Mindful walks create a rhythm to start the day.
It’s a Tuesday morning and the sunshine sparkles off the snow outside of Oak Ridge Elementary School of Leadership, Environmental and Health Sciences. The school starts each morning with 15 minute Mindful Walks around the school campus. Here is the structure one second grade classroom uses to make these mindful moments meaningful.
Before the Walk: Setting the Stage
Second graders trickle in the classroom door. Most join the group at the carpet, but a few remain at their desks- some tucked into raised hoodies. Students begin with our Breathing Routine as a way to settle into the morning. Mrs. B opens a big book of nature poems and reads a winter poem by Robert Frost. She reads it once. Closes her eyes and waits. Then, opens her eyes and asks the students what they saw. After a few share, she reads it again.
“I love reading a nature poem before our Mindful Walk. It sets the stage for noticings”.
The second graders bundle up in snow gear and line up at the door. Walking outside is a physical manifestation for clearing the slate. Mrs. B talks about the importance of this time for connection and healing. This time is different from recess because, as the kids explain, “there is no running or games.” Mrs. B recognizes the importance of this time to practice self-management. Some students do feel the need to run, but continuing to practice each day creates a new muscle memory for slow, mindful walking. Each day the students intentionally walk the same path. There is a comfort in the predictability and structure of the routine.
It is also different from naturalist time because, “we don’t have any work to do.” This time is a gift to… just be. Students notice the shadows cast on the snow from the barren tree branches. A group observes animal tracks and different consistencies of snow. Winter is so beautiful and the morning walk offers an opportunity to slow down and notice. Students are even given the opportunity to stop along the way and move their bodies in various yoga-based movements.
Mrs. B is also able to check in and help students reset for the day. Hand in hand, very little words are needed to forge connection. The combination of movement and fresh air sends endorphins to the brain that allow students (and teachers) to reframe towards the positive.
After the Walk: Reintegration
After the walk, students gather back at the carpet. Mrs. B reads aloud a short picture book to reintegrate to the classroom. This time, all students join the carpet. “The students are much more willing to participate after our walk”, Mrs. B says. Then, students will transition to their managed independent learning. This is the stretch of the day that requires the most stamina. However, the mindful morning morning routine has prepared their brains, bodies and hearts for the challenging tasks ahead.
A Trauma Responsive Approach
We know that a trauma responsive lens utilizes rhythm- beginnings, middles and endings. Predictability. Structure. Someone may look at this daily routine and wonder about the time commitment. However, some of the latest research shows an average teacher requires 45 minutes of redirection time a day due to emotional breakdowns. We know that most students do not enter the classroom ready to learn. Routines like Mrs. B’s Mindful Walk allow for students to come in as they are, and join the rhythm of the school day.
What do you use to create rhythm in the school day? Have you tried Mindful Walking? Leave a comment!
Greetings Move Mindfully Community,
We are holding all of you in our hearts and setting intentions for the health, safety and well-being of everyone. Over the past few weeks we have been learning about COVID-19 and its impact on our communities and the world. We know how challenging everyday life can and is likely to be during these very uncertain times, making it important to find ways to be resourceful and adapt to a variety of situations with alternative plans.
We’re hosting a Facebook Live event everyday at 4 pm CENTRAL. It’s a good way for everyone to take time to Breathe, Move and Relax. We hope you’ll join us.
We assume that some of you will not be able to host live workshops so we want to let you know that we have the capability to host webinars as an alternative. Webinars are very effective and SUPER easy to do. We simply send you a link and everyone can be in their own space and on their own devices (e.g. at home, on the phone, computer, etc.). We can email a survey right after the workshop and everyone will get their CEU’s. Since webinars are interactive we will be able to take polls, answer questions, etc. School districts have found this to be a fantastic option for learning because it is so accessible. For individuals who do not have devices or access to the internet we help to find solutions such as sending them a link when they return back to work.
If you’re interested in any of our other expanded online services, you can check out the full list here.
At 1000 Petals, we believe that Move Mindfully practices are a valuable resource now and in the future as we encourage people in our communities to create and hold space for themselves with a focus on self-care and self-compassion. Let us know if you have questions, need more information, or have additional thoughts about this opportunity.
May we all call upon our inner resources of strength, courage, faith and trust as we move through this challenging time.
Kathy Flaminio, Founder
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
Using 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.
