Strategies for Cultivating Student Mindfulness
Posted on: March 24, 2020
What is Mindfulness?
According to Mark Williams at the University of Oxford, “Mindfulness means non-judgmental awareness. A direct knowing of what is going on inside and outside of ourselves, moment by moment.” Or, as Jon Kabat-Zinn simply states, “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose.” Mindfulness practices give learners the tools to be present – be in the moment, without fear, shame, or judgment of self or others.
Meet Students Where They're At
Mindfulness does not always include movement, but incorporating movement into your approach may be a good way to connect with students where they are. As a teacher, you know the myriad of pressures students face in their educations that may affect you may or may not know what your students are coping with outside of your classroom that could be negatively impacting their ability to focus on their learning. With mindfulness instruction, you can help students cultivate comfort in quiet, so they are empowered to be self-aware and self-regulate.
Help students see that they can find their “center” from different angles: sometimes it can be movement, not stillness, which is the most accessible and calming practice for students! Some students may be negatively impacted by trauma, or even lack of sleep or a bit too much sugar. Or maybe not! Like adults, they have distinct constitutions and prefer to relax in their own way—what our bodies crave in states of stress or relaxation varies greatly.
Skip looking for a quick, one-size-fits-all model. Being compassionate, flexible and responsive will allow you to teach mindfulness most effectively.
Teach the Connection Between Mind and Body
Our and bodies communicate regularly and can provide helpful information about our well-being. By zooming in on your students’ background knowledge of stress and breath awareness, you can help lay the groundwork for attending to physical sensations in the body as a mechanism for regulating stress.
On a purely physical level, our bodies provide a great deal of information about our health, energy levels, pain or injuries, and if we feel hungry or full. Many people ignore the messages their bodies send them regarding their own physical and mental health instead of learning to read them—set your students up for success by practicing the body scan.
The body scan practice provides students with the formal practice of attending to sensations that can be pleasant, unpleasant or even neutral or numb. The purpose of the body scan is not to try to feel anything in particular, but rather notice how the body feels in the present moment, during the practice. In addition to information about our physical bodies, the sensations in the body can also communicate information about our emotional states. For example, common physical sensations that accompany anxiety are tightness in the chest and rapid heartbeat. Being able to recognize the ties between stress, emotional states, and the physical body is an important factor in practicing mindfulness.
Before learning the body scan, you may still need to master breathing. To learn the basics of breathing for mindfulness and more, explore the books below!
Mindfulness for Students
Learn how to teach mindfulness strategies to your elementary and middle school students to provide a foundation for social-emotional well-being and academic engagement.
With these books, you’ll gain practical strategies for teaching SEL, mindfulness, and movement to help your students maintain positive relationships, assume responsibility, become bodily aware, and grow into productive, contributing citizens.
Everyday SEL in Early Childhood
Everyday SEL in Elementary School
Everyday SEL in Middle School
Everyday SEL in High School
This article was adapted from the featured books: Mindfulness for Students by Wendy Fuchs and Everyday SEL in High School by Carla Tantillo Philibert