Take 5 deep breaths. How do you feel? Do you feel calm? Were you able to focus and ignore distractions? Taking moments throughout the day to clear one’s mind and reset helps our students stay focused during the action-packed, content-rich first grade school day.
Practicing relaxation techniques, which we call “mindful minutes”, are a valuable and integral part of our day. For example, after our 50-minute recess/lunch period, the daily practice helps students gain self-regulation and relaxation. When our first grade students come back to the classroom, they go straight to the carpet and as a crew we take 2-3 minutes to focus on various breathing techniques including: “balloon breath” (deep breath in, deep breath out pretending to have a balloon to blow up in one’s hands); “bunny breath” (3 short breaths in like a bunny, 1 deep breath out); “bee breath” (deep breath in, gentle buzzing sound out), etc.
Once I see that all students are resetting, they may choose their next “mindful” activity. For example, they can get a pillow from our calm corner to place on their desk or the carpet to rest their heads, they can get a coloring sheet to color independently, or even participate in yoga from one of our favorite websites—Cosmic Kids Yoga!
We also used another powerful calming technique called “Smell and Tell”. I will pass around something fragrant, such as an orange peel or lavender sprig for students to close their eyes and breath in the scent.
In addition to our set time, we take various “brain breaks” throughout the day to get our “wiggles” out. These brain breaks are a great way to release energy and have fun in a productive way. We typically use a variety of brain breaks from GoNoodle.com such as dancing, call and repeat singing, or meditation.
Regardless of which of technique we choose, a different tone exists in the classroom after taking a mindful minute--one in which students are clam, focused and engaged. The time we carve out to reset sets the tone for our afternoon and the work we have left to do.