…in the first five minutes.
The first five to ten minutes are the most important part of your day. It sets the tone for how the rest will go. Here are 7 activities you can use to establish a calm connected start to your school day.
These activities will take more then 5 minutes the first time. However, once you have established certain elements and explain the benefits to the student’s wellbeing and happiness, they can become a part of the daily routine.
Each of the activities, listed below, are supported by the outcomes listed under Personal and Social Capability or Creative and Critical Thinking Capability, outlined in the Australian and Victorian Curriculum. They are also examples of some of the High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) and are listed below.
1. Greet Every Student
Benefits: The relational connection that students have with you as their teacher will often has a greater impact on their receptiveness to learn than explicit teaching practices. A simple personal greeting will send the message to the student I am seen, I am valued, I am connected to my teacher, class and school.
I watched an interview with Dan Siegel yesterday where he was asked what part relational connections play in a child’s ability to regulate their emotions. He said that teachers and parent need to first understand the impact their behaviour has, in the context of relational connections, on a child. Then take steps to learn how to regulate their own stressors, through mindfulness or other means, so that that their disharmony does not impact the children in their life.
HITS– Strategy 9: Metacognitive Strategy
Activity: As the students come into your class greet everyone personally, with eye contact and openness. Try to ask them a question that is relevant to them.
Benefits: Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in the present moment. We are not thinking about the past or the future. Mindfulness supports people to focus on the here and now, relieves stress in the body and mind and regulate our emotions.
*If you would like to share mindfulness activities with your students, cultivate your own practice first. Then share mindful moments with your students, always ensuring that this is your cue to join in and return to present moment awareness. Research has shown that when teachers practice mindfulness student happiness at school and curriculum outcomes increase.
HITS– Strategy 9: Metacognitive Strategy
Activity: Always start with the breath. Take 5 deep mindful breaths. Inhale though your nose slowly counting to 4. Your breath should travel all the way down filling up your stomach like a balloon. Then slowly exhale out of your mouth, counting to 4 as you do. Gently pulling your stomach muscles in as you exhale.
Join the Mindful Storytelling email list and receive your gift. 21 days of mindful moments to share with the young people in your life.
Benefits: Meditation helps kids develop focus, regulate their own emotions and learn how to pay attention inside and out. The first step is to support students to focus on the sensations outside their body.
HITS– Strategy 9: Metacognitive Strategy
Activity: Set a timer- You may put quiet music in the background. Sitting with your back straight in a comfortable position, either on a chair or cross legged on the floor. Eyes closed or open. (If the eyes are open focus on a point about half a metre a way from where you are sitting. Your eyes are relaxed in more of a gaze then wide open.) Rest your shoulder and allow your hands to rest on your stomach or on your thighs. Take five deep slow mindful breaths. Then breath normally. Focus on the breath as it goes in through you nose then as it shifts to going out. When a thought or a feeling comes up think of them like clouds and watch as they slowly pass. Then bring your attention back to the breath.
Visualisation is a reading comprehension strategy. This is where the words in a story create a picture in our heads, like a movie, while we read. Visulisation, as a meditative technique, develops focus, reduces stress, improves performance (Is used by many professional athletes), sparks inspiration, brings joy, and more.
HITS– Strategy 6: Multiple Exposure and Strategy 9: Metacognitive strategy
Activity: Cutting the Cords
Sitting up straight, cross legged or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, in a comfortable position, start by taking 5 deep slow mindful breaths. Now breathing normally, see your self in your minds eye. Imagine that there are cords connecting you to people, situations or problems that have happened recently or in the past. We are not going to look at all these problems we are just going to see the cords connected to us. Each of these cords, I think of them like spider webs, are pieces of energy. Some are your energy and represent your thoughts and some are the other people’s energy.
You may like to say to your self in your mind, I now unhook or cut all the cords connected to me and others. I ask that my energy that I have thrown out, when I have had sad or angry thoughts about another person or situation come back to me now. I now see all the cords unhooking. Some of these cords of energy are returning to me and some are going back to where they belong. I am watching as all my energy come back to me. Now that all your energy has returned sit here for a minute, visualising that you are surrounded in a ball of light your energy has returned to you. In this moment you belong here. You belong here in this moment.
5. Morning Pages/ Journaling
Benefits: Writing with out thinking has been attributed to numerous benefits such as increased IQ, mindfulness, sparks creative ideas, and more.
HITS- Strategy 6: Multiple Exposure and Strategy 9: Metacognitive strategy
Activity: Set a timer for 5 minutes. On a recycled piece of paper, students literally write whatever comes into their mind. It could be words, it could be feelings, whatever comes to mind write it without judgement. Then crumple it up and throw it into the recycling. Unless it turns into a writing seed or an idea then glue it into your writer’s notebook.
Benefits: Research out of Harvard has shown that gratitude has numerous beneficial outcomes. When practiced it supports people to cultivate a more optimistic outlook, increases self confidence and has even been attributed to becoming healthier.
HITS- Strategy 9: Metacognitive Strategy
Activity: Gratitude can be practiced in a few ways. Students can write something they are grateful for on a piece of paper then share it with the class. You can start a gratitude Jar as a visible representation for all the things the class has to be grateful for.
7. Intentions/ Goal Setting
Benefits: As teachers we present the learning intention and the success criteria at the beginning of every lesson. Student setting their own intention or goal at the beginning of the day or week supports them to take charge of their own learning and personal development. Rather than being a specific goal about their learning it can be in an area such as friendship, collaboration, feelings or emotions, cultivating a growth mind set, etc.
HITS: Strategy 1 Goal Setting, Strategy 6: Multiple Exposure and Strategy 9: Metacognitive strategy
Activity: Start with 5 deep breaths. Today I am… Fill in something you would like to work on or embody. For example: Today I am brave, kind, a good friend, unstoppable, persistent in my learning, etc. You may link to create an anchor chart or a space with examples of personal goal ideas.
Take a moment to visualise all the moments through out your week or day when you are achieving this goal. If you are focused maybe you see yourself concentrating on your work in class, or maybe you are amerced in building a Lego creation. If your goal is to be kind to other people you will see yourself taking care of a younger student at school or offering to help a friend.
For more idea on how to promote peace, presence and create a calm connected classroom, join me for Mindful Management. This two-hour online workshop will give you new ideas on how to shift the energy of your classroom one moment at a time with mindfulness.
They say it takes 21 days for new habits to form. Join the Mindful Storytelling email list and take a 21 day journey into mindfulness with the young people in your life.