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.
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!
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!
Free To Be You and Me
I heard this song by Marlow Thomas the other day. I haven’t heard it for 40 years. But every word came flowing through as I sang along out loud. It struck a chord deep inside me as it did when I was a kid.
So, this pause invites you to step into and connect with the freedom that resides in you being you and me being me. At the end of the day what the world needs most is for each of us to be who we really are.
- So when you’re ready find a comfortable seated position. Take your place in your space and allow yourself to be supported.
- If you’d like, invite your eyes to soften or close and connect to your breath.
- Take a moment to notice how your breathing. Take joy that your body knows how to do this effortlessly.
- If you would like tak a moment to connect to your heart either by bringing your attention to your heart space or placing both hands on top of your heart. What does it mean for you to be free to be who you are?
- What does that look like?
- What does that feel like?
- Now think of people close to you. What does it look like for them to be who they are?
- Now imagine walking through the day where everyone brings their whole selves forward. How would you walk, talk, interact with others? How would others walk, talk, and interact with you? What does it feel like to step fully into life and be who you truly are?
- And when you’re ready invite deeper breath in and a deeper breath out. Bring attention to your feet and wiggle your toes. Bring attention to your hands, and if you’d like release your wrists and fingers.
- Now take your hands if you’d like and rub them together very quickly creating heat in the hands. Then gently place your warm palms over your eyes and allow the heat to rest your eyes.
- Allow your eyes to soften and invite yourself to connect to the real you. When you’re ready slowly open your eyes and release your hands.
As you move throughout the day and find yourself dimming your light for others or not sharing who you really are, take a moment to pause and see if you can allow yourself to step fully into life,sharing the real you. Find the freedom of being you.
Mindful Movement does not always need to be calm, slow and serious.
We often talk about, “meeting the body where it is at”. This time of year can present challenges for adults trying to wrangle in the excess energy. Instead of trying to resist the silliness, we recommend offering opportunities for play within the mindful framework.
Trickster and Archetype Game from the Yoga Calm® curriculum helps students identify the trickster in themselves and develop this aspect of the personality in ways that are useful or otherwise positive. This activity allows for playful exploration, perfect for high energy days!
Here are some tips for adding some interest to your weekly literacy lesson and integrating the text connection ELA standard.
Start With Stories
Start by building background with a variety of trickster tales. From Kipling’s Just So Stories to Robin Hood and his Merry Men, skip across time and space to analyze the similarities between all of these tricksters.
Play the Game
Start by spreading the students out around the room. Use the Move Mindfully® Card Deck to get bodies grounded before you begin. We have mapped out sequences for releasing, grounding and calming. Then, call out the name of a trickster, like “Anansi” and watch everyone transform into cunning spiders, scurrying along the floor. I like to use a drum as a cue to start and stop movement. When the drum starts playing, movement starts. The slow, steady beat helps bodies stay regulated and in control.
When the drum stops, students show a freeze of the trickster. It is important that after an exciting game like this one, that students are brought back with regulating breathing and movement. Try this follow along video to reset the room.
Extend to Writing
To extend into Writer’s Workshop, you can use photos from the Trickster Game as inspiration for a Trickster Tale. You’ll be amazed how weaving a photograph into the illustration can encourage reluctant writers!
Build Self Awareness and Self Esteem
I love that this activity allows students to tap into a side of their personality that is normally seen as taboo. I even had a student come back the next day and say, “Now, Mrs. Kennelly… I normally wouldn’t do this, but I figured you would be okay with it… studying tricksters and all…” After much beating around the bush he presented his prized collection of practical joke items. He was so proud showing off his fake cockroach.
In this world we need architects, advocates and executives… but we also need jokesters. We need the class clown. We need to laugh. And what is funnier than a fake cockroach on your breakfast?
Have you tried the trickster activity? Leave a comment!
When we learn about the brain, we move out of shame.
A great place to begin instruction around mindfulness and movement is by explaining the brain. We like to use the handy model of the brain to describe the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is referenced by Dr. Dan Siegel as the “downstairs brain” which influences fight, flight or freeze behaviors. As educators, we need to offer “downstairs interventions” for “downstairs behaviors”. While we promote breathing and movement as interventions, music and art can also be effective. This playdough activity not only teaches brain science, but also offers kinesthetic input.
