Incorporating Mindfulness of Breathing in K-12 Classrooms
- January 12, 2022
- Posted by: Jenn Breisacher
- Category: Breathing
Teachers are constantly trying to find ways to keep a calm energy in their classrooms. Though movement and excitement are certainly relevant in a student-centered classroom, it is important to keep a consistent level of interaction to assure that the cycle of learning keeps moving without jarring moments of tension or interruptions. I have found that the easiest way to achieve this is to consistently incorporate mindfulness of breathing into the classroom.
How to incorporate mindfulness of breathing
Focusing on mindfulness of breathing in the classroom will take some buy-in from your students, but once it becomes commonplace, you will find it almost running itself.
Here are some simple ideas to begin incorporating mindfulness of breathing in your classroom:
– Begin the class by asking them to take 3 deep breaths – Using a recording, have them breathe in counts of 4, hold for 2 counts, and release over 4. Students should start this timed breathing cycle at the beginning of every class until it becomes a habit.
– During moments of tension or disruptive behavior, ask students to breathe. Suggest to them that they focus on their breath and silently count with you. If the behavior continues, it’s important to escalate restorative consequences as needed.
– Periodically throughout the class, ask students to close their eyes and lead a few minutes of silent meditation. This allows students to come out of autopilot and into the present moment where they can choose their behavior rather than react to it.
– Dedicate at least 10 minutes of every class period to silent meditation for your students. If you have a large class, consider breaking the students into groups so each group can take turns in round-robin fashion leading a minute or two of silence and giving their classmates an opportunity to reflect on their day. This also doesn’t have to be a full 10 minutes, but can be broken down in stages when the energy needs it.
By incorporating mindfulness of breathing, the students will begin to calm down and focus on learning rather than reacting to their internal or external worlds.
Because of this, you will see an improvement in the quality of your classroom management and a greater ability for students to focus on schoolwork, all due to the simple steps of regularly incorporating mindfulness of breathing in your classroom.
Why mindfulness of breathing works
Mindfulness of breathing is a simple way to introduce your students to the concept of mindfulness because it’s a practice that can be done anywhere and at any time. This allows them to see first-hand how much more calm they can feel when taking a few minutes out of their day for this focused awareness.
I know in my classroom, which was secondary social studies, I was able to use our moments of silent meditation as an opportunity to review current events, assess the previous day’s notes, or start brainstorming new topics that were coming up soon.
With kids who may be more easily distracted than others, beginning with something like mindful breathing can help build their foundation for future mindfulness practices they will encounter in college and in life.
When starting a new mindfulness practice, it is important to prioritize integration over creating the perfect lesson plan
If your students are not familiar with what breathing is or why they should do it, this will have limited success. A great way to assess how much buy-in you have from your students is by using an informal pre-assessment to gauge their current knowledge.
– Ask them what breathing is and have a few students share their ideas about it.
– Assess if they know the difference between automatic and controlled breathing. This will be important later on when you introduce mindful breathing so it’s extremely important that they can distinguish between the two.
– Finally, ask them if they know what diaphragmatic breathing is. This will be the baseline for you to start with throughout your class.
What should I do if my class doesn’t take to it?
A mindful classroom is meant to promote calm. If your class doesn’t seem interested in the practice, consider replacing one of the activities above with yoga or stretching. Getting up and moving for a few minutes can represent that same transition into a calmness that they might be looking for.
This is an opportunity for you, the instructor to help your student get comfortable with the feeling of mindful breathing. For example:
– Have them sit in a chair and put their hands on their bellies so they can feel it rise and fall as they breathe.
– Have them close their eyes and do the same.
– After a few minutes, ask them to open their eyes and talk about how they are feeling.
– Start with one minute of meditation throughout the school day. As students become familiar with this process, you can increase the time up to five minutes for each round.
While introducing mindfulness of breathing practices in the classroom can be a great way to introduce your students to mindfulness, it is equally important for this practice not to overshadow other opportunities where mindfulness practices might work better.
