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Beauty and the Beast – A mindfulness lesson plan

Beauty and the Beast Mindfulness Lesson PlanTale as old as time…

This magical fairy story has been delighting children and adults alike for centuries. The story of a young girl who loves books and learns to fall for a beast of a prince may not be the perfect story for our modern feminist daughters but it isn’t far off in my opinion.

Beauty and the Beast has been my favourite fairy tale for as long as I can remember. The symbolism of the beastly behaviour of the prince causing him to be tranformed physically into a beast is wonderful. Beauty (Belle in the Disney version) is brave, outspoken and self assured. She loves reading, long before women were allowed to attend school or better themselves in any way, is inspiring. Imagine how excited I was when I learned they were remaking it! Not just any remake but a remake with live action and Emma Watson – who I love!

My daughter was desperate to see it, my sister contacted me as soon as she heard to make me promise we wouldn’t watch it without her, and we started praying that they wouldn’t spoil the original magic.

I was 15 when the Disney cartoon was released and I’m not afraid to say that I LOVED it! I had posters, the soundtrack on my CD player and I even dressed like Belle for a while (no I’m not sharing any photos!).

Well, we were not disappointed. We all felt that the new film paid homage to the original animation, without being a replica, and added a little depth and maturity.

I was so relieved.

So, what is so special about the story of Beauty and the Beast?

I love that Belle sees through the Beast’s appearance to the person within. He has learned his lessons about not judging people by their outward appearance. He has learned to be patient, tolerant, kind.

There are worse role models for our children, that’s for sure.

My Beauty and the Beast lesson plan combines some mindfulness techniques and breathing strategies with simple yoga to create a magical lesson. It explores both our senses and our bodies in a calm and gentle way. Children love taking time to explore sounds, smells, sights and tastes as part of this magical story. It is a wonderful way to introduce mindfulness to even the youngest of children.

Get a copy of the lesson plan or it is available as part of my Key Stage 1 Literacy Mindfulness Pack.

To see my full range of mindfulness and relaxation resources visit my shop.

 

 

 

World Book Day Mindfulness

World Book DayI love World Book Day!

It’s one of my favourite days of the year. Seeing all the children dressed in their costumes and the teachers dressed up too. Knowing that they will be spending all day talking about and learning about and celebrating one of my favourite things in the world… books!

My children love it too.  My daughter in particular is a real book worm. At primary school she loved dressing up and trying to choose a character no one else would. (The image here is the year she went as Amy from Little Women, I think she was in Y6. Her head teacher challenged her as to whether she had read it, which of course she had!). My son is a more reluctant reader (unless it is the football pages of the newspaper!) but he still loves dressing up for World Book Day.

Magical memories!

Of course any day where the children are out of uniform and off timetable has the potential for chaos and much more noise than usual. It is days like this which are saved by your mindfulness practice. But don’t take my word for it. Fiona MacNab has been using mindfulness with her class for a little while and this is what she observed on Children in Need Day last year:

“Wow! My pupils (P3/4) were extremely excited as not only was it Children in Need but we had our school Christmas Fair on Saturday and we had a class stall at it. We did the mindfulness lesson, which went extremely well, then it was our allocated time to go to the Pudsey cupcake stall. I usually have to remind them to walk quietly in the corridor as other classes are working, but I decided not to as it was such an exciting day for them and I didn’t want to spoil that. We got almost the entire way to the dinner hall with the entire class walking calmly and chatting quietly before excitement took over – that was a very visible and immediate result of the mindfulness lesson.”

So, you see it really does work! If you haven’t tried using mindfulness with your class before, using it on a day where they are more excitable than usual might seem a strange thing to suggest. But believe it or not it just makes the results more obvious.

If you are thinking of having a literacy based mindfulness lesson on Thursday there are lots to choose from in my shop.  Alternatively, if you are wary about spending money when you have never tried it, why not use one of my free lesson plans: Harry Potter or Where the Wild Things Are.

However, if you really want to give your class a treat, my Roald Dahl lessons are so much fun! You can buy them in a discounted bundle or you can grab one of my Literacy Packs and calm the whole school!

Whatever you decide to do I hope you have a magical World Book Day. I can’t wait to see all the photos appear in my Facebook timeline!

 

 

 

Moana – A mindfulness and relaxation lesson plan

Moana Mindfulness lesson planI recently saw the latest Disney “princess” film Moana with my children…

Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect, there is always so much hype when a new Disney princess is born. Those of you who know me will know by now that I’m a sucker for a good Disney film but there are so many and there seems to be a new princess born every other week.

