Pinwheel Breath

What do you do when a student is stuck in a feeling of anxiety or anger?

The best thing you can do in this situation, is provide a strategy to regulate breathing and oxygenate the body. I always like to introduce pinwheel breath early in the school year. The pinwheel serves as a incentivizing tool. Watching the colors go around and around will memorize almost every user. The “toy” also makes this breath accessible because it seems a bit more lighthearted.

The Yoga Calm® Curriculum describes pinwheel breathing as a focus on the long steady exhale. It is a releasing breath that helps regulate the nervous system and calm anxieties. The pinwheel serves as a focal point, which increases focus and can be effective when used before testing or other activities that require intense concentration.

From a science perspective, you can visually experience the transfer of your energy (breath) to create motion energy (pinwheel). No breath, no energy. This idea integrates fabulously into science and engineering standards.

Here are some tips for integrating Pinwheel Breath into your science objectives.

1. Building Background

A great place to start is by building background about wind energy. Students wrestled with the real-world pros and cons that face our political and industrial leaders.

Next, I shared a real world example and read aloud the inspirational story of William Kamkwamba. William engineered a windmill to save his African village. See his Ted Talk  and read more about his biography. The picture book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is a great read aloud for all ages.

Reading a Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

2. Field Trips

If possible, take students outside to experience wind power first hand! We visited our local nature center to observe the electricity turbine and windmill water pump. We then went inside the schoolhouse and built circuits to power turbine models. How is wind energy utilized in your neighborhood?

Students visit wind turbine     Students participate in a wind experiment

3. Engineering

Once back in the classroom, have students use this Pinwheel Template to create their own pinwheel. Better yet, provide an assortment of supplies and allow open ended inquiry. Students can apply their knowledge to engineer a device that gains motion energy from wind energy

Students use STEM standards to create pinwheels







Students test the movement of a pinwheel      Students use classroom supplies to build a pinwheel







Finally, it all comes back to the social emotional work we do during mindful movement. Students are now invested into the pinwheel as a tool. They understand the importance of their breath. They have a strategy when the anger or anxiety bubbles back to the surface.

Boy relaxes by blowing a pinwheel









Have you tried pinwheel breathing? Leave a comment with what you have tried!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

A Boy and a Bear and Leadership

“While we teach, we learn.” – Seneca

This philosophy can be used as the foundation to extend breathing techniques and mindfulness practices within your school.

Leaders at Assemblies

A great strategy for encouraging school wide implementation of Move Mindfully® is with student leaders. Assemblies offer the perfect opportunity to reach the entire student body. Try leading a “mindful moment” at an assembly. Simply start with having everyone follow along with Belly Breathing found in the Move Mindfully® Card Deck.

Mindful Moment at Assemblies

Feeling more adventurous? Add in some movement like our Calming Routine. It can be incredibly impactful to see an entire school community breath and move together.

Schoolwide Movement

If you are in a middle or high school setting that utilizes daily announcements, this can also serve as an opportunity to model some mindfulness practices. See an example here.

Leaders as Big Buddies

Another idea to bring this work school wide is to use “big buddies” as role models. A Boy and A Bear, a book from our store, introduces calming breaths to younger children.

A boy and a bear

Not only will you be addressing ELA standards with expression and fluency, but students will also have a self-esteem boost being in a leadership role. After reading, this book is a great tool to keep in your be. station!

Another way to get started would be with this math lesson plan from our Teachers Pay Teachers store to introduce slow, rhythmic breathing. Student leaders can be a math and mindfulness tutor!

big buddies reading

Could your students teach others the benefit of breathing? Leave a comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly


Autumn’s Beauty. The streets are lined with a parade of color.

Many times over the past few weeks I have stopped in my tracks to admire the beautiful fall colors. I find an even deeper appreciation for nature’s beauty when finding the balance, tree. This week I challenge you to get outside with your students for writer’s workshop. You’ll be amazed by the inspired poems that will emerge. To get started, download Tree from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck.

tree pose outside

While cuing tree, talk about grounding. How trees are rooted to the Earth and how we can find that same grounding. Talk about strength. How trees weather rain, wind and snow and how we weather the physical, mental and emotional seasons of life. Talk about stillness. How trees can stand still in the eye of a storm and how we can find stillness within chaos. Talk about community. In tree pose- we can hold each other up.

partner tree

Poetry Unit

My students were so moved that our movements inspired a mini poetry unit.  During morning meeting throughout the week, we compared our bodies to a tree. I prompted the students with a series of questions and recorded their responses.

How are your…

  • spine like a trunk?
  • hands like leaves?
  • feet like roots?
  • arms like branches?

tree to self comparisons

After our mind was full of comparisons, we embarked on a leaf hunt. Students carefully inspected leaves and finally chose one to bring back into the classroom.

outside tree pose in the fall

We traced the leaf with pencil carefully adding in all of the lines and intricate details…. the bug holes, the lobes, the veins. Then, we traced our hand. Again, carefully adding in the details… the hang nails, scars and veins. Next, we used water color to represent the various hues… crimson, gold, brown, leaves- peach, tan, ebnony skin.

