MindfullnessCultivating awareness, clarifying thinking, and improving focus and concentration are just three of the benefits of having a “mindful” approach in the classroom. Many schools today are opting out of detention and opting into mindfulness to develop strategies and techniques that will help students build lifelong strategies for responding to frustration, distraction, and problems by refocusing on the present.

Mindfulness is “…the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or become overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” (mindful.org)

We can help students be mindful of their world and create a positive learning environment. The following are four simple ways of incorporating mindfulness into the classroom:

1. Breath

Simple breathing techniques, along the line of meditation, can make a huge impact. Have students breathe in and count to 6, then breathe out and count to 7, closing their eyes and focusing on peace. Explain to students the benefits of deep breathing when they are in a difficult situation: It gives your brain time to respond, it calms your body, and it provides the ability to make better decisions because there is more oxygen in the brain.

2. Ice Challenge

Have students hold a piece of ice for an extended period of time, not allowing them to put it down or change the hand it is in. Have them orally respond to what they are thinking as they are holding it. Common responses are negative and often include complaining that it’s too cold to keep holding, asking if they can put it down, etc. The ice will eventually melt, and their hand will return to feeling normal. Share with students the analogy that in life we will go through hard things that seem permanent at that moment. But everything in life comes and goes, and hard times don’t stay forever. When we know that the situation we are in right now will not always be the way it is, we have a greater ability to deal with it while it is happening. Once students’ hands are back to normal, have them repeat the activity, this time focusing on breathing and staying calm, knowing it will be a short time before it’s over. Students can easily connect this activity to how to deal with hard situations that come up in life to respond to the situation rather than react.

3. Color

Purchase some “adult coloring books” and give students time during a read aloud or quiet classroom time to just relax. This teaches students that quiet can be calming, and this is something they can do independently. Knowing that you can calm yourself down and not depend on someone else to help you gives students power over their behaviors.

4. Food in Detail 

Give students a simple food such as a raisin (often used in mindfulness practices), grape, jellybean, or mint. Allow them ten full minutes to study every detail of this food. Students begin by first closing their eyes and feeling every part and texture, then listening to the sounds it makes as it rolls around between their fingers. Students then think about what it smells like, observe the colors and physical characteristics it has, and finally see how to tastes. This simple activity teaches kids to be aware of their surroundings in the present time and notice every detail around them.

By incorporating these simple mindfulness techniques into your instruction, students will begin to develop the thinking and life skills to be responsive rather than reactive, and to live in the present and improve resiliency.