Try This: "Mindful Moment" Activity
"Try This" is a series of blog posts geared towards educators that features smart but simple tips from KLS teachers. Our hope is that these bite-size ideas are something you can implement in your own classroom right away. We’d love to hear how it goes. Leave a comment or tag us on social media @khanlabschool if you try any of these strategies!
This school year, I began the routine of starting all my classes with 5 deep breaths.
When I was teaching a self-contained class in-person, I used to regularly have my students take 5 deep breaths to reset. We would do this quick breathing exercise to calm down after recess or to clear our minds while transitioning between subjects. After the abrupt transition to remote classes last spring, one of my students told me that she missed our deep breaths and asked if we could keep doing them over Zoom.
We started doing a simple breathing exercise (like the one pictured above) to start each remote class. It’s a small and simple routine that’s made a big impact. This has been a more chaotic school year than normal, and it's been especially helpful for my students to have a consistent routine for starting class as we toggle between remote and hybrid in-person classes.
Starting class with a breathing exercise has worked so well that I’ve kept doing it this entire school year, and I plan to keep doing it even when we resume classes fully in-person.
I know it's the middle of the school year, and you might be hesitant to change up your class routine now. But! This is such a simple addition, and I promise the benefits far outweigh the minimal hassle of starting a new routine mid-year.
Reasons to try using a breathing exercise to start class:
- It sets the tone for a calm and focused class.
- It's an easy way to incorporate mindfulness with any content area.
- It allows for a consistent start to class each day. Students know exactly how each class will start!
- It takes less than a minute of class time.
- It involves minimal preparation on the teacher end.*
- It helps students practice a technique they can use to calm themselves done, anytime they need it.
* To make it even less work for yourself, use my slide pictured above or just ask your students to simply close their eyes and focus on breathing in through their nose and out through their mouth for 5 breaths.
A few additional notes:
- Keep the preparation work simple on your end so the routine stays sustainable! Use my slide from above, or whatever comes up when you google "kids breathing exercise."
- Alternatively, if you're in a position where you can't project an image, you can also just coach your students through 5 deep breaths together. I typically say something along the lines of: "We're going to take 5 deep breaths now to calm down our bodies & brains. Settle into your chair, put both feet on the floor, and close your eyes if you'd like. Breathe in through your nose (pause), now breathe out through your mouth." I breathe in and out with my students as I repeat that last line for 5 breaths.
- If your students love the routine as much as mine do, you can feature a new breathing exercise each week. Right now, my class is working our way through Alphabreaths, a great book that features a kid-friendly breathing exercise for each letter of the alphabet. Breathe Like a Bear and Mindful Games are two other books I've used & would recommend for additional breathing exercises.
- If you're feeling shy about leading a mindful moment yourself, Headspace and Calm are both free for educators and have a variety of breathing exercises you can use to start class.
- If you want to learn even more about incorporating mindfulness in your classroom, check out Meena Srinivasan's book Teach, Breath, Learn. It has lots of practical tips and even a full unit you can use to introduce mindfulness to your students.
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