Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is becoming more and more popular these days.  Whenever someone starts talking about it, and I share with them some tools I am already using, they are always surprised.

Like anything, I don't stick strictly to one tool or philosophy to teach my students skills.  I often use mindfulness in conjunction with self-regulation skills, or coping skills for anxiety.  I have to say, more than often, my kids love these tools.  The #1 tool is probably the mindfulness bell.

So what is mindfulness?  It's a state of being active, open and attentive to the present

In kid terms?  It's a way of paying attention to what is happening right now in our mind and bodies

So how do I use it?

First off, I don't think, personally, it's one of those programs you can use 'on the fly'.  You really have to prep and practice.  I find that this book:


A Still Quiet Place by Amy Saltzman, and Kids Relaxation (a blog) are my most used and valuable tools.

When I introduce this concept to kids, I find it's one you have to practice to understand.  For my older students, I show them this video:


And then we practice.  Working on one of the suggestions from the book, we start with this simple activity:

  • I ask all students to close their eyes for one minute
  • After the minute, they write down all of the sounds they heard
  • We share them
  • We repeat that (listening, writing) for another minute
  • We talk about how mindfulness is like a muscle in our body, it takes practice, and the more we practice, the better we get
  • We talk about how we felt during the activity.  Almost all students immediately feel calmer

There are SO MANY great mindfulness activities out there.

1.  Probably the most loved by my kids is the glitter jar.  To keep it kid-friendly, I use plastic water bottles (those chubby little round sports ones are the best!)

2.  Any sort of body calming activities are great for incorporating into these groups.  The plumtree website has my favorites.  I have used Spaghetti Body with whole classes!

3.  The mindfulness bell.  Sometimes teachers don't believe me when I tell them how calm glitter jars and the mindfulness bell can make those kiddos who can't stop moving.  This is just one example of a bell.  I use an app on my phone/ipad and kids love it.

I would encourage anyone to do some research and try some mindfulness with one of your students!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Check-In

Preparing for, and running small groups is something I am continuing to improve.  They are ever changing, constantly rescheduled, and I'm always trying to find a way to improve them.  I'm found a few things I do help them to be successful:

1.  Planning ahead (I always strive for it)
2.  Making a "plan" and writing it on my whiteboard for students
3.  Check-ins

I start every single group with a "check-in".  It's something my kids have come to expect, and some of them will even fire off their number when they walk in!  If I need the number for data, or when I'm starting to teach this skill, I use a paper form, but after a while, a poster visual is all my kiddos need.

It's super simple to use:  Ask your students to think for a minute and circle (or just keep in their mind) how their day is going so far.  Give them a minute.  Go around in a circle and have them say which number they picked and why.  The why is really the most important part.  It's how I find out things that are going on at the playground, at home, or at school, that my students otherwise might not mention when I ask them "How's it going?"


You can click on the image above, or visit my TpT store for this download.

What do you find effective for check-ins?

Friday, February 13, 2015

RAK week

Every year, I plan to do something for Random Acts of Kindness week.  Then, January comes, and I can barely survive the new referrals and evaluations, I forget all about it.  This still happened this year, but because of the school climate program I recently rolled out at my school, I was more motivated to get it done.  I recruited my social worker and a parent volunteer to do a pretty easy activity school wide.

RAK week
At the beginning of RAK week (February 9th), I went home a letter to parents about a school-wide project.  I asked every student, teacher and family to complete an "act of kindness", and write it on a heart.  I sent 2 hearts home with every student, and started collecting them the net day, and displaying them throughout the school.



I also sent some ideas to teachers; a quick youtube video and some ideas for discussion about kindness in their classrooms.
Sculpy clay hearts we made to make people smile

A little chocolate makes everyone smile!

I love reading the acts and hanging them up!  I'm going to choose one from each grade to read at our upcoming climate assembly.

I love that our students are thinking about others and kindness!