Teaching mindfulness in the classroom is a powerful way to support student social-emotional learning. Over the years, as I became much better (and more passionate) about helping my students learn important social and emotional learning skills, I realized that there were a few important main ideas or themes around the teaching that was very successful. My students were able to make choices in their learning and stay engaged with the learning and their peers for longer and longer periods of time. I knew my mindfulness mindset and lessons were responsible for this.
It often starts with a question like “How do you get your kids to stop tattling?” or “My kids just don’t seem to care. How do you get your students to self-reflect so that they make better choices?”
You can’t just “do mindfulness”. Mindfulness is an awareness and a process.
Mindfulness is not a quick fix, it’s a philosophy. I saw a need for teachers and kids to be able to learn this important set of concepts with more ease. Below, you will find 6 ways to teach you to teach mindfulness in your classroom.
As a teacher, you have to really want change. You have to really believe in mindfulness to be successful in the implementation.
What is Mindfulness?
What is mindfulness? I explain it like this: Mindfulness is an acute awareness of the here and now. It’s being aware of yourself, your surroundings, your feelings, your senses, and those around you. It’s the awareness of how you are feeling and how you can make yourself feel better or silently celebrate these good feelings and pass them on to others in a kind and gentle way.
Teachers and Mindfulness
As teachers, we deal with enormous stress. It is such a busy, all-consuming job. Embracing mindfulness starts with you. There are so many teachers I know who are burnt out or on the road to being burnt out. Why? There are personal situations, the nature of the class in front of them, and all the little things that teachers have to deal with day after day.
Many people seem to live their life on auto-pilot. Even kids are doing this more and more. How can you change that?
How do you change your mindset in teaching to leave space for reflection so that you can plan the most meaningful lessons for students on mindfulness?
Start with yourself.
Carve out ME time.
By asking yourself “Do I really need to get that done right now?”, “Why am I teaching that?”, “Is there a more effective way to teach that where I can facilitate the learning and not be directly teaching all the time?” (Students feel your stress.) Once you have changed your mindset, you will be amazed at the engagement of the students and their ability to self-monitor their learning as well as their emotions.
In order to help teachers simplify the process behind this rich learning (teachers are busy!), it was important to look at the strategies and lessons that were the most powerful ways to teach students. Students need to understand their own emotions and reactions and how they can use self-reflection to monitor, develop, and/or change behaviors. Once these skills are intact, students make better choices in the way they can learn best.
Beginning the Process
Research is always important in education and social-emotional learning is no different. Looking at research done by the University of British Columbia researcher Kim Shonert-Reichel et al and the resulting curriculum Mind Up was a good first start. CASEL is also a wealth of information on SEL and was informative to consult as I put together social-emotional learning in the classroom.
Putting together learning about character, social skills, mindfulness and self-regulation and more from the CASEL framework would require organization and scaffolding of learning. Putting all the learning together in a tidy notebook and giving students something to interact with was the right combination.
6 Tips to Help You Teach Social and Emotional Learning Skills
- Begin with a self-assessment. Kids will often write about things they think they are good at like “I am a good runner”. At the end of the unit, I suggest doing it again.
By the end, students will see things like “I am kind” as one of the best things about themselves.
- Help students learn to recognize and acknowledge that their 5 senses play a big role in their self-awareness.
- Once students have become aware of their own feelings and habits etc, they can turn to others’ feelings. For younger students maybe the people who help in your school may be a great place to start. You can turn it into people in your family, your friends, or whatever is appropriate for your grade level.
- Now that students have learned to look beyond themselves they are ready to begin regulating themselves. It’s important that they know that their actions affect others. This is one reason why they need to learn how to regulate themselves. The other reason is to be able to learn at their own optimum level. Everyone is different. Once students realize what makes them unique, they can learn to regulate themselves. This may include knowing when to take the breaks that they need.
- Next, have students understand that it is possible for them to “grow their character”. If you need a poster set to help you to teach (in kid-friendly language) what these character traits mean, take a look at this helpful poster set.
- It’s important that students see their growth and view learning with a growth mindset. Kids really respond well to the “growth mindset” philosophy. By learning to recognize a fixed mindset, they can become more able to change it.
Moving Forward with Mindfulness
Through these SEL lessons, students learn how to self-monitor, problem-solve, and become personally and socially responsible. Moreover, these character traits and skills help students take charge of their learning and their own behavior.
Who could not love that?
Click on the image below to grab a FREE set of mindful posters for your classroom.