The Power of the Brain
Start by posing the question: “What do your brain and Play-Doh have in common?” Lots of interesting answers will follow, but be sure to highlight and explain: Our brains are shaped by our thoughts. The more good, calm, positive thoughts you have, the better your brain works and your body feels. Worried, stressful, negative thoughts have the opposite effect. The good news is, we have some control over this. (Note: The door is now wide open for discussion of growth mindset and positive self-talk.)
Next, pass out the Play-Doh and show a few scientific drawings or images of the brain for inspiration. Plastic utensils, toothpicks or dull, old pencils come in handy while sculpting models of the brain.
Then, have students create models of the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex using different colors. Make it a tech lesson by taking a photo and labeling the diagram! Extend the learning by making a video or writing an informational text on the topic. Check out this video of a student explaining brain function.
Finally, bring in movement and brain exercises that cross the body’s midline. Use the cards from the Move Mindfully® Card Deck for great visuals!
Start out in Star. From here, lead windmills by bending down, touching one hand to the opposite foot.
Start out in Upward Mountain. From here, do cross-body knee taps touching a hand or elbow to the opposite knee.
Draw 8’s in the air with different body parts (finger, elbow, knee…) or pair up for Yoga Calm®’s Back Drawing activity. Try tracing figure 8’s on a partner’s back using each of your hands.
Back-To-Back Partner Pass
Sit or stand back to back. Choose a not-so-small object (book, ball, lunchbox). Pass it to one another as pictured.
Build class community with this one. Have students form a circle and pass a ball around. Start simply, using hands. Then, challenge them to use only pinky fingers or elbows, to close their eyes, or to sit down and use their feet.
Have you taught brain science? What “downstairs interventions” work for you? Leave a comment!
Jenny Wood has been an elementary school teacher near Athens, Georgia for the past 18 years. She is passionate about promoting mindful life strategies and practices with children and gets plenty of practice with her own two boys.
Are you looking for a fun, team building activity to take outside?
Block Creek from the Yoga Calm® Curriculum is the perfect game for an informal setting (after-school class, club, family) or an intentional team building exercise (morning meeting, ice breakers etc.) It is an activity all ages and abilities can enjoy. In the classroom or studio, we recommend using yoga blocks on top of yoga mats. The blocks are staged about about 1 foot apart to create the “creek”, while the mat serves as a visual for the “water”. The object of the game is to stay on the blocks and not fall into the “water”.
To start, Block Creek is an activity that taps into physical balance. Using core strength and proprioception, this activity helps create a present moment awareness and appreciation. Besides the benefits for the body, this activity also fosters mental strength, concentration and focus.
There are different variations or challenges that increase focus. For example, have students look straight ahead and not at the blocks. Is it harder to focus without the visual input? What does this mean for your learning? Then, you could try to have students walk on the blocks with various distractors, such as loud music, noises or other visual input. Looking for more of a challenge? Try using the Move Mindfully® Card Deck and cuing Tree on the block!
Partner and Team Work
Once students are comfortable with the game, to bring in the social/emotional aspect, we offer the opportunity for partners. Students take turns as the leader and lead a blindfolded (or eyes shut) partner across the blocks. What did it feel like to be the follower? Did you enjoy being the leader? What skills were necessary for the leader and follower? This is a safe and fun way to explore the various roles needed for cooperative learning in social groups.
To bring the game outside, simply let nature be your guide! Look for rocks, tree stumps or other obstacles that could serve as a tool to practice balance, focus and trust.
Have you tried Block Creek? Leave a comment!
Are you thinking of fun ways to build community in your classroom?
Trust Walk is a game found in the Yoga Calm® curriculum. Students begin by choosing a partner. One partner will be the leader and the other, the follower. The follower closes his eyes and presents an index finger. The leader then leads the follower, with eyes closed and voices off, around the classroom. That’s it! That’s the game!
However, there are many social emotional layers involved that make this game a student and teacher favorite.
We begin the activity with a discussion about the importance of body connection and communication. Students must rely on sense of touch and body language. I found it helpful to make sure the class was grounded before starting the activity. Try Belly Breathing from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck or follow along with the video from the Move Mindfully® Teachers Pay Teachers store before you start.
After the activity, the followers were able to give compliments and specific feedback about what made a good leader. The follower extends an index finger, but the leader is able to choose how they will connect. Most students agreed that another hand supporting the wrist made the follower feel safe. Also, the speed of movement and careful turns made the follower feel comfortable.
