Full Moon ahead? Major school break coming up? Too much excitement for students in the class before yours, or on the bus ride to school? Yikes! That could mean that your day is set up for major headaches, much waiting for quiet and attention, and a constant struggle to get through the lesson plan.
But what if you could bring an atmosphere of calm and peace to your classroom each and every day, no matter what may be happening just outside your door? Welcome to the Zen Classroom! Here are some easy-peasy ways to bring back the calm and get on with the learning:
Of course, we all have heard of brain breaks, and many teachers are already making great use of brain breaks and brain gym activities on a regular basis. I'm wondering if you've tried just breathing at the start of a lesson, after a transition, or when things get a little out of control. You can bring your class right back to center and focus with just a minute or two of focused breathing. Have a sign ready that says, "Breathe". Have a pre-agreed posture that kids automatically get into because they've learned it. It can be sitting up straight in their chair, criss-cross applesauce on desktops, or on a pre-designated spot on the floor. My students often enjoyed taking a seat on the floor under their desks to find a quiet personal spot.
When the sign is displayed, students can engage in one of several types of breathing. Simple and slow in through the nose and out through the mouth, one of many yoga breaths than can be learned and at the ready for these moments, or whatever breath helps each child to slow down and get calm. Different kids will have their favorites, and one or two that will work best for them.
Just a minute or two spent breathing in this way will restore peace and calm to each student in your class. Because I love you, and because I really want you to try this, here's a free poster for you! Just click, download and print!
The most wonderful benefit of starting some of these practices with your kids is that they are truly life practices. Kids will remember and even automatically start breathing or assuming certain positions in stressful or difficult situations or even when preparing for a test, first date, or job interview in the future. You will have given your students a gift for a lifetime by starting some of these habits now in your classroom.
Set up a series of yoga mats, or bath/beach towels, or just areas marked off by tape around your room (or playground!). Place a yoga card/poster at each area. connect the course with yoga straps stretched out (or tape) or yoga blocks laid in a row (can also be stepping stones from the garden or paper stepping stones). I love to use paper stepping stones with messages written on them like, "Just Breathe!" or "Find Your Focus!" or "Be Calm!" or even "Chill!" Laminate them and tape to the floor or ground. Instruct students to follow the paths you have set up from station to station where they will spend from three to five minutes practicing the postures and/or breaths posted there.
If you make setting up the obstacle course a class job, it will be a very easy and short setup for you, and a yoga obstacle course can be done as frequently and easily as a brain break. Definitely try it outdoors in the Spring for a calm and organized recess with a purpose!
Individual sets of yoga pose and breath cards in each student's desk make it possible for individuals to use these relaxation techniques whenever the need arises. That might not be at the same time for every student! When students have quick access to visual cues, they can try out some new or trusted poses or breaths whenever they need them. A new way of redirecting behavior for you just might become, "Try a card!"
Try hole-punching and adding a "ring-it" to individual decks. Kids can cut out the cards, hole-punch, and assemble themselves in third grade and above. Don't make more work for yourself by creating all the decks yourself when kids can give some zen back to you by doing it themselves. (Of course, cutting and assembling does have its rewards. Try binging on Netflix while cutting!)
In my classroom, a very popular volunteer position was "CPA Parents". These wonderful (usually full-time working) parents would check their kids' backpacks each night for bags of materials from me to "Cut, Paste, Assemble" (CPA). All the work would usually be completed that evening and returned to school the next day. It's like having a team of fairy godmothers and godfathers just waiting for you to make a wish! Bibbidy-bobbidy-boo! It's an easy way for parents who must work, but want to volunteer in the classroom to take part.
Coloring books and zentangles of all kinds have been increasing in popularity for several years now, and it's no wonder! Focusing in on coloring changes your breathing and is a calming and restorative practice for kids and grownups alike. Using different colored pencils, crayons, markers, and even touches of watercolor adds to the experience. I love using coloring pages with a message. Kids will internalize the message as their fingers make strokes inside and outside the lines. Try printing posters (your choice - make them yourself or make it easy and purchase some) in black/white or grayscale for kids to color in. You can add to your classroom decor with posters personalized by your students. A win for all!
I hope that some or all of these suggestions will help you to create the kind of space in your classroom that will make you feel peaceful and happy while traveling to work to each day, looking forward to teaching and learning as you have always hoped it would be!
You might find some of the resources in these two bundles helpful in your journey to zen:
For more Spring classroom ideas, don't miss these great posts: