How to bring mindful moments into your classroom part 2: reading
This is the second post in a series on how to bring mindful moments into your classroom. Please see this post for the first step towards introducing mindful moments.
As I mentioned in the last post, I am not a mindfulness expert. I do not have a special certification in mindful teaching, but I do have 14 years of experience teaching students who struggle with trauma, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and mood disorders (to name a few). Additionally, not all of the activities I share with my students are specifically mindfulness techniques, but they have all been scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety and stress, and improve quality of life.
I like to ask my students this question at some point during our mindful moments introduction:
Be honest; what do you think about school? Do you feel like you’ve gained valuable academic, social, or emotional knowledge in school (k-12)? Explain. What classes/lessons/people made coming to school meaningful to you? What was school lacking for you? What could have made (or still could make) your experience better?
You’ll be amazed (and sometimes appalled) by student’s responses, but it will give you some insight into what they find valuable. I like to guide the discussion towards social and emotional learning. I’m always curious what they feel they have learned about collaboration, communication, self-care, time-management, emotional intelligence, etc.
I refer to mindful moments in my classroom as Zen Time.
Zen Time is 10 minutes at the beginning of class during which students can partake in any of the following stress relieving activities: reading, writing, meditating, yoga, drawing, or coloring.
My last post explains how I introduce Zen Time and provides links to videos I use to teach simple meditation.
Today let’s introduce reading as a stress relieving activity.
Before we start any technique, I start with research supporting the technique. With reading, I like to also mention that in order for reading to be stress relieving they must be reading something they choose and something they enjoy. They may also find that reading is not the best technique for them. I love to read for stress relief, but they may find meditation or coloring more useful. Regardless, I ask all students to try reading for stress relief on the day I introduce it.
I tell them the class period before to bring something of their choice to read. It can be a novel, magazine, instruction manual, newspaper, graphic novel, book of poetry, etc. There really are no rules as long as it is school appropriate and it is something they enjoy reading. I define school appropriate as: “if an administrator were to walk in the room you wouldn’t feel the need to hide it.” I also have a selection of books and National Geographics in my classroom for students who don’t bring something of their own.
I share this image with students as part of the research that supports reading as a stress relief technique:
This is another good one:
Then the most important part, we try it!
I give students 10 minutes to read something of their choice. You must read too! Practice what you preach.
As I mentioned in my last post (and will remind of you of again and again) one of the most important aspects of the mindful practice is the debrief. Make sure to talk to your students about how it felt to try reading for relaxation (and each of the techniques as you try them). Ask what they struggled with or what went well.
Make sure to ask how they feel after trying it. Just TALK ABOUT it. Maybe share a little bit about what you read and how it made you feel. I usually mention that the 10 minutes feels too short when I am reading. I could happily sit and read for the whole 90 minutes. Some students who struggle with reading may find it more frustrating than relaxing and that is totally ok. They will find another one of the Zen Time techniques that feels right to them as you introduce them.
My next post will walk you through how to use writing for relaxation during Zen Time. After you’ve worked through each of the strategies, your ultimate goal is to be able to provide 10 minutes each class period for students (and you) to use whichever technique they like best in order to clear your minds, decrease stress levels, and help you all be more prepared for academics (and life in general).