Then, the leaders share the factors that influenced their decisions. For example, watching the followers facial expressions gave clues about their comfort level. Was your partner smiling, maybe even giggling? Did your partner have furrowed eye brows? These discussions, of course, are also a metaphor for the social emotional connections happening in your classroom. Feeling safe, comfortable, and watching body cues are all important building blocks for a solid community.
Next, the partners switch. The leader becomes the follower and the follower becomes the leader. Who liked being the leader? Who liked being the follower? What did you like most about this game? What did you like least? How these questions are answered will tell you a lot about your classroom dynamics.
Here is another twist. I had the students form two lines, facing one another. One line closed their eyes and extended a finger. They were the followers. Then, the other line became the leaders and chose a follower! The followers did not know who was leading them. I once even said, “Choose someone who will be totally surprised that you chose them”, meaning, do not chose your best friend. It was fun to see the different partner combinations that emerged. When the round was over, before the follower opened their eyes, they had to guess. Once you have a community established, this is a fun way to see how in tune with each other your students have become.
Finally, for one more layer, add in a sensory adventure. The leaders presented the followers with various classroom objects. With only an index finger touch, the follower would have to guess the object. An eraser, a pencil, a chair! You could try this with items from your sensory/science table. It could be an anticipatory set for introducing artifacts or building vocabulary and background.
Would you play Trust Walk with your students? Leave a Comment!
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
As the year comes to a close and I look around my classroom, I see the artifacts of academics. The Mayan Temple, the diagram of the solar system, the poster of geometric shapes. I reflect on the hours of planning and preparation that went into my instruction. At the end of year, I also always find my self reflecting on the students.
I think about a student who was incredibly shy. English is her second language and she was self-conscious about possible mistakes. At the beginning of the school year, her answers were only one word. At lunch, she would sit and listen, never directly responding to conversations.
Around mid-year, I gave her a journal. By the end of the month, she had filled every single page. One day, she asked me if she could share some of her writing. With a clear and confident voice, she read a poem she’d written. It was beautiful. I showered her with praise and through a smile she said, “Writing makes me feel brave.”
Reflecting on this student, I felt the need to give her a compliment and share with her what she had taught me. My thoughts began to multiply as I realized every student had somehow made an impact on me. We had all made contributions to each other. They needed to be recognized.
Starting with the Compliment Game
A great place to start is with The Compliment Game from the Yoga Calm® Curriculum. It teaches students how to give and receive compliments. We played this game many times throughout the year. I was ready to take the compliments to a deeper level. I launched a class-wide compliment challenge: write a high-quality compliment for each student in class. This got me thinking… what makes a good compliment?
Writing High Quality Compliments
I began by bringing the class to a place of stillness. Start with ringing the chime, and placing Hands on Heart and Belly with cuing language found in our Move Mindfully® Card Deck. We envisioned our community. The healthy relationships we had built over the year rested on communication, teamwork, and social engagement.
Working through the CASEL standards for social emotional learning, students were able to demonstrate their understanding of community. My students had background from our ELA standards on character traits. This was the perfect place for a practical application!
Compliments Using ACT
A is for ACTION
Think of a specific positive action you observed.
“I observed Nora return her library books.”
C is for CHARACTER TRAIT
Think of a character trait that would describe someone acting that way.
“Nora is responsible.”
T is for TEACH Me
Think about what that action can teach you.
“This taught me the importance of staying organized.”
“Nora, I noticed that you always return your library books. I appreciate your responsibility and it has taught me the importance of staying organized.”
My students crafted compliments for each other using this technique. I encourage you to give it a try as a way to honor students. Take the time and make space to give and receive meaningful compliments. Life as a teacher begins the day you realize you are a learner along with your students.
I see before me a girl with a story to share. You are always listening. I notice. You are always thinking and aware of the world around you. When you shared your writing in front of the class, I connected with your bravery. You taught me the importance of sharing my story. I have rediscovered my love of writing. You taught me to be brave.
Love, Mrs. Kennelly
As I watch the bus pull out of the parking lot, I see my students’ smiling faces through the window. I am thankful for how much I have learned this year. The teacher in me, honors the teacher in you.
Have you used compliments? How did you close the year? Leave a Comment!