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Changing the way you breathe can change your life

Are you aware of your breathing?

Is your breath usually slow or fast?

Do you breathe deeply or is your breath shallow? 

This simple practice of paying attention to your breath is the starting point for mindfulness. For teachers it is so much more though. The way you breathe has a huge impact on your health and your mood. When you breathe slowly and deeply your body naturally relaxes and you feel calmer. Not only that, everyone around you feels calmer too because you exude calm.

Are you starting to understand how this can have an impact on your classroom?

When we are stressed or in danger one of the first things that changes is our breath. Our body prepares for Fight or Flight and our breathing speeds up to enable us to be strong or run quickly. Unfortunately our bodies haven’t realised yet that we don’t often need that reaction in modern life. We are highly unlikely to run away or hit someone when we find out we have OFSTED coming (well not until they arrive anyway – tee hee!).

So, in order to calm your body you must learn to slow your breathing.

There are many breathing techniques you can learn, and teach to you classes, to help everyone breathe slowly and control their anxiety. Many of these are included in my free Calmer Classroom Cards which you can download here.

Breathing properly can also make a huge difference to your voice and your ability to project and preventing sore throats. If you breathe from your diaphragm and project from your chest rather than from your throat and head you will put less strain on your throat.

 

6 Ways to Introduce Gratitude in your School

6 Ways to Introduce Gratitude in your School

 

Gratitude is a word which is used a lot these days, particularly in alternative and new age circles, but what does it really mean?

Well, it is about being grateful. Grateful for; what you have, for the people in your life and for the opportunities your have been given.

Why is gratitude a magical thing to introduce into your school?

Well, there are lots of reasons. It’s so easy to focus on the things we don’t achieve. The media are always very quick to jump on failure but rarely look at all the amazing things happening in the world. We as humans seem to be pre-programmed to dwell on our inefficiencies and almost ignore our triumphs. Gratitude is a great way to reset the balance a little.

It is a basic human emotion to be thankful for the things we have. But in the modern world, we increasingly take basic things such as food and shelter for granted. Teaching children to be grateful can only be a good thing, even if it only helps them to put into perspective the fact that “everyone else” has the latest gadget and they don’t!

It is also proven to increase happiness considerably (if you want to read some science you can do so here.) Happier children are more confident, more cooperative, are less likely to be influenced by others and, importantly for schools these days, they achieve more.

How can you encourage an “attitude of gratitude” in your school?

Gratitude JarHere are some of my favourite ways:

  • Gratitude Jars – This is one of my favourite things in the whole world. You have probably seen it on social media at this time of year. It is so simple but so effective. All you need is a container and some scraps of paper. Simply write a little note every time something happens which you are grateful for. “I am so proud of the whole class because they were so well behaved on the school trip today”, “I am delighted that Sarah wrote her name for the first time” whatever it might be. Write it down, date it and pop it in the jar. You can write them all or you can allow the children to pop their own notes in too. Then when you are feeling like nothing is going right or at the end of term, read through some of the achievements in your jar.
  • Gratitude Journals – Similar to the Gratitude Jar, but this involves each child writing three things they are grateful for in a book or journal every day. This helps older children to really look at what makes them happy and how others are helping them in their daily lives.
  • Gratitude Display – Why not make a display of all the things your class are grateful for at the start of the term? Write thank you letters to someone who has done something special for them. Have your gratitude big and bold in your room.
  • Staff Gratitude Display – Many schools are now including a display in the staffroom where teachers and support staff can thank other members of the school for their help or for an action which really helped them.
  • Random Acts of Kindness – Why not choose one child or member of staff every week to receive a random act of kindness? It may be a little note saying something positive or a small gift.
  • Circle Time Games – Circle time is the perfect opportunity to express gratitude. You can ask each child to thank another member of the class for something. Give them an chance to say thank you for something that has happened to them or something they have received. Encourage them to think about all the amazing things they have which many children do not.

I hope this will give you a few ideas for how you can encourage your school to be more grateful. Start with yourself. Why not start a gratitude journal? It will begin to have an impact on you, your classroom and on the school.

I am very grateful that you have taken the time to read this post. I am thankful to everyone who takes something away and implements it in their school.

Thank you x 

Do you Dare to Blossom?

Rediscovery CardsWhen I am approached by people to look at or promote their products I am always a little cautious. I love sharing resources, especially if I feel that you will find them helpful.

