Helping students understand their emotions and behavior when they’re young will set them on a path to being successful learners and empathetic people throughout their lives. Our new book Teaching Kids to Pause, Cope, and Connect provides easy-to-implement lessons and activities that help students develop self-regulation strategies, healthy coping skills, and empathy and compassion.
This exclusive look inside Teaching Kids to Pause, Cope, and Connect shares how you can implement a brief mindfulness routine in your classroom.
A brief mindfulness routine can help students prepare to start a lesson or to move on from it by calming their physical activity and their thoughts. A consistent and brief mindfulness practice can develop into a habit for students when done repeatedly. These routines are highly customizable based on the classroom environment and the mix of personalities present on any given day.
Here, we offer suggestions for ways to guide children through mindful pauses, helping them calm their minds and bodies before beginning each lesson (mindful check-in). A similar routine to conclude each lesson (mindful checkout) provides an extra opportunity for students to solidify what they have learned before moving on to their next activity.
Mini Mindfulness Script
You can use the following script as a mindful check-in at the beginning of each lesson to help students practice mindfulness and be present for the lesson.
Sit comfortably and notice your body settle down.
Let go of what you were doing before this.
Breathe normally. Pay attention to your breath as it comes in and goes out.
Breathe in . . . breathe out . . . That’s one breath.
Count your breaths up to four.
Pause for students to take four breaths. When you reach four breaths, focus your attention on me.
Notice how your body feels right now.
The Pause is another mindful check-in option. Once students learn the Pause, we recommend using it as a mindful check-in for each lesson in this book to reinforce the practice and help students build a habit. To use the Pause for a mindful check-in, follow the steps below.
Invite students to find a comfortable position and close their eyes or gently gaze downward. Guide them through the Pause:
- Stop; take a breath; observe; proceed.
- 4 × 4 × 4 Breath: Exhale to the count of four. Inhale to the count of four. Repeat four times.
- Mindful Detective: Ask: What signals are you getting from your body? What are you feeling? Pause. What are you thinking? Pause.
- Wise Action: Ask: What should you choose to do? Students may not have something immediate to So you may suggest they prepare to sit quietly and pay attention.
Ask students to open their eyes if closed. They can wriggle their fingers. Then begin the lesson. (The Pause can also serve as a mindful checkout; see below. If you’re using the Pause for a mindful checkout, move on to the next activity of the students’ day.)
At the end of each lesson, you can do a mindful checkout to help students consolidate their learning and prepare to transition to their next activities. Invite students to find a comfortable position and sit quietly. Then, guide them through one of the following mindful checkout activities.
Practice Breath Awareness
Guide students through the Mini Mindfulness Script (use the script above). After students have taken four breaths, ask them to notice how their bodies and minds feel at that moment. Then move on to the next task.
Be Mindful of Change
This mindful checkout has students pause to notice how they feel at the end of the lesson compared to how they felt at the beginning. This is a simple way for students to notice changes they experienced as a result of the lesson and a way for you to assess the effect of the activity on members of the group.
Begin by asking students to sit comfortably and notice what they are thinking and feeling in their bodies. Ask them to consider how they felt before the lesson and to notice how they feel now. To add fun and creativity to the checkout, suggest a playful checkout metaphor, which can change with each lesson. Introduce a category for students to use as a metaphor (such as an animal or a color), asking them to describe how they felt before and after using items from that category.
For example, you could prompt students by saying, “Describe how you felt before and after the lesson as . . . animals.” Demonstrate this by sharing your own description first. For example, you might say, “Before this lesson, I was feeling a little stressed and racing around—like a squirrel. Now, after practicing belly breathing with all of you, I feel relaxed and sleepy—like a bear getting ready to hibernate.”
Summarize the comparison: “Coming in, stressed squirrel. Now, hibernating bear.” Then ask students to give their own descriptions using animal metaphors. One student might say that he felt angry like a growling lion before the lesson. But afterward, he may feel calm and confident like a soaring eagle.
Keeping metaphors to one category rather than leaving it open-ended provides students with guidance and structure, as well as a way to compare their metaphors and relate to each other. This is a fun way for students to share their experiences and build connections. As they get used to it, students may suggest their own categories of metaphors. Here are some categories you could use:
- types of food
- types of flowers
- environments in nature (ocean, mountains, forest)
- cartoon/video game characters
Practice the Pause
Once students learn the skills for the Pause, you may choose to practice it as both the mindful check-in and mindful checkout. This repetition can help children master the skill, so it becomes more automatic and accessible when they are distressed. To use the Pause for a mindful checkout, follow the steps listed above.
Adapted from Teaching Kids to Pause, Cope, and Connect: Lessons for Social Emotional Learning and Mindfulness by Mark Purcell, Psy.D., and Kellen Glinder, M.D., copyright © 2022. Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; freespirit.com. All rights reserved.
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