School can be a stressful place for kids. Meditation can teach kids calmness and mindfulness, and it doesn’t have to take up much of your day. This lesson will explore what meditation is, why we do it, and different ways to bring Zen to your school den.
What is Meditation and Why Do It?
The art and practice of meditation, or spending time in quiet, focused thought to minimize mental distractions and increase feelings of calm, is usually thought of as something adults do to manage our stressful lives. Children experience stress too and need to learn ways to manage it and find inner calm. You don’t have to be an expert meditation instructor; anyone can teach meditation with a few simple frameworks.
Creating a Calm Classroom
School can be stressful for students and teachers. There are a lot of personalities in a small space. Children are asked to do a lot of things they find difficult in school, such as sit still, concentrate, and be nice to everyone all the time. Adding a little mindfulness to their day just makes sense.
Meditation and mindfulness are great ways to stay grounded. Children who practice meditation may have increased concentration, better focus, and the ability to remember more. To get started on meditation in your room, consider how and why you want to approach it.
- Time zone – One way to use meditation in schools is to dedicate specific times to practice. The beginning of the day or following lunch/recess is a great time to calm the mind and refocus. Or, you may sense some tension and decide a five-minute meditation is called for. Either planned or spontaneous meditation can be a welcome change.
- Testing – Many students experience stress-related symptoms because of testing. To combat this, introduce pre-, mid-, and post-test meditation. One gift of meditation is that it can be done anytime and anywhere.
- Conflict – Students often need a chance to calm down during the day when a classmate pushes those buttons. Time-out can be a good go-to, but without direction it can sometimes turn into a holding pen. Teach mediation to students who experience conflict often, and instruct them how to use it as a tool to cool off.
Now that we’ve looked at the what and why, let’s learn how to teach mediation in school.
Five Steps to Bliss
There are many different approaches to meditation practices. Here is a way to introduce your students to mindfulness in five steps.
1. Explain and instruct – Kids are no different than adults; they like to know what’s going on and why. The first step to teaching mediation is the same as instructing in any other subject – directly instruct what is happening (your objective) and why. Say ‘Today we’re going to have our first go at meditating. Meditating is something we can do to help us keep calm and focused.’ Then go on to explain and expand, and answer questions if necessary.
2. Set guidelines and expectations – To make sure this doesn’t turn into a free-for-all, explicitly state all expectations and guidelines. Where do you want their eyes? Hands? How long will you expect them to remain still? How will you check? What will happen if someone struggles? What’s the end signal? Get all the details taken care of before you begin.
3. Get to it – Now it’s time to start. You’ll be the guide for the first few sessions, at least, so make sure you practice beforehand. You can use a script if that makes you more comfortable. Speak slowly and calmly, and be intentional about what you say. If you aren’t comfortable being the speaker you can use a prerecorded script.
4. Review – The first time may be a little awkward for students. Make it a habit to talk a little bit afterwards to share experiences. Be sure to keep this step in your process. Moving from a place of calm meditation directly to a lesson may be too abrupt.
5. Assess – No, this is not a time to test the students! Make sure you monitor the program you create, checking in to make sure meditation is continuing to meet the goals you set. If not, adjust it.
Bring in the Stuff
Meditation can be enhanced by adding a few touches, such as:
- Music – Consider adding soft soothing music to play during both guided or open meditation.
- Scripts – Try different guided meditations with your students. Some may work better for different groups of kids.
- Pillows and cushions – Meditation may be more comfortable for some children on the floor or leaning against the wall. Support their need for comfort (it’s important) by supplying a soft place for them to practice.
- Recordings – Short, individual meditations may be necessary for some students. Record yourself leading a meditation and make it available for students to use as necessary with headphones and an isolated spot.
Meditation is the art of sitting calmly and thoughtfully. It can bring a sense of peace to a stressful environment. Practicing meditation in schools has been shown to increase memory, concentration, and focus. Use meditation on a regularly scheduled basis or as a tool for recovering from conflict. Teach the process by first explaining meditation, setting expectations, meditating, debriefing, and assessing. For added comfort, add pillows, music or cushions. Finally, make meditation something kids can go to whenever they need it by recording yourself leading a short session. Your students may become more grateful, calm, and centered learners.