Last year I was so privileged to be involved in two wonderful professional development days, the first was run by Project Thrive and explored positive psychology and the second was ran by Berry Street Childhood Institute and explored their new education model. From both these wonderful PD’s one of the aspects I started incorporating into our learning community was regular brain breaks, positive primers and mindfulness.
At the beginning of the day I would generally start by using one of the following to get my students feeling happy and enthusiastic about the day and being at school;
These activities only take a few minutes but generally most students laugh or feel happier and begin the school day on a positive note. I also LOVE doing this at the end of the day to make sure the student’s day ends on a positive note!
I have gradually been ‘adding’ to my brain break ‘toolkit’ over the last year, although I am getting better I still feel like there is more to add for a bit of variety and different year levels. Brain breaks are short, sharp and break up the students learning while also making them feel happy, reenergised and refocused. Some of my favourites are the following:
As I said these are just a few of my ‘regulars’ if you Google Brain Breaks there are 100’s plus I am also SUPER LUCKY and the lovely people at Berry Street Childhood Institute provided heaps of ideas in their resource booklets from their PD that I will continue to trial.
I am extremely lucky that my school is a huge advocate for mindfulness and the ways of practicing it are endless. I have learnt a few things over the years about it and one of the biggest things I would encourage would be to participate in mindfulness activities with your children. Not only does it encourage them to join in, YOU probably need a little time out to refocus and find your center before moving on to the next activity, lesson etc. Another thing I have learnt is that it shouldn’t be thought of on the spot, I will explain this in more detail later.
As mindfulness can be explored in many different ways and some may not work for some of your students I enjoy mixing it up a little so here are some of my personal favourites:
My students participate in mindfulness after each recess and lunch for 5-10 minutes depending on the activity. I find that many of my students return back into our learning area in a heightened state due to issues that have surfaced in the playground or with their friends. Providing students with this time to practice mindfulness assists them to self regulate and control their emotions, once they have completed their mindfulness activity generally most students are again ready to learn. As I stressed earlier I too do these activities with my students!
A while ago I posted on Instagram a picture of 5 adorable apples ranging in emotions from extremely happy to angry. These are displayed on our wall with each and every student’s name around them including the teachers and Learning Support staff. Throughout the day it is encouraged that students identify how they are feeling and place their names on the relevant apple. It is then our job to ‘check in’ with the students and provide them with strategies to assist them with deescalating. For example a student may place their name on the sad apple at the beginning of the day because they had an argument with their mum that morning or a student may come in from recess and place their name on the angry apple because they were in an argument with their friends. It is then our aim to assist them in working through their feelings. Using Positive Primers, Brain Breaks and Mindfulness greatly assists with this and shows healthy strategies that students can use to help them feel better. Quiet often if a student comes in and places their name on the sad apple in the morning after a simple Positive Primer they might move it up to the happy apple because they have laughed and the situation isn’t worrying them as much.
I believe that modelling this self-regulation strategy with my students is vital, therefore I too move my name up and down the apples throughout the day and the students are very aware of where others place their names. A young student with Downs Syndrome would often move her name up and down the apples, on one particular day I was conferencing with a student, my team teacher was in the process of taking Guided Reading and our LSO was attending to another student, this young girl came to tell me something and I asked her to wait just a moment until I was finished. I watched her walk away and move her name to ‘angry apple’ because she felt as though she hadn’t been listened too, however when I finished and went to her she felt listened too and moved her name back to the ‘happy apple’. The most important thing is that the students acknowledge their feelings and know that it OK for them to feel that way however there are strategies in place that can help them feel better and self-regulate. At my current school students aren’t often taught by their families to deal with their emotions in a healthy way it is generally ‘fight or flight’ therefore I must say the above strategies seem to be working pretty well so far!
I’d love to hear if you do things similar or have found any of this interesting/worthwhile! Please leave your comments below –Ash xx