If you’re going to rise, you might as well shine!

I love the word “shine”.  I think about people fired up internally and how that manifests itself on the physical body. You can actually feel it if someone is shining.

To teach students how to shine, we use star. First, it teaches students how to activate their bodies. Start with limp, wet noodle limbs. Allow students to get hunched over and small, then… ACTIVATE! Straight strong legs, spread slightly wider than hips, are rooted into the ground. A tall spine and crown reaches towards the sky. Finally, arms are straight and strong with fingers spread. Make sure to roll shoulders back and down… lock them into place. Viola: Star. To get started, download Star from our Move Mindfully Card Deck.

students shine in star

To really get the feel of activate, try playing Activate, Relax, Walk. This game from the Yoga Calm® curriculum develops self-regulation, focus, and transitions through a “Simon Says” like approach moving in and out of activation.

star outside in the snow

We even took our shine outside! It may be below freezing and snowing, but we can still shine!

mythology creative writing lesson

Science and ELA Standards

Then, we wove star into our science standards as we headed to the Star Lab! Our naturalist projected lights that mirror the night sky. With a laser pointer, she circled constellations and told the myths that have been passed down over thousands of years. To weave in writing and literature, students inserted themselves into a Zodiac myth!

Social Emotional Learning

Finally, try bringing the group together with Yoga Calm®’s Galaxy Game. This group pose is actually quite challenging. Students, as individual stars, have to come together to create a galaxy. Not only do students need to navigate the exact size of the circle, but also have to find the perfect amount of pushing pressure. Too much pressure and the circle is unstable. Too little and your neighbors can’t activate. The first time, it took almost ten minutes for the students to find the full expression. I love sitting back and watching the team problem solve! However, subsequent galaxy formations were quick and painless.

The stories of the stars. Shining bright in your own strength. Fully activated and present in the space. Standing together, individual stars contributing to collective shine.

Have you ever taught traditional literature with the star stories? Have you used star pose or galaxy to teach personal and group strength? Leave a comment!

Be Well,

Stephanie Kennelly

Mindful Snack

A fun and effective way to introduce mindfulness is with mindful eating.

Do you have a snack time? Perhaps your students eat snack during read aloud, or simply shovel it in before recess. The Mindful Snack activity from the Yoga Calm® Curriculum is the perfect resource to create a meaningful mindful experience.

At the core of mindful eating is staying grounded and present with our senses. How are we connected to our food? What food creates healthy energy? The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack program is a grant that provides weekly fruits and vegetables. The vegetables offer the perfect opportunity for a Mindful Snack lesson!

Preparing the Snack

ingredients for mindful snackUsing carrots and some additional items from my own pantry (raisins, crackers, cheese, honey, pineapple, chocolate) we had all the ingredients we needed to create. To make the moment special, I used special plates from the Goodwill sale rack!

The twist in this assignment was that they were not creating their own spread, but their partner’s. The big question that drove the lesson was, “How can beautifully displayed food contribute to mindfulness?”

They had a fantastic time arranging the food and finished the display with a placemat, fancy napkin and cup of juice. Since the excitement in the room was about to bubble over, I made sure to take time and get re-grounded with Belly Breathing from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck.

Next, it was time to present the food. Sitting down at the plate that was painstakingly created by their partner, there were audible gasps. I had them sit in silence for one minute and just notice the display.

mindful snack display 1  mindful snack display 3

Eating the Snack

The students had to eat for two minutes in silence. Just noticing all of the different flavors. Chewing slowly and deliberately. Then, the students spent a minute or two journaling about what they observed with their five sense. Finally, they were allowed to quietly talk to the students at their table. The conversation was all centered around the food taste, texture and presentation.

Enjoying mindful snack

Comments like, “I don’t like raisins, but they looked so beautiful on my plate, I had to eat them!” “I never would have thought honey would be good on pineapple, but I really enjoyed it!”

We didn’t use any sharp knives or any heated kitchen appliance. The students could go home, pull items out of their pantry and create something for their family. This makes a great holiday gift that essentially costs nothing. Knowing the value of beautiful food is a life skill.

To finish with another life skill, students wrote a thank you note to their partner. We talked about what a thank you note should entail and the importance of hand written acknowledgment. It was a highly motivating, real world writing assignment!

thank you letter from student

Mindful eating is a core component to wellness. Slow down. Facilitate a space where your students can experience food. It was amazing how grounded, present and calm the energy was in the room during the entire experience.

This year, giving a few minutes to mindfully eating the snack has made a huge impact, not only in their appreciation of food, but also in the development of sensory language. We are miles past, “It tastes good” to “It tastes crunchy and smells floral”.

Have you brought mindful eating into your work with students? Leave a comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

Centering Routine

How can we help students get ready to learn?

