The kids would not stop for one second. The girl´s group up front was chatting away deciding whether the books should be on or under their desks. One of the boys realised the teacher was going to show a video, so thought it would be helpful to turn off the lights in the middle of the teacher´s explanation. Three boys sitting in the middle section of the class decided to stand up and get something from their backpacks, which were at the back of the class. Meanwhile, the teacher was trying to explain the next activity. Complete chaos. The kids had just arrived from P.E classes. Does this outline a familiar picture?
In the scenario above, the children were stressed and anxious. They had just come back from a sports competition in their P.E class. However, even when their previous class had not been P.E., they were stressed and anxious. Their parents are stressed and anxious. Life is stressing. Parents are busy rushing their kids up and down and in and out of activities. Conversations tend to be always about schedules. What you are going to do and when. Moments of random conversation or even silence are rare nowadays. Classes have fixed schedules and teachers need to scram as much content as they can into a short period of time.
Studies have shown that in order to learn, children need to feel safe. Their minds need to be relaxed and their bodies need to be comfortable. Unfortunately, children seldom find themselves in these states. Schedules are overrated, family meals are scarce and healthy eating habits is now a world crisis.
As teachers, we are worried about getting our students engaged. We play games and motivate them to use the language. Warmups and TPR activities are essential to get our students involved and active. Language classes are noisy and they should be that way, is what we say.
However, sometimes less is more.
On occasions, starting the class with a calming activity is best than trying to get them straight into the classroom topic.
I believe teaching mindfulness is a must in the classroom nowadays. Mindfulness is a technique of mastering "living in the moment". It can be done at the beginning of a class, to calm students down and have them focus on what you want them to focus: your lesson.
Teachers might say, “We don´t have enough time. Our classes are 45 minutes long”. Again, I say…sometimes less is more. If you have 25 good minutes with your class, it is better than having 45 minutes of chaos.
Below are some ideas of how to put some simple mindfulness practices into your classroom:
Concentrating on breathing
As your students arrive from their previous class, have the lights dimmed down. Ask students to sit down and take deep breaths. By breathing deeply, our body calms down. Ask students to count to three as they inhale and count again to three as they exhale. They can put their hands on the chest and belly to feel the movement of their body.
Using the senses
Sensory experiences help children relax. Ask students to close their eyes and play a relaxing song in the background. Another example is to ask them to pay attention to all the sounds they can hear outside the classroom. You can use smell and taste as a way to make they focus. Have them taste different flavours. Play with dough, clay, cream and ask them to guess what they are holding. Use the target language to name the flavours, sound and senses of touch.
Ask your students to close their eyes and tell them a story. Have them imagine the person, place you are describing. Later on, you can ask them to draw what you described. Relate the story to the language/topic you are working on.
Explain to your students the theory that underlies these practices they are performing. You do not have to go into details; just remind them why they are being done. Your class will definitely have a different outcome. Share your experiences with me!