When I received Mary Lunnen’s Rediscovery Cards and the accompanying book through the post I was delighted. Mary runs a small independent business working as a coach but she is passionate about helping children and someone had recommended that she try to get her cards into schools as they felt that they would be helpful for teachers. I agree!

There are fifty cards in the pack and each has a word clearly printed on a coloured background. The idea is that you choose a word for the day and think about how that word can help you and inspire you as you work. Then at the end of the day you can reflect back on the word.

Often the colours trigger an emotion or a response of some kind too so it is fun to talk about the colours used as well as the words.

How could you use the Rediscovery Cards in school?

The beauty of these cards for teachers is that they encourage discussion about emotions, as well as introducing new vocabulary and engaging with the children in a fun and exploratory way.

Perhaps you have a card monitor every day who gets to choose and then put it up on the board. Maybe you choose the words every day and ask the children to think about the word as they work. You could even use the words as part of your daily mindfulness or meditation practice. The possibilities really are endless.

If you would like to know more about Mary Lunnen and her lovely cards you can visit her website:

http://www.daretoblossom.co.uk

 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

We're going on a bear huntI love “We’re Going on a bear Hunt”! I first came across the folk song as a Brownie in the early 80’s (I know I’m getting old!) when we we would sing it on coach trips and round the campfire. So when I started teaching in the 90’s and discovered that it had been made into a beautiful children’s book in the late 80’s I was delighted. It was one of my favourite books to read to classes when I was teaching. When I had my own children we would read it and sing it and sing it and read it. We went across Cannock Chase on our own bear hunts. There is something mesmerising about the repetitive onamatapoeic language. It is perfect for teaching children so many aspects of language.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that this wonderful story had been made into an animation. Even my daughter (who is now 12 years old) is excited about sitting and watching it on Christmas Eve with her cousin. (My niece is only 2 years old and the perfect excuse for us to watch it – if we needed one!).

Would you like a magical “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” mindfulness lesson plan?

Given my love of this folk song and story I couldn’t resist creating a relaxation lesson plan for you. Classrooms all over the UK and probably the world, will be buzzing with the swishy swashy sound of teachers reading this magical story.

Treat yourself and your class to a wonderfully relaxing lesson. Teach them some mindfulness skills for life and have fun at the same time.

You can get your copy lesson plan for less than a cup of coffee, what are you waiting for?

 

Can Mindfulness Really Help Children with SEND?

mindfulness-and-sendThe use of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, or MBCT to support and aid children with SEND has been studied for several years now. This is a complex and very varied subject but I felt you might benefit from me bringing together some helpful information and studies on the subject. I hope to help you make an informed decision about the children you are working with.

Anyone who has ever worked with children knows that to give a blanket “this always works” response to any issue is a huge mistake. All children are different. All will respond very differently to the approaches we try. Having a few generalities can be helpful though so we know what it is worth trying.

ADHD and Mindfulness

Are you affected by ADHD and want to know more about using mindfulness? These articles are a wonderful starting point.

Mindfullyadd

http://psychcentral.com/lib/mindfulness-skills-useful-in-addressing-adhd/

Suffice to say that it has been proven that 8 out of 10 people felt that they were less affected by the condition after they embarked on a programme of mindfulness.

ASD and Mindfulness

When affected by ASD a person will often struggle to shut off their internal monologue. They may get stuck in the “doing” mode of life. By encouraging mindfulness we can enables them to feel more comfortable in the “being” mode.

For more information please read:

Autismandmindfulness.org

I hope you will find this a valuable resource, it gives a list to many sources of information and research.

Research Autism

Other conditions

Interestingly there is now considerable evidence that mindfulness benefits conditions as diverse as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue. It is also shown to improve relationships and improved self esteem.

If you are interested in this subject or there are specific conditions you would like information regarding, let me know and I will guide you as best I can or point you in the direction of more research materials. I am acutely aware that however many conditions I include in a post like this there will be people who feel I have missed their condition. I have focused on the most popular issues in schools. I would love to help you if you have specific questions or needs that you require help with.

 

 

 

Children in Need – Helping children to be more mindful of the world they live in

Pudsey Bear Mindfulness LessonI love Children! There’s no hiding it. I loved children when I was no more than a large child myself. At 14 years old while my friends were raving at the school disco I was looking after the teachers’ children in the foyer. (I know, I sound so sad, but I was a teenager in the time that good taste and good music forgot, I could not do acid house!). I also love Children in Need. When it comes to charities, I have always prioritised children’s charities. I have sponsored children and done all I can to help our most vulnerable and precious citizens.