Finally, we put it all together by revisiting our mind maps. Taking in all of these similarities, we wrote poems- “I am like a tree”. This inspired talks of similes (I am like a tree) and metaphors (My feet are roots). Once students have physically experienced the sensations, the poetic comparisons are no longer abstract.

We transferred these beautiful poems onto our work of art watercolors to create a masterpiece, worthy a permanent frame.

tree poem

The students not only experienced the ELA poetry standards, but also practiced holding a challenging balance. More importantly, we created an intentional opportunity to connect with nature and themselves.

Download our Tree Poetry lesson plan on our Teachers Pay Teachers site.

How have you integrated mindfulness into writing lessons? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Mindful Moment Cards

“How was your weekend?”

A phrase that most of us mindlessly utter on Monday morning can be a fairly loaded question. Teachers, mostly white middle class women, come into the classroom with a cultural identity and, knowingly or unknowingly, expect conformity from our students. How does this play out in simple social exchanges?

How about a sharing time, such as morning meeting? Share your favorite TV show (assumes you own a television), share your favorite ice cream (assumes there is money to buy treats)… you get the idea. So, what’s a teacher to ask?

Mindful Moment Cards

Mindful Moment Cards by Lynea Gillen offer an opportunity for personal sharing (either verbally or written response) that are free from cultural bias.

mindful moment cards









Each morning I choose one card to read aloud during our morning meeting.

morning meeting schedule

Then, we go around the circle, pass the sharing rope and respond to the Mindful Moment Card. Try a few out with these Mindful Moment Card Samples.

Sharing in circle time

Examples of Use

One morning the prompt was, “Share your color of calm”.  A boy said, “Orange is calm because I like to cuddle in my bed and read Garfield.” Later in the week, when he was struggling, I asked him, “What strategies do you have to find calm?” He responded, “Breathe in orange.” It was a question that anyone from any cultural background could answer. It allowed us to get to know him on a deeper level AND it provided him with a tool for self regulation. Seems a whole lot better than “How was your weekend?”

teacher modeling sharing

Another morning the prompt was, “Say the name of someone who really listens to you.” The rope made its way around the circle to a boy… who froze. Saying nothing. Blank face. One minute passed. I stood up, sat behind him and placed my hand on his back. The girls on both sides of him placed their hands on his shoulders. Five minutes passed. Total silence. It was excruciating. However, it was also beautiful. Finally, I “pulled the plug” since we were already late for music. The class left the room and the boy remained. After another thirty minutes, he walked over to me and  said the name of a girl in our class. One of the girls who had touched his shoulder during his freeze. I walked him back to the group, where he shared out her name. The class applauded.

I still am not quite sure what exactly happened. Or why it happened. All I know is that we had a moment. Those five minutes in time, looking back, will come to define us as a group. These questions run deep…

Please leave comment! What questions, either from the Mindful Moments Cards, or from your own creation, have had a impact?

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

Pulse Count

Do you have students fighting the calming breaths?

Sometimes, allowing yourself to be calm can be kind of scary. I have found that resistant students respond best to Pulse Count. Find the cuing language on the Pulse Count card from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “count to ten” when you are upset or angry. This breathing tool takes that to the next level. Not only are you counting (probably past ten), but you are also getting in tune with your body. You are literally feeling your body. High heart rate in gym? Good. High heart rate during a test? Bad. But here’s the good news is YOU are in control of your heart beat!

I began teaching pulse count with an overview heart and circulatory system. Then hooked them with the following activity.

Pulse Count

Take a 30 second pulse count. Record data.

pulse count

Do 30 seconds of jumping jacks. Take a 30 second pulse count. Record Data.

jumping jacks

Do 10 belly breaths. Take a 30 second pulse count. Record data.

belly breathing

Just looking at the raw numbers- the kids were blown away at the results. The real power here is in the recovery. With ten belly breaths, the body is able to totally self-regulate from a point of maximum exertion.

Here is a data sample:

  • Starting- 40 beats
  • After Jumping Jacks- 86 beats
  • After Belly Breathing- 36 beats

To bring this activity into your math lesson, double the counts to find beats per minute. See the math lesson plan on our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Doubling numbers to find bpm

Later in the week I had a boy in tears on the verge of a panic attack. I told him, “Remember pulse count? You can recover. You have the power to control your body. Let’s do a pulse count together”. Getting him out of his head, counting, breathing and feeling in control, he was able to self-regulate within a minute. Almost seems magical.

Please leave a comment with ideas of how to connect Pulse Count to other science or math standards!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly