Guest post by Shelley of the Write Stuff Teaching Blog
Unfortunately, support is not as good as it used to be and teachers are left to deal with the consequences. The trend is towards differentiated learning for each one of our students. How can we possibly do that when we spend so much of our time on getting kids to focus and learn and less time teaching curriculum? I would like to share with you 3 teaching strategies that I use together that incorporate three popular programs. It can be used with kids from K-8 by adapting these strategies for your own grade level.
I always knew that "intrinsic" motivation (doing something because you want to not because you will get a reward) was more effective than "extrinsic" motivation (earning prizes and points) based on research I had read during my student teaching. But just how do you do this when there are 24+ students who all come from different backgrounds and families with different values and expectations?
1. Teaching Self AwarenessI was watching a program on TV one day and Goldie Hawn (the actress) was on talking about her days in school. At the time, the Vietnam War was on and she became scared and worried. She began to realize that because she was worried, she couldn't learn to her potential. As a result of her experience she created the MindUP program. (This is available at Scholastic for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8). I knew that this was something near and dear to my heart as I watched many of my learners suffer through episodes of anxiety. I did the training and realized very quickly that implementing it in my classroom would be an easy fit into everything I do and not just another program I didn't have time for.
So, the first mindful strategy I implemented was MindUP. I started by teaching the students about their brains. I didn't know much about that myself but after doing lots of reading and providing books for the kids to read – we all got very excited about this!
I began creating things that would help the students learn about their brains more and to be self aware of their learning. Here is a free Brain Lift the Flap Book that I created that you can have students put together to celebrate their strengths in learning. It’s a great back to school or #geniushour activity.
Every day we do brain breaks. Not the “get up and move around” brain break but a true “let yourself go and be still” brain break. We use a resonating chime and we find a comfortable position to sit and we just breathe with our eyes closed so that our brains aren't working. Kids love how good this feels. Even the “busiest” kids finally have this figured out by the end of the year.
2. Teaching Kids to Become Bucket Fillers
I read the students this book and they kept a mindful journal of thoughtful things and new learning about themselves and their brains. They fill out “fill a bucket” coupons to give to their friends and one student a day writes a compliment to the VIP on the whiteboard daily as part of our morning message. Once they understand the classroom kindness, I extend it further. Have you filled your Mom’s bucket? Your Dad’s? The school custodian or secretary? Truly, the students are really genuine and honest and really get it! Afterwards, we learn about multiculturalism and people around the world to extend their thinking even farther.
So now, my students are becoming self aware and aware of others. But something was still missing. It was the knowledge of who they are as a person and how their feelings, emotions and behaviors can affect and impact themselves and others.
3. Fostering Flexible ThinkingEnter strategy number 3 – SUPERFLEX! Superflex is a program that was developed by Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia Winner and is a very popular program for all elementary grades. I love to introduce this program after MindUP and Bucket Filling because you really need to be able to be open and understanding and willing to accept things about their own personality in order to grow.
Superflex is a superhero that is a “super flexible thinker.” He defeats Rockbrain (stubbornness) and other Unthinkables by using social strategies. Examples of some Unthinkables that I introduce them to are: Worry Wall (great for students with anxiety), Energy Harry (you know the ones!) Mean Jean (a hard one to admit), Brain Eater (students really relate to this one because there are SO many distractors) and Glassman (students who cry or get really angry for minor things).
For primary learners, I have the students create their own version of themselves as Superflex. This seems to empower them to want to learn more and to feel in control of their own actions.
Mindfulness and Classroom ManagementSo what do mindful and brain based learning, bucket filling and kindness and being a flexible thinker have to do with classroom management? All of these strategies provide a framework for self-awareness that allow a learner to really understand themselves and work with the strengths they have and work on the areas of difficulty they experience by giving them the tools they need. Talking about uncomfortable things really helps students to become better versions of themselves and leads to happier learners. Happier learners are more efficient learners. Check out this link from Edutopia on the neuro science behind this: http://www.edutopia.org/neuroscience-brain-based-learning-emotional-safety
When your students can learn efficiently and are aware of their skills, they are more able to set goals, self assess and prepare portfolios of their learning journey to share with others.
I created a set of mindful posters that you can grab for free by clicking here or clicking the image on the right. One shows mindful students and the other shows the mindful teacher.
Remember that if you teach your students to be mindful, you won't need any tricks or gimmicks for classroom management!
Shelley Rolston teaches in a suburb outside of Vancouver, BC. She loves to teach literacy and enjoys adding a social learning and character piece to most things she teaches. Visit her blog, The Write Stuff Teaching, to learn more about mindfulness in the classroom.