This year I thought it would be lovely to create a mindfulness lesson plan to help our children to live in the present. To help them to notice and appreciate the world around them. If we are not careful, on days like Children in Need where we intentionally shift the focus away from the upset and heartbreak of the people we are raising money to help, it is easy for the message to get lost in the fun. Mindfulness is proven to help improve concentration and behaviour, even test results, as well as reducing anxiety and stress. What a wonderful gift to our children on such a magical day.

 

Children in Need Mindfulness LessonThe lesson walks the children through an imaginary morning for Pudsey Bear on the day of the big Children in Need television fundraiser programme. As he goes through his morning the children explore very simple mindfulness techniques.

The lesson comes in the form of a simple to follow script. All you need is a little time, a little space and your fabulous voice to help your class to stay calm and focused.

If you would like to download this special mindfulness lesson plan to share with your class on Children in Need Day just click here. It is only £3.00 and 50% of the profits from the sale goes to Children in Need.

Have fun and stay mindful!

Glad to be Dan – a mindfulness book review

Glad to be Dan - cover

Those of you who know me are already aware of my love of books, particularly children’s books. Imagine my joy then when Jo Howarth got in touch and asked whether I would be happy to review the new book. She has written Glad to be Dan with Jude Lennon and it is lovely.

This book is a triple whammy for me!

  • It’s a children’s book – tick.
  • It is a book about mindfulness – tick.
  • The main character is called Dan (my son’s name) – BIG TICK!

So when it arrived in the post I was delighted to discover that this book is everything I could have wanted it to be and more.

It is a picture book which has been beautifully illustrated by Trev Howarth. Deeper discussions would inevitably come from this book with older children, it is definitely suitable for the whole primary range. I would suggest possibly even into secondary schools too as a starting point for dialogue about negative emotions and mindfulness.

The story of Dan is a familiar one. He is fed up, anxious, angry and generally struggling to see the positives in life.

jo-howarthWhat I love though is that this book doesn’t just giving wishy washy solutions to his woes. This book gives practical ideas to help over come these negative emotions. Better still, it explains these techniques not only as part of the story but in greater detail at the back of the book.

If you are looking for a gentle and accessible way to introduce mindfulness to your children, at school or at home, this is the perfect starting point.

It will definitely be staying in my “toolbox” for schools and sessions in general now. I just wish that I had written it.

If you are interested in finding out more or would like to get a copy yourself you can buy your copy here.

* Disclaimer – I did not receive any financial incentive for writing this review, nor is this an affiliate link. I received a complementary copy of the book so I could review it.

The Magic of “Once upon a time…”

Once upon a timeOnce upon a time… 

This magical phrase has begun children’s stories for centuries. When children hear these words they instantly prick their ears up. They know on a deep level that something amazing is about to happen.

Or do they?

Certainly thinking back to my school days if the teacher uttered those magic words you could feel the buzz in the classroom. If an adult said those words while you were talking to them, your expectations of what was to follow suddenly grew enormously. But do children still know the magic of traditional tales?

From my experience, many children when asked about Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin will quote Disney songs and story lines. These versions are often far from the traditional roots of the story. Unfortunately, they also include changes which alter the meaning and the lesson in the story. Yes, the lesson. These stories have been told to children for generations not just because they are enchanting and keep children busy. These amazing stories are designed to teach children important life lessons. Gentle, fun stories, but very important lessons.

Don’t believe me?

Goldilocks – don’t trespass or steal

Red Riding Hood – don’t talk to strangers…

If you want to go deeper still, many of them, if you believe many imminent psychologists, are also preparing children for puberty and are warnings about the opposite sex. (if you are interested in this idea take a look at Bruno Bettelheim’s “The Uses of Enchantment”, it is fascinating).

In Disney’s The Little Mermaid Ariel marries Prince Eric and everyone lives happily ever after. A lovely ending which I’m sure many parents approve of. In the original fairy tale he marries someone else. She watches from the side of the ship and is turned to sea foam. She made a deal with the sea witch that that would be her fate should she be unsuccessful. In Disney’s version everyone is happy at the end and it makes for a lovely carefree story. But if you look at the moral of the story it is totally inverted. She changes for a man and is rewarded for becoming someone else and not being true to herself. Is that really the message we want to be sending to our young girls?

