I first learned about mindfulness while working for a summer camp 2 years ago. Each day at the camp we would take the time to allow the children to unwind and become more aware of their bodies while listening to some calming music. The children really enjoyed this time and I was excited to implement mindfulness in my classroom as much as possible.
I was a little unsure about how to begin teaching the children to be mindful but I thought that a good place to start would be to boost the children’s confidence. Each child wrote their name in bubble writing on a page and coloured it in as brightly as they could, their page was then passed around the class and each of their peers wrote something they like/admire about that child. The children were so happy to read what the other children had written about them. Exercises like this, which are really simple and fun to do, can really help to foster a positive and inclusive environment within the classroom.
Each day I try to take time out of our busy schedule to check in with how our bodies and minds are feeling. I find ‘GoNoodle’ very useful for this. There are a variety of different activities based on mindfulness on this website and the children also get a feeling of achievement as after they complete an activity they get a point and when they have enough points they can move onto the next level.
Music plays a huge role in my life and I think that it is a fundamental part of mindfulness. Children can find it hard to take time out from their busy lives and just relax but I think that music can really help them to do this. Ocean sounds and calm classical music are my favourite types of music to play when the children are checking in with their body and mind.
A very important thing for children to remember is to be grateful and thankful for all the things they have in life. As often as I can I will give the children some time to think about what they are grateful for, if they want they can share it with the class or they can just keep it to themselves. This gives the children a chance to really appreciate how lucky they are and allow them to be mindful that others may not be so lucky. Considering their own feelings and those of others can help to raise their empathy levels as well as their awareness that we are not all the same.
At the start of each lesson I complete a WALT and WILF chart with the children- (We Are Learning To and What I’m Looking For) this allows the children to be aware of the goal of the lesson and can help them to work with an objective in mind. The children can then take responsibility for their learning and be proud of the outcome when they complete the task. At the end of each lesson we discuss whether we have completed the goals we set ourselves and if not, how we could complete them in the following lesson.
I am passionate about teaching mindfulness in my classroom. I think that every child should be given the chance to learn how to check in with their body and their emotions as much as possible during the day. I believe that mindfulness is a great way of teaching children how to relate positively to one another and it helps children to cope and thrive in today’s society where everything is happening more quickly and less personally. Children must be taught how to look after their own mental health and teachers have a huge part to play in this. It is a little daunting at first but I couldn’t recommend teaching mindfulness in the classroom more.
Gillian Jackson is a primary school teacher in South County Dublin.