written by Jennifer Larson and Sarah Zbornik
Stepping into Jennifer Larson’s classroom, you have hard time believing that what you are seeing isn’t staged or a one time event. Calmness exudes, yet Jennifer is standing off to the side. Watch this Decorah Middle School student use finger cymbals to start class as others pause, listen, and breath.
Jennifer turned to The MindUP Curriculum: Grades 6–8: Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning—and Living to assist with this endeavor. (You can find this book in the DMS library.) The brain-based research has been impactful for Jennifer. She can explain to the students that when they are preparing to perform, they may feel anxious or even fear. But in actuality, this is simply the brain sending signals to the body. A student can decide that this is perceived fear and use mindfulness techniques to calm the body down and tell it that all is okay with the world.
It hasn’t always been like this in Jennifer’s class. Several years ago, she attended a “Mindful Class for Teachers”. One activity has stuck with her and helped her find patience and calmness for her students. The orchestra class begins with a “ bell of mindfulness” led by a different student each day. When the student leader steps on the podium the class becomes quiet. The students are taught to think the mantra pause, listen, breathe- the bell is rung and the students concentrate on the sensations of a resonant sound and their own breathing. This becomes a time for setting the tone and getting everyone- teacher and students- to achieve a state of mind in which they can all participate purposefully and thoughtfully.
Jennifer has used this method plus many more for a calmer, more mindful class. For more information and lessons plans on mindfulness check out mindfulteachers.org and the Do’s and Don’t’s When Teaching Mindfulness.
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