Classrooms are very busy places! Sometimes the pace and level of activity can become hectic and quite overwhelming for both students and teachers. I feel that it’s vital for teachers to be able to create moments of calm throughout the day so that stress doesn’t build up. We need to be able to restore and replenish ourselves and our students so that we can cope with all of the demands and challenges the school day throws at us. For me, incorporating a short daily mindfulness practice in my classroom has provided a wonderful sanctuary of calm and tranquillity that has been transformative on so many levels.
I alternate between floor practice and mindful colouring daily. In my experience, mindful colouring is a very natural activity for children and it can provide a lovely introduction to the concept of mindfulness in general. Research shows that mindfulness interventions, including mindfulness colouring, can have very positive effects on well-being. Here are some ideas on how to get started if you’d like to try it out with your class.
You can begin by having a general discussion with your class about the meaning of the words ‘mindful’ and ‘mindfulness‘. After discussing their views, you can explain that mindfulness is simply bringing our attention and awareness fully to whatever we are doing in the present moment. You can discuss how busy our minds usually are and how it can be helpful to stop every now and again and give our minds a chance to settle and become clear. Being aware of what’s happening in the present moment can help us to do this.
Once children understand the idea of calming and settling their minds by keeping their attention in the present moment, you can introduce the concept of mindful colouring. You can explain that mindful colouring gives our minds a chance to settle by connecting fully to the activity. I use the following script to start off each session and I play some relaxing background music also.
‘Let’s get ready now to do our mindful colouring. During mindful colouring, we give our minds a chance to connect fully to the present moment. We know that our minds can be so busy during the day, perhaps worrying about the future or the past. So, now it’s time to give our minds a break from all that busyness, by bringing our attention only to our colouring.
We begin by closing our eyes, placing our hands gently on our laps and our feet firmly on the floor. Our backs are straight. Let’s take a moment to check in on our minds. How busy is your mind right now? Try to become aware of all your thoughts. How are your thoughts making you feel right now? Be gentle and kind to yourself as you check in. Now it’s time to start bringing our attention to the present moment. Being aware of our breath can help us to do this.
Let’s take a moment to imagine ourselves breathing in each colour of the rainbow. Imagine the beautiful coloured light surrounding you and going right into your body – red…. orange… yellow… green… blue … indigo… violet.
Bring your attention now to your senses. Feel the air going into your nostrils. Sense the chair underneath you, supporting your body. Tune into any sounds you can hear now, near sounds and faraway sounds……listen to the music which is playing.
As your mind begins to settle in the present moment, open your eyes gently. Try to keep this level of attention now on your colouring. Notice the patterns and colours as you work. You might find that your mind wanders off and becomes busy again, maybe thinking about the past or the future. Our minds just love to be busy, so don’t worry at all if this happens! Just smile to yourself and refocus on your colouring. We will work quietly for around five minutes. Do your best not to disturb or distract anyone else.
(After 5 minutes) It’s now time to stop doing our mindful colouring. Hopefully you feel calm and refreshed!’
During these five minutes, I sit mindfully and observe the children working. It’s so lovely to be able to just be in the moment with them, without any expectations or judgements. We rarely get the time as teachers to do this, and it’s amazing what you might notice – the beautiful expression of deep concentration or peace on a child’s face, for example. I feel that these small moments really replenish and sustain me, and I certainly feel refreshed and energised afterward. I usually find that the children are surprised that the time has passed so quickly and ask for a few more minutes! The children in my class really enjoy this activity and I feel that it definitely helps them to become calmer and more focused in general. It gives a lovely positive classroom atmosphere and I think it’s definitely time well-spent!
Blog by Fiona Forman.
Fiona is an author and primary teacher from Dublin. She is also a speaker and facilitator/ trainer in the area of well-being and Positive Psychology in the education system. She holds an M.Sc. in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP), which is the science of well-being, from the University of East London.
Fiona is the co-author of Weaving Well-Being, a positive mental health programme for primary school children published by Outside The Box Leaning Resources. She is passionate about the mental health and well-being of young people and believes that the education system can play a pivotal role in equipping children with the skills to be resilient and flourish in life. You can connect with her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Weaving_Wb.