Often as a substitute teacher, you face moments when students are talkative, restless, or rambunctious. The more calm you can bring to your classroom, the better.
So, whenever times get tense, you can take a step back and channel some Zen into your classroom. Here’s how.
Jon Kabat-Kinn, a famous doctor and pioneer of the mindfulness movement, defines mindfulness as “moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness.” In its most simple form, mindfulness is becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings.
Numerous research studies show the benefits of mindfulness exercises in the classroom. Mindfulness helps students:
- Focus and avoid distraction
- Improve academic performance and memory
- Reduce anxiety and avoid behavior problems
Research also shows that teachers who practice mindfulness techniques themselves are less stressed and more compassionate.
Here are some quick, easy mindfulness activities you can use in your classroom to bring a little bit calmer.
The easiest way to approach mindfulness is to focus on breathing. Have the class close their eyes and put one hand on their belly. Ask them questions to focus their attention on the act of breathing. Can you feel your hand moving up and down as you breathe in and out? Do you feel the air moving in and out of your nose? Does the air feel cooler coming in their nose or coming out?
Ring the bell.
Bring a bell to ring or use a bell sound in a mindfulness app such as Calm or Insight Timer. Ask students to listen closely until they can’t hear the bell anymore. Then, tell them to keep on listening and notice the sounds they hear. After, invite them to share what they heard with the class.
Be a shark.
Created by Mindful Schools co-founder Laurie Gossman, the Shark Fin is a mindfulness technique that also allows kids to feel powerful. Ask them to place their thumbs against their foreheads and their fingers to the sky. Then, they’ll close their eyes and slide their hands to their nose. Have them say “shh” as they slide their hands down. They remain quiet, breathing softly for a few minutes, while their “shark fin” helps them focus.
Strike a pose.
Have your class strike a superhero pose. They should stand up, with their hands on their hips and their legs spread wide. While they’re in this strong pose, have them use their “Spidey Senses” to see, hear, and feel as much as they possibly can of the present moment. After, they can share their experiences with the rest of the class.
Create a calm ambiance
Establishing a tranquil setting will go a long way towards promoting calm and harmony. To achieve a good balance of thought-provoking energy while keeping the atmosphere soothing, focus on the following:
Shine some (natural) light on your class.
If possible, open up the blinds and turn off overhead fluorescents or LEDs. Experts recommend letting sunshine into the classroom. In fact, one study of over 21,000 elementary school students showed that students exposed to more sunlight throughout the day had 26% higher reading outcomes and 20% better math outcomes than students in less sunny classrooms.
Play some classical music.
It’s not only calming — studies show classical music promotes learning, too. Playing classical music in the classroom is linked with relaxation, increased motivation, and improved ability to stay on task.
Check out these lists for recommendations:
- 10 Best Classical Music Tracks for Calm and Tranquility
- Classical Music for Kids in the Classroom
- Classical Music for Studying and Concentration for Kids
Put up some peaceful images in the classroom.
Some peaceful images can help the students feel calm when they are looking around the classroom. You can bring in some nature images if you have them or even have the students draw their favorite calm place and hang the images up in the class.
With patience and practice, you can turn any classroom into a soothing environment. Doing so will help you nurture your own inner Zen.
Work off excess energy.
It’s important to add physical activity to your lesson plan when students start getting fidgety. This is especially true for younger students. Use these tips to incorporate more calm movement into your students’ days.
Like mindfulness, yoga has a lot of benefits in the classroom. Yoga helps students improve their self-regulation and manage stress, behave more positively, and boost their academic performance. Here are some quick, easy tips to incorporate a few yoga poses into your classroom:
- Do a kid-friendly yoga video together.
- Strike some fun animal poses.
- Worried about space? Try a few of these poses students can do right from their chairs.
Give their brains a break.
- Get fitness dice or bring your own brain break cards. Every so often, roll the dice or draw a card and ask students to perform the activities shown.
- Invite students to take turns leading the class in 5 minutes of Simon Says.
- Put on some calming music and host a 5-minute chair dance party.
Need more tips on classroom management? See our post on How to Survive a Tough Class as a Sub.