Unit 3: What are age appropriate mindfulness activities for students k-12?
Mini-Course Home Page: Understanding and Integrating Age Appropriate Mindfulness Activities Unit 1:What is mindfulness? Unit 2:How can someone be mindful? Unit 3: What are age appropriate mindfulness activities for students k-12?
An Overview of this Unit
By completing this unit you will meet the following objectives:
3.1 Review material elementary mindfulness activities
3.2 Review material middle school mindfulness activities
3.3 Review material for high school mindfulness activities
3.4 Create two age appropriate mindfulness activities within their education discipline.
Recap and Introduction to Picking Age Appropriate Mindfulness Activities
So far you have learned about how mindfulness shrinks the amygdala which improves areas such as cognitive function, social emotional skills, and overall well-being. You have also learned that mindfulness isn't limited to meditation and tried mindfulness activities of your own. Within this module you are going to learn about how to pick a mindfulness activity that is right for your students in your classroom.
With students, the goal of mindfulness is to help them to move beyond thinking solely of past or future, which as adults we know can be exhausting, negative, and stressful. Alternatively, mindfulness gives children the tools that they need to connect to the world in the present moment. Mindfulness gets students in the habit of being peaceful, and kind.
Now if you are thinking to yourself, "I had a hard time practicing mindfulness how will I get students to try it?" Good news! Mindfulness is easier for children because of the way their brain develops. Prefrontal circuits are at their fastest during childhood, which promotes skills such as focus and cognitive control. Having students practice mindfulness will not only be easier then when you tried, but they will also develop long-term effects of self-regulation and patience quicker (Doll, 2016).
When it comes to picking age appropriate activities for your students the truth of the matter is that you know your students best so using your teacher abilities will come in handy for mindfulness too. To give you some exposure and ideas of age appropriate mindfulness activities I have listed some for each age level of students below.
3.1 Elementary Mindfulness Activities & Tips
You can find mindfulness activities all over the internet, picking which ones are right for your students can be challenging. Below are a few tips when picking mindfulness activities for elementary students
Tip 1: Keep the activities short and simple, especially to start.
Tip 2: Start by teaching students first about mindful breathing, their breathe will always be with them.
Tip 3: Pick activities that focus on their senses.
Tip 4: Use videos at the beginning to keep students engaged.
Tip 5: Relate exercises to nature (examples: Stand tall like a tree, allow your mind to float like the clouds)
Activity 1: MINDFUL BREATHING
1. Students can be standing or sitting. Whatever is comfortable for them.
2. Ask students to put one hand on their chest and one on their belly.
3. Have student close their eyes.
4. Guide students in taking 3 deep breathes while feeling asking them to feel their hands move outwards and inwards with each breathe. Repeat as many times as you would like.
Activity 2: BRING IT DOWN
GoNoodle is a great resource for guided mindfulness activities if you feel uncomfortable guiding mindfulness. Bring it down is one that a lot of my kinesthetic learners enjoy.
3.2 Middle School Mindfulness Activities & Tips
I know what you are thinking because I am a middle school teacher. You are thinking, "How will I ever get middle-schoolers to buy into mindfulness?" Now, this age group is a bit more difficult, but the outcome is worth it. Middle schoolers can use mindfulness as a tool to cope with the stressors of being a middle schooler. Here are the tips that have worked for me
Tip 1: Start by having students make a list of stressors.
Tip 2: Have student research mindfulness and the benefits. Share with that you practice and it has helped you with your stressors.
Tip 3: Start trying it, but start small. When starting off don't pick an activity that is over 2 minutes.
Tip 4: Once students are familiar provide students with opportunities to have choice in their mindfulness exercises
Tip 5: Don't give up. Even my tricky students have found an exercise they enjoy.
Activity 1: MINDFUL JOURNALS
Mindful Journals give students a way to slow down and check in with themselves. Students can reflect on their stressors and the changes in their world. Lastly, as middle school students develop their identity journals can support their mixed emotions. Students can create a virtual journal for free on penzu.com or have a traditional journal. Have students answer a journal prompt at the beginning of each class. Some journal prompts to have students use could be, what makes you feel strong?, write down five things that make you who you are, tell a story of a time that you felt confident, and who can you depend on? After journaling for a week asks students to reflect on how you think that it has helped them.
Activity 2: HEADSPACE MINI MINUTE
Headspace is a global leader in online mindfulness. It is great for students as it teaches how to be mindful through exercises. Headspace also has an app. Here is a favorite video of theirs to use in your classroom whenever you feel students need a quick break before, during, or at the end of class. It is perfect for middle schoolers since it is guided and only requires attention for a minute.
3.3 High School Mindfulness Activities & Tips
When it comes to mindfulness and high schoolers use the same tips from the middle school section, but here are some additional tips for high schoolers:
Tip 1: Create a mindfulness school culture. If students practice mindfulness in elementary and middle school, it will become part of their culture for high school.
Tip 2: Share the science of mindfulness. High school students are able to comprehend the impacts mindfulness has on the brain. Share the facts and high schoolers will buy in.
Tip 3: Encourage intrinsic motivation. Create opportunities for independent practice outside of the classroom to avoid negative peer pressure that high schoolers may create in the classroom.
Tip 4: Share other high schoolers mindfulness success stories. This will help them buy in to trying it, especially with more teens seeking relief from stressors than ever. Here is a link to a suggested video: https://www.mindfulschools.org/video/what-is-mindfulness-2-2/
Activity 1: VISUAL MINDFULNESS EXERCISE
Activity 2: BE MINDFUL CARD DECK FOR TEENS
These deck of cards are an awesome resource for your classroom. Have students grab a card on the way in. The deck includes 50 ways to be present in your life. The cards reduce immediate worries and fears. They make a great mindful bell ringer for students. Search be mindful card deck for teens and include them in your next budget request.
3.4 Create Your Own Age Appropriate Mindfulness Activities
Using what you have learned about mindfulness in the previous units and based on what you learned in this unit, you are going to create two mindfulness lesson plans. I have attached a suggested lesson plan template, but you are able to use one of your own. I have attached a completed mindfulness lesson plan example too. The items I will be looking for in your lesson include:
-the lesson objectives -justification for why you think this lesson plan will work for your students? (Hint: use what you learned about age appropriate mindfulness activities to support your justification) -mindfulness activity or activities -a Time line for the lesson (hint: consider your students age and what is appropriate)
- Remember some of the mindfulness activities I shared are a minute or less, your lesson does not have to be long
Once you are finished share your two lessons to the classroom discussion page and give feedback to one classmate on their lesson. Link to classroom discussion post
If you are interested in additional mindfulness resources for YOU or your students go to: ADDITIONAL MINDFULNESS RESOURCES
Doll, A., Hölzel, B. K., Bratec, S. M., Boucard, C. C., Xie, X., Wohlschläger, A. M., & Sorg, C. (2016). Mindful attention to breath regulates emotions via increased amygdala–prefrontal cortex connectivity. Neuroimage, 134, 305-313.