Using Mindful Language

Mindful Language and Movement go hand in hand.

Teaching mindfulness and movement to kids in a public school can be very challenging. I’ve had some crazy moments where I don’t feel very calm OR mindful. Just last week I had a student flip a desk and throw a yoga mat out the window.   

How did I respond?  I took a deep breath and got grounded. The Pause allowed me to create space between the event and my reaction. First, I made sure the rest of the class was safe by using my radar. Then, I gave the student clear and calm directions.

I used mindfulness and clear language to keep the class moving and redirected the student in a way the let everyone know I wasn’t going to tolerate unsafe behavior. However, I was also able let the student know I still cared for him and that I was there to help with his big feelings.

How was I able to do that? Keeping in the present moment allows me to be aware of my surroundings and adapt as needed to the circumstances. I keep my senses aware of what is going on, and I use my words to bring power and purpose to every moment. Here are some tips to get you started.

How to Create a Mindful Classroom

Moving mindfully and speaking mindfully go hand in hand. Clear and mindful words increase awareness of the mind/body connection. Kids learn through example and will often model their behavior after adults around them. Mindful language, paired with movement and breath, can be an excellent way to empower them to be more mindful in their own actions and everyday lives.

How to use Mindful Language

The Responsive Classroom technique “Reinforce, Remind, Redirect” is the heart of mindful language. Here are some examples:

Reinforcing: Reinforce the positive behaviors that are already happening. This encourages other kids to remember what they could also be doing to get it right.

  • “I notice you used a breathing strategy to calm your body. This gets your brain ready to learn new things.”
  • “Using a balance position is a great way to keep focused attention!”

Reminding:  Remind the behavior that you expect, and give a quick reason why it’s important. This is often done to the whole group, but can also be directed to individuals, usually privately.

  • “Remember, when we keep our voices off during our movement break so everyone can hear the directions and learn something new from the leader.”
  • “We use kind words to each other to build up our team. Think about what you can say to help someone who might need some encouragement.”

Redirecting: Give a redirection to reset, then try again with the behavior that is expected. Remind why the current behavior is not acceptable. This is usually used when unsafe or completely off-task behavior affects the student or group.

  • “Take three breaths. Then, when you are ready to stay safe come back to your carpet spot.”
  • “Put the book on the floor. Waving it around could hurt someone.”

Notice the Results

All of this should be done with attention to the words you use so that you are being direct and clear. Use a neutral tone that encourages kids to think about the consequences of the behavior for themselves. Once kids know the expectations and what they will get from following them, they feel more safe and confident. Safe, confident kids can explore and learn more.

At this point, they can become their OWN teachers. They will be empowered by the simple and direct language that encourages them to follow the expectations, gives them chances to remember why they are important, and leaves them space learn and grow.

In using this type of thinking about really bringing positive attention to good behavior, you will find yourself talking less. Once you know how to state only what is necessary, be clear and concise, you will have more time to breathe and play!

What mindful language techniques do you use with your students? Leave a comment!

Written by, Maia Horsager

Maia is a 5th year Movement teacher at Hiawatha Leadership Academy in Minneapolis, MN. She has been teaching yoga, mindfulness, and movement full time to kids for over 6 years.

5 replies
  1. Kate
    Kate says:

    Great suggestions. I enjoyed the examples you gave and love how easily these tips can be adapted to kids of all ages and abilities.

  2. Chris Schirber
    Chris Schirber says:

    I have kids who have gone off track go into rock position and 1. note where their attention goes (see, hear, feel), 2 label the location with one of the bracketed sense descriptions silently in their head and then 3. try to focus their for 2 to 4 seconds. When their attention moves again, repeat. After a brief period I will call them back to report on their findings. It helps that we begin each class with this focus practice so kids are familiar with it.

    • Maia Horsager
      Maia Horsager says:

      Chris, this is such an excellent example of giving kids a routine to practice and understand how to be mindful. I love that you use rock pose (I do this with my little ones at the beginning of class too). And I’m sure that with practice they are learning to apply this noticing to other moments of their life as well. Very well done!


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