Are you teaching “small groups”? Rotating through reading stations, math stations, Daily 5, Daily 3, CAFE, conferring… Woosh, is your head spinning yet? I wonder how the students feel!

This trend of small, skill based, differentiated groupings, may be a good thing for academic goals, but it definitely increases the amount of transitions. The students are expected to move around the room, get materials, navigate space and remain focused on individualized academic tasks. That’s a lot to ask.

I have found ease in transition with consistent use of the Move Mindfully® Centering Routine.

centering routine

Using the Centering Routine

All students, the ones working in a small group and the others working independently or with partners, go through the routine. The entire routine is completed from a chair. It is perfect for starting groups or for seated body breaks. This routine also utilizes twists, which are great to promote digestion after lunch!

At the end of the routine I like to ring the chime to cue a slow transition out of the final rest and into the lesson.

head on desk

I have found that the most powerful position in the routine is “head on desk” version of child’s pose found in our Move Mindfully® Card Deck. I know the idea of “head down” can seem punitive, but I think this powerful pose just has had bad PR. It triggers the calming response to lower the neck and also shuts out visual stimuli.

Taking time to center and reset is an effective use of time. This intentional breath, movement, and rest allows a focused energy. I notice that after these moments, nobody gets up, moves around the room or asks to use the bathroom. You will find your students are more able to focus on the task at hand.

seated upward mountain

I know a movement based classroom is all the rage. Wiggle seats, wiggle standers and fidgets galore. Don’t get me wrong, I think that movement is extremely important. However, certain types of movement can be hyper altering and counter productive to achieving the ideal relaxed alert state. We need to offer intentional moments of stillness.

Do you use a centering routine after transitions? What have you done to promote stillness? Leave a comment!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

Calming Routine

In a world that never seems to stop moving, we all need a place to get grounded.

What does this look like in the real world? Recently on a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, I visited an entire room devoted for staff and patient mindfulness. In my classroom, we have the be station. After having many names (Take a Break, Relaxation Station, Think Chair) we have landed on be station. (Thank you to Fallon Henderson!) The thought behind this is that students are allowed to show up however they are and just be.

Here are some tips for creating your own be station.

calming routine

Allow Movement

It is crucial that space is provided for movement. A be station with just a chair, misses the bodywork that we know is so important to creating the ideal relaxed, alert state. If space allows, have a yoga mat on the floor to define the boundary. Limited on space? A simple carpet square will do the trick.

The movement at the heart of my be station is the Move Mindfully® Calming Routine. The students are familiar with this routine because we practice as a whole group 2-5 times a week.

practicing calming routine

The practice is necessary before students are expected to use the movement independently, especially if they are agitated. The Calming Routine is available in a large poster or smaller poster strips. Another option is to have students create their own routine from our Move Mindfully® card deck. Looking for something simpler? We also offer Permission to Pause posters with three movements and a Photo Book with one movement and affirmation per page. Whatever your choice, make sure students have the space and a visual resource that reinforces regulating movement.calming routine
Provide Resources for Breath Work

We recommend every be station includes a Hoberman Sphere. Especially if the sphere is already part of the daily routine, having an extra one in the be station will reinforce the belly breathing strategy. Also, pinwheels can be helpful to encourage a releasing breath.

Tap into the Senses

If your site allows, providing essential oils can be an effective way to shift an unproductive state. We love our Move Mindfully® roller bottle blendAnother option is adding a few drops of peppermint, lavender or wild orange to a spray bottle to give students choice.

Nature can be a healing force in our regulation. Having a simple plant or even images of nature can create a grounding effect.

Our Occupational Therapists are a fantastic resource for providing sensory objects for your be station. From soft pillows to worry balls, having a variety of textures available is important.

child's pose

Your special education team may also have headphones available for students with audio sensitivities. Our students that are easily overstimulated with sounds of school day can find a self-soothing effect in noise cancelling headphones. Think about going underwater and hearing all sounds take on a muffled quality. It makes your breathing amplified and is incredibly grounding.

Classroom Management Tips

1. Only one student allowed in the area at a time. No exceptions.

2. The be Station is not for school work. This is a space to reset and refocus for the tasks of the school day, not a flex seating option.

3. Use a sand timer to limit duration. I recommend offering a few different options to give choice.

4. Model. At least once a week, I try to use the be station. In the beginning I’d hear whispers, “Look- Mrs. Kennelly is doing Yoga!” At first, I was doing it for my students- to be a model. However, now… I notice that I am a better teacher after my break! After I recharge I have more patience, energy and a positive attitude. I have even started using the last two minutes of my prep to do the Calming Routine before I pick up my class from specialists.

Are you ready to get started? Visit our store and pick up the be station kit. It has everything you need to put a be station in place. Looking for lesson plans? Our Teachers Pay Teachers store offers a Getting Started Kit with resources and videos to introduce the tools.

Do you use a be station? What works well? Please leave a comment below!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly