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

13 replies
  1. Cindy Smolik
    Cindy Smolik says:

    I would really like to try this centering routine with students. The weather is getting colder, the holidays are coming, and there is a lot of energy surging through our classrooms lately. The holidays are a great time of year but they can cause a lot of anxiety and frustration too. I think we could all use this practice to create calm and stillness during this busy time of year.

  2. Susan Johnson
    Susan Johnson says:

    I use head on the desk often when I need my class to settle down! I call it one potato, two potato and then I give them the choice to “mash” the potato (if they want to flatten their hands instead of fists) I have found that this gives me the quickest method to calm them, bring them all back together and I use it to transition and give the directions needed for the next activity.

  3. Julia Linehan
    Julia Linehan says:

    Stephanie, I am thinking of one group in particular that I would like to try the “head on desk” routine with. I also like the name “one potato, two potato” because it will be easy for both teacher and students to remember. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  4. maureen
    maureen says:

    I agree that the wiggle movement jammin minute has its place, however notice that it leaves students more energized to continue the wiggliness. I notice the yoga movements help the students stay focused.

  5. Heidi Schuchman
    Heidi Schuchman says:

    Great post and so timely! I am a reading specialist and I use the head on the desk to start every small group I teach!

  6. Renae Bottem
    Renae Bottem says:

    What a great idea! My students have a very difficult time getting back on track after a transition. I like the idea of having them “center” themselves. It will also help them understand that they have the power to control their energy.


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