By Leah Eslinger Shaw, Instructional Support and Gifted Coordinator at Greencastle-Antrim School District
I know, I know. Another day, another new trend in education. Except this “trend” has been around for thousands of years! Maybe it’s brand new to you. Maybe you are curious but unsure how to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into your classroom. Maybe you are skeptical about the whole thing. Wherever you fall on the yoga-in-the-classroom spectrum, everybody can agree that a peaceful classroom is a happy classroom. How we get there may vary, but we can all take steps toward this goal.
Feeling unsure or overwhelmed? Never fear! Here are some easy, low prep ways to incorporate aspects of yoga and mindfulness into your classroom (and a sneaky way to become more mindful yourself). You don’t need to know everything all at once (or ever). Yoga reminds us that we are all humble beginners. What a lovely thought for our youngest learners!
Make a Calm Down Kit
Nothing fancy required. Just get a basket and fill it with a variety of items for a quiet and mindful experience. You can introduce it to individual students who may be in need of some reflection, or you can show your entire class the items and demonstrate some appropriate uses. You may need to add a bit more structure or guidance as you introduce this into your current classroom offerings or leave it completely open ended for young minds to interpret and explore.
Need some ideas for specifics? Scarves, textured cloths, putty, stress balls, sand timers, or perhaps Mindfulness Pebbles. You really can’t go wrong here! This will probably require some trial and error as you see your students interact with the items and each other. Give yourself permission to swap out items that prove to be problematic and add new items when you feel inspired.
Make Nap Time Everybody’s Favorite Time of the Day
Looking for a gentle transition to naptime? There are so many great choices out there, it’s hard to choose! A simple YouTube search will generate tons of viable tracks. If you’re looking for a recommendation, here’s my personal favorite, Relax and Be Happy: Mindfulness for Children. Warning do NOT listen to this while operating heavy machinery! :) Even your most reluctant nappers won’t be able resist some shut eye with Bari Koral’s soothing voice and the skillful instrumentation of Paul Avgerinos moving through the airwaves.
Strike a (Yoga) Pose!
Need your children to transition, stop what they’re doing, move onto something new? Tired of trying to raise your voice above the clamor? Invite your budding yogis to strike a pose before transitioning. Directions are way more fun to listen to while in tree pose! Unsure of yoga poses for young ones? Check out the newest yoga deck, Yoga Now! or these options,
Yoga Pretzels or Yoga Cards for inspiration and guidance. As students become more comfortable with the poses, let them choose their own.
Circle Time=Yoga Time
If you have internet access, YouTube can be an easy and valuable resource. Don’t be afraid of imperfection. Model an open-minded attitude for your students. Let them see you stumble and try, try again. What a positive and authentic way to model perseverance, grit, and determination.
Check out this fun video by Yoga and Mindfulness Expert Bari Koral:
Pro Tip: Always, always, always preview the videos first!
Since graduating from Juniata College in 2008, Leah has worked as a Learning Support Teacher, Life Skills Support Teacher, Instructional Coach, 6th Grade Teacher, and is currently the Instructional Support and Gifted Coordinator in Greencastle-Antrim School District. When not in the classroom, Leah is in the yoga studio teaching toddlers, teens, and grown ups! You can also find Leah scouring Pinterest for teaching ideas, reading, baking healthy treats, or bargain hunting. She currently resides in Greencastle, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter.
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