To get straight to the point: mindfulness belongs in the classroom. As an IB PYP teacher, I approach teaching through a philosophy that centres on the child and the development of the whole child. This philosophy resonates with my own beliefs for educating our children to become avid questioners with the skills and strategies and confidence to try to find out for themselves. I nurture a sense of wonder and a strong belief in self. With this sense of self, I have to understand how to develop this awareness of self within the children and how I can guide them towards understanding who they are as unique individuals and also as learners. Mindfulness has been added to the updated IB PYP Approaches to Learning Skills. Specifically, you can now find it under the skill of Self-Management. In order to best serve the children, I first needed to understand exactly what this "mindfulness" thing was.
I'm lucky to be a part of our close-knit community of international inquiry teachers on Instagram. And it was through this group that I began to learn what mindfulness looked like, how it could benefit my students ( and myself!) and gentle and yet effective ways to introduce it to the kids. With the rising amount of stress that children and teachers are subject to, this is definitely a soft skill that ranks as a 21st century competency; understanding oneself from a deeper state from within. This excerpt, from the IBO's Principles Into Practice, lists the sub-skills within Self-Management under States of Mind. Take a look and identify for yourself the states of mind that align with your idea of mindfulness.
It's a hefty load, no doubt. And, if like me, you aren't very familiar with personal, social and emotional education, it can be overwhelming. Fortunately, I have come across several teachers within our Instagram community, who are excellent with educating this part of the child. And, I'd like to share some of their tools and ideas with you.
Meet Anete: @inquiry_and_mindfulness
Anete, a grade 5 PYP teacher from Latvia, has so many beautiful ideas to gently bring mindfulness into your classroom, whatever age you're teaching. Her resources are easy to integrate into any unit of inquiry and slot seamlessly into the day, with simple and effective reflective exercises. She has her own store on TpT too . I recommend that you take a wee look. You can link here.
Meet Karen: @themindfulteacher.co
Karen is a certified mindfulness instructor and PYP grade 4 teacher, teaching in Sweden. She teaches workshops to other teacher-facilitators and offers an incredible mindfulness course to add to your classroom community. It is a step-by-step, ready-to-go programme. I've actually had the good-fortune to chat with her and wanted to introduce exactly what she offers. Karen's course is a powerful resource and so simply implemented. Please do watch the video below, as Karen explains more of her workshop and how she integrates it into her programme of inquiry.
Over the years, I have shifted more and more towards positive affirmations as a perfect tool to help my kiddos to believe in themselves, to reinforce the belief that their uniqueness is their strength and to attract what they desire. It falls into the realms of that buzzword that's been going around for a few years now....you know, growth mindset? And it is a joy to see the children as they develop the practice of positively affirming what they want and taking steps towards changing their mindset and going for it! If it all sounds a wee bit too woo-woo for you, I get it. It is absolutely woo-woo! But, by golly, it works and so I am all in on this particular woo-woo stuff. Check it out!
I first heard about positive affirmation cards when I attended a conference way back in the early 2000's. In fact, I still carry the positive affirmation card in my wallet that I created during that conference! But, it was only a few years ago that I actually thought about bringing the process into my classroom. I had a particularly challenging bunch of kids that year and a lot of it had to do with social and emotional problems that resulted in lack of self-confidence, lack of belief in themselves and the usual defence mechanisms that come from all of the above. And so, we went all woo-woo. Yes, that was the word one of the kids used to describe the practice of growth mindset when we began shifting to positive self-talk. Woo-woo. Hey, if going all woo-woo is what it takes to help lead my students towards, at the least, tentative steps out of their comfort zone and, at best, greater self-confidence, I will gladly embrace woo-woo.
Research states that:
We all learn our belief systems as little children. This means that we can be bound by limiting beliefs throughout our lives; learned from childhood experiences when paradigms were set. (Morrison Institute,2018)
I wanted to manipulate those negative beliefs and childhood conditioning in those kids and give them the tools to help them make the shift towards believing in their own power within and recognition that they were indeed worthy of whatever they chose to set their mind to. I wanted to help those kids internalise good values and positive beliefs about themselves and their world.
Helping our kids to practice visualisation with affirmation cards is easier said than done with a bunch of suspicious 11 and 12 year olds, however, we persevered. I began with their greatest desires - its easier to picture yourself with things you don't really believe that you can ever achieve than it is to actually make yourself vulnerable and open to possible failure. For only 10 minutes, we would take the time to quietly close our eyes and imagine ourselves accomplishing our wildest dreams. Visualisation activates the creative powers of the subconscious mind and programmes our brain to notice available resources that are always there. Through the law of attraction, visualisation magnetises and attracts to us the positive feelings that re required for reinforcing that feeling of “ I CAN”. The children were keen to share this - driving Ferraris, hiking Mount Everest, swimming with whales etc. It has to begin with something that seems dream-like, so far out of reach at the moment. We want the children to experience the feeling of thrill and excitement. We want to develop their awareness of what it feels like to dream big, feel that thrill of possibility. From there, we scale it down to more achievable things for the present, using the analogy of a map. We break it all down into smalls steps that, when done consistently, will lead us to success. When the kids experience those smaller wins, they actually FEEL that satisfaction that comes from knowing that met their goal. For some its a little, private smile and for others its a full-blown celebration.
Next -Affirmation Cards
It began with placing affirmation cards in our classroom. I did this around the attributes of the IB Learner Profile, to begin. It was more subtle since the children were so used to seeing and hearing about their Learner Profile. It was my way of easing them into the more personal stuff which always comes with a heavy helping of vulnerability. The cards were placed in areas where the children would have more access to them, rather than simply hanging on the wall. I had them in our classroom library, by the sink and pencil sharpeners, right next to the door and even stuck right on top of my group work desk.
"The brain will work tirelessly to achieve the statements that you give your subconscious mind. And when those statements are the affirmations and images of your goals, you are destined to achieve them. "Jack Canfield
We worked up to adding more personal statements. Working in small groups, it was almost like a therapy session! The children wrote some statements anonymously, that they wished people would say about them or things they'd love to hear more often. I then gathered those cards, put them into a box and shuffled them around. ( Of course, I recognised handwriting but they didn't need to know that.) I then typed out the statements so that they remained anonymous and I created our affirmation cards as you see below.
Encouraging confidence and motivation.
Over time, we would share our affirmations in small groups, building confidence and learning that this was a safe place to share. Then, we worked up to talking about it more publicly and sharing with the whole class. This was never a requirement but I found, as the children became more comfortable with the process of positively affirming their goals, they naturally became more open about it. We have a healthy habit of embracing failure in our classroom, as a natural progression towards learning and, in addition to our habits of positive affirmation the successes were amplified. Every success, no matter how small, was amplified and celebrated.
I even created a few affirmation cards in mirror/reverse writing so that the children could face a mirror and hold the card in front of them, repeating the affirmation to themselves in the mirror. It worked really well with the younger kids, our Grade 2 PYP Buddies, with whom we shared our successful strategy. You can find these positive affirmations posters here in my store. They are editable so that you and your students can create your own too.
So, a few powerful PYP teaching tools to embrace the social and emotional development of all kids, not just the troubled and most fragile. I highly encourage you to try some of them.
Please do share your own ideas for developing mindfulness in your classroom. And I'd love to have you come and join in our community of international inquiry teachers on social media. You can find me @pypteaching
P.S. Lets keep in touch! Please subscribe to receive free tips and tools and blog updates directly to your e mail. Just drop your email into the box below and your first FREE tool will be on its way to you.