– Mindfulness of breathing works well in content areas because you can see how it naturally fits into a lesson plan where you may be talking about a difficult topic and want students to reflect before moving on.
– Mindful listening is great in classes that require your students to take in information and communicate it to the class. This can be used when you are giving an overview of a new topic, previewing material for the day, or reflecting on what they’ve learned in previous lessons.
– Practicing mindful movement brings awareness to how your body is moving and can help students stay focused in a movement-heavy class like dance or P.E.
– Finally, practicing gratitude brings awareness to what we usually take for granted in our lives and reminds us of all that we have to be grateful for. This can be used anytime throughout the day but is great when done before lunch or after school.
Keep an open dialogue with your students so that if they have particular activities that they are already familiar with, you can use those as a starting point to introduce new concepts of mindfulness. This will help them become familiar with the practice and feel more comfortable taking on each lesson.
It’s normal for some students to immediately love the practice while others are more resistant. This can be seen as a barrier but, with the right tools and encouragement, students tend to fall in love with mindfulness practices over time.
Successfully Implementing Mindfulness of Breathing
The secret of teaching mindfulness to children is to first make them interested in learning it. Mindful breathing can be used to teach children about their respiratory systems, which may give them an interest in tracking the rise and fall of their bellies as they breathe deeply.
Once children are comfortable with mindful breathing, teaching them how to listen mindfully is another great step toward developing mindfulness skills. This helps children learn to focus on something outside of themselves as they become more aware of how their bodies are feeling.
For those children who find it difficult to sit still for a long time, practicing mindful walking is a great way to keep them engaged in the practice. You can also try asking them questions about what type of movement feels good, which helps them feel empowered and connected to their bodies.
Finally, help children develop gratitude for everything they have. This can be done with a simple exercise of you asking them what they’re grateful for and having them write it down on paper for everyone to see. Mindful breathing is a great way to practice mindfulness as the rise and fall of our bellies as we breathe can be linked to our feelings, which are always moving.
Mindfulness is not just about breathing! Each practice has its own benefits and techniques that can be used to engage your students in this important life skill. Just remember that the most important thing about mindfulness practices with children is to have fun each step of the way!
At the end of the day (and once they understand it), kids love to be mindful. You can help them get started each day with a little prep work and a fun bundle of materials you can accumulate over time.
In the end, mindfulness is a practice that comes from within each student. You can guide them along the way but it’s up to them to take what they learn and let it change the way they think and feel about their lives.
Mindfulness of Breathing Success
Once your class understands not only the benefits of mindfulness of breathing but also understands how to actually do it, your students will become more productive and stay with it longer. By consistently incorporating mindfulness of breathing into your classroom, you will see many benefits:
– Decreased stress and anxiety levels and an ability to deal with emotional highs and lows more effectively. This is not only important for students who have diagnosed disorders such as ADHD or Asperger’s, but also for those who just need a way to cope with the stresses of everyday life and the pressures of school.
– Better memory skills and an increased IQ level as a result of having better focus. This will help students not only in academics but also in their jobs after they graduate if they continue practicing mindfulness throughout their lives.
– Improved decision-making ability as well as increased creativity and spontaneity as a result of increased awareness, perspective, and intuition.
– Greater self-esteem and compassion for others as a result of meditation. Students who are experiencing greater peace within themselves will be kinder to their classmates, teachers, family members, and friends without even trying because it’s how they naturally feel.
– Increased focus and concentration, which will lead to better grades and increased self-confidence. Even if a student doesn’t perform as well as they would like during a test, they will learn from their mistakes and do better the next time without getting upset about it.
– A more accurate perception of reality based on present circumstances, less judgment towards oneself and others, and a greater understanding of life in general.
- A more positive view of the future, heightened awareness of potential consequences, and better decision-making ability as a result of being able to see things from a different perspective can help prevent risky behavior such as drug abuse or dropping out of school.
Mindfulness of Breathing and the 4 Keys
Finding ways to consistently incorporate mindfulness of breathing in a way that works for your specific students isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge that releases twice per year. It is called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.