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?

 

istock_62683346_xlarge

 

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 focus on schedules. What you are doing 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. Warm – ups 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 min long”. Again, I say…sometimes less is more. If you have 25 good teaching moments 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.

Using imagination

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!

Louise Potter
Louise Emma Potter has been working in the education field for more than 20 years. She was born in England and has being living in Brazil for more than 25 years. She graduated in Advertising and Marketing from E. S. P. M and has since then applied her knowledge in the Education area, having as area of expertise teacher trainning and teacher development. She worked as a coordinator for 12 years leading a team of teachers for a well known language school. She now leads her own business at Teach-in Education developing the professional growth of language teachers and private schools through workshops and training sessions. She is the author of a series of English books for young learners at Somos Educação writing for Sistema Anglo de Ensino and of the following books edited by Editora Disal: Atividades de vídeos para o ensino de Inglês, Atividades com música para o Ensino de Inglês , Guia para o Ensino de Língua Estrangeira e Atividades com Jogos para o Ensino de inglês.