You may have noticed that this is a subject I’m quite passionate about. I am. In fact 20 years ago when I wrote my dissertation I wrote it on the moral value of children’s stories. I love children’s books and am fascinated by how they have changed over time. But also how they gently educate our children.

New Resources for you

For a little while now I have been working on a collection of relaxation lessons based around traditional tales. You can now download my Little Red Riding Hood lesson, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Jack and the Beanstalk. If there are any other traditional tales you would find useful please do email me and let me know.

You can also download my Fairy Tales Relaxation Pack. It is more economical than buying them all separately. So, if you think they will all be useful, please do download that one instead. You can also save 5% on all my lesson plans simple by sharing them on social media, which is always appreciated.

All my lesson plans and relaxation resources are available in my shop to instantly download and use with your children. Whether you work as a teacher, childminder, or just want something calming and fun to do with your own children, you will love them.

Ten Commandments of Stress and Depression

Ten Commandments of stressWhen we think about stress and depression we tend to think of external factors which can contribute to our mental health. By making a few changes to our own thought processes and adjusting our approach to life we can have a huge impact though. I came across these Ten Commandments of Stress many years ago on a course. At the time I was a fairly typical twenty-something:

  • wanting everyone to like me
  • worried about having my hair and make up done perfectly all the time
  • agreeing to do things for people because I thought it would make them like me more and that they would help me in return (NB not everyone does!!)
  • doing lots of things because I thought that was what I was supposed to be doing not because it made my life better or made me happier….

The list goes on and I’m sure I’m not alone.

I also know that, unfortunately, I was not alone in being diagnosed with depression. After only a term in a very challenging inner city school it took hold. I was lucky because I had amazing support and I managed to pull myself out of it within months. Not everyone is so lucky.

What can you do to help yourself and others who may be struggling with stress or depression?

It is so important to spot the early signs of stress and depression before it takes hold of you. If you don’t know how to spot them please read my earlier post: Stress: Do you know the signs?

In my experience teachers are the most compassionate, dedicated, hard working and community minded of people. This can unfortunately lead to them being take advantage of, by the Government, by SLT’s, by parents and even by colleagues. Set clear boundaries and know that it is ok not to be perfect all the time (despite what OFSTED might make you believe!).

Make your mental health a priority.

Set good examples for your peers, children and your class.

Be a better teacher and a happier person.

You owe it to yourself and everyone who loves you.

 

If you are looking for resources to help yourself and your school with relaxation and mindfulness check out my relaxation resources.

Maybe you just want to dip your toes in the water and see how it can impact on your class. Why not try one of my free lesson plans which are available on my blog?

 

The BFG – how to use the new film to promote mindfulness in school

BFG Mindfulness LessonThe BFG has been one of my favourite stories since I was a child. I have loved reading it to classes and my own children over the years. So, naturally I was excited and apprehensive when I learned that Steven Spielberg was adapting this modern classic.

It’s the Summer holidays here in the UK and I always make a real effort not to work too much during the holidays. My children are growing up so quickly! So we decided to go see The BFG for a treat, we have all been desperate to see it.

Well, I am relieved to report that I was thrilled with it! The cinematography was incredible and the BFG has the friendliest face. He made me smile throughout the whole film.

My son was equally thrilled with it, I think my 12 year old is just a little too old to admit that she liked it, but I’m sure she did. Have you seen it? What did you think?

Download my BFG Mindfulness Lesson Plan for less than the cost of a coffee

I’m sure many teachers will be making the most of this interest in the BFG. Combining this enthusiasm with the fact that it is the anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth in September makes this the perfect focus for lessons during the Autumn term.

THE BFGI love Roald Dahl. His whimsical stories and amusing but moral tales have made them popular for generations now. Imagine how thrilled I was granted me permission to use some of his books to create mindfulness lesson plans!

 

My brilliant BFG Mindfulness Lesson is ready to download and enchant your class…

So if you are looking for fun lesson plans to calm your class this year grab my Roald Dahl bundle. All three of my Roald Dahl lesson plans in one place.  So whether it is The BFG, Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that inspires you and makes your class light up you can use their favourite stories to introduce relaxation techniques to your routine.

Mindfulness has been proven to improve concentration and improve results in schools. In addition to academic improvement, it helps keep everyone calm and confident, and reduces stress levels.