
You may wonder how meditation will work in a classroom full of children who can’t sit still, but there are many different types of meditation out there for you and your class to try. To help your children develop body awareness, a body scan meditation is a great way to promote relaxation in the classroom. A body scan meditation is a spoken meditation where a teacher will lead students to focus on different areas of their body, from head to toe.
Another form of meditation is walking meditation, which may be better for younger children. Walking meditation is exactly what it sounds like walking and focusing on the breath, sounds, smells, and sights. This should be done without discussion and can help children focus their intention on the world around them.
In the classroom, children who have developed a better sense of focus through meditation can use these skills to boost their learning. It’s not always easy to stay focused, but meditation can teach even the youngest children how to stay focused for longer periods.
If you teach music, you may want to try meditation in the form of music. There are many different music choices out there that are relaxing and can be played to children to calm their nerves and help improve their attention.
Ask them to notice what instruments are being played within the piece, whether they can notice any sounds in the backgrounds (perhaps choose a piece that has nature and bird sounds), or just ask them to write down how they feel while listening to the music. This can be shared with the class or kept personal.
Another beautiful mindfulness practice to bring to the classroom, gratitude is a great way to improve class connections and bring a positive mindset to the day. You may want to start and finish the day with a gratitude practice, where children write down or talk about the things they are most grateful for that day.
Our minds hold a negativity bias, which means it takes 5 good things to outweigh 1 bad thing. As school can be a stressful time for even the youngest of students, developing a sense of gratitude can make the school day more enjoyable, helping children to stay connected to the goodness in the world. This can also help children develop stronger friendships with their peers, through a connection of gratitude for one another.
A positive mindset can go a long way in the classroom and can make it easier for children who are dealing with heavy stuff at home. While you may not be able to solve all your students’ problems, you can teach them how to deal with things in a healthier way and improve their well-being through gratitude. Over time, children will be able to focus more on the good things happening around them, rather than the difficult or bad things.
A great way to encourage children to improve their writing skills and be mindful is with a mindful journal. This is a journal just for them, where they can share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Some children may find it difficult to express how they feel with words, but being able to write it down can calm their minds. Mindful journaling also promotes self-reflection and self-awareness in children of all ages.
As your students continue to harness their writing skills through journaling practice, you may see an improvement in their written work. Writing together is a powerful tool to bring a sense of community to the classroom. If you want to take this one step further, you could write a class book with a kit such as this one from https://studentreasures.com/start-your-classbook/.
This particular mindfulness practice works particularly well with younger students but can be used for students of any age. Each day, ask students to write down something nice, such as a beautiful quote or saying. At the end of every day, one student gets to choose a slip from the mindful jar and read it out to the class. This is a fun and sweet practice that develops a positive and mindful attitude in even the youngest of children.
As you can see, mindfulness techniques are a great way to encourage connections within your classroom, improve students’ focus, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and overall boost your student’s learning. Whatever mindful techniques you decide to do with your class, take the time to research and understand these practices yourself at home, so you are confident in bringing them into your classroom.
You may need to speak to your manager or the headmaster before bringing mindful techniques into the classroom, but by understanding the benefits you can show just how important they can be for children of all ages.
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