I don’t know why I doubted Disney though. I was completely blown away by the message of this film. Long gone are the days of Snow White and Cinderella. We are no longer giving our daughters down trodden, manipulated women whose sole ambition is to find a suitable husband and get married. This generation of girls have role models like Merida (Brave), Else and Anna (Frozen) and Tiana (The Princess and the Frog). Independent women. I was impressed when the “need” for a husband to fulfil you seemed to fade and we had women of independent means who controlled their own destiny. Moana takes this message a step further and, thankfully, doesn’t even mention any interest in romance. She is a strong, courageous Chief who makes brave choices and survives an amazing adventure to save her island.

What has this got to do with mindfulness?

As I watched I couldn’t help thinking what a great relaxation lesson this story would make. There are so many amazing themes.

So I have made one for you.

I have intentionally created a simple, age appropriate lesson for you to enjoy as a calming treat with your class.

If you would like to download this gift you can grab your copy here:

Moana

 

If you enjoy this lesson why not take a look at my other lesson plans and make mindfulness a regular part of your timetable.

 

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?

 

7 Reasons It’s Important To Switch Off During School Holidays

7 reasons it is important to switch off during school holidays Ok, let’s be realistic, anyone who has ever worked in a school knows that you can’t totally switch off from school work for the whole of a school holiday, unless you are incredibly organised and work yourself into a state during the last week of term. I’m not suggesting that you neglect your planning and marking, because that isn’t professional and can induce stress which is counterproductive.

So what am I suggesting? It’s simple really, I am suggesting that instead of having work lingering and hanging over you all holiday that you consciously organise your holiday time in order to ensure that the important jobs are done, but so that you also have plenty of time to switch off.

Why is it important to switch off and step away from school work during the holidays? (I’m sure you don’t really need me to tell you, but just in case it’s so long since you’ve managed to do it, here goes!)

  • To allow you to rest completely. When you are at school you are constantly planning and thinking about what you need to do next and, unless you are very careful, that spills over into the holidays. Your brain needs time to rest. Give yourself permission to switch off. You might even find that you get a good night sleep without waking at 3am with a to do list running through your head.
  • To allow your stress levels to reset. Your body needs time to process and remove the stress hormones which build up during the school term and if you continue to add to these levels during the holidays you will return feeling as stressed and anxious as you finished. Allow your body time to do its job and you will do yours better when you return.
  • Reconnect with familyTo reconnect with your partner/children. If you are managing to teach and not letting that affect your relationships and quality time with your loved ones then congratulations, you are truly an amazing human being. Please get in touch and let me know your secret, because I know I never could and most teachers I know will admit to feeling constantly torn between work and family. Your family deserve a couple of weeks every few months to spend time with you. Relaxed, happy, loving you. Give them that time, you won’t be sorry.
  • To remind your friends who you are. There is a reason many teachers have lots of friends who also teach, because they understand the time constraints of the job. Wouldn’t it be lovely to connect with your friends again, even if they are colleagues or teacher friends, without discussing policies and planning?
  • To allow yourself to return to school full of enthusiasm and energy. By stepping away from anything or anyone, we return with a new level of appreciation and enthusiasm. Your class deserve bubbly, enthusiastic you, just as much as your family do. Step away, recharge and give your class the best version of you.
  • To feed your soul. I know, this one sounds a bit airy fairy and hippy, but do you remember a time when you had hobbies other than resource making? Take time to play board games with your kids, go walking, read a book for pleasure, go to the cinema, whatever it is that makes your heart sing. You give so much to others, give yourself the same treat!
  • To give yourself time to do all the jobs round the house you have been putting off. Ok, it might not be the most exciting reason to switch off from school, but even if it is just to make sure that you return to school with an empty ironing basket, the garden ready for summer, the dining room decorated and all the bedrooms deep cleaned, at least you will have had time away from thinking about school. The first six reasons suddenly seem a lot more appealing now don’t they? 😉

The importance of self care as a teacherBeing an amazing teacher is a wonderful thing, but in the same way that you are told to put your own oxygen mask on in an aeroplane before fitting those of your children and others who need help, you have to give yourself some care before you can care properly for your class. Give yourself the gift of a real break this Easter, allocate days when you can get your school work done and plan lots of fun and frivolous days around them.

Have a wonderful break and remember, you are doing an incredible job, you have earned this time for you.

 

Star Wars Mindfulness Lesson Plan

Star Wars Mindfulness LessonI love creating resources for teachers to use with their classes but every so often one really makes me smile. My son is Star Wars mad and I just know that I will be doing this one when he gets home from school tonight. A Star Wars Mindfulness Lesson Plan might not be your first thought when you think of these epic films but believe me, Star Wars is very spiritual if you look at it in the right way, more importantly kids, particularly boys, love it!

If ever a lesson plan is going to engage your Y4/5 boys this is the one (obviously it will engage lots of other children of different ages too, but that age group are particularly challenging when it comes to relaxation and taking self care seriously I find).

I have made sure I have included lots of characters which I hope will appeal to boys and girls alike.

Star Wars – relaxation lesson

 

I now have a wide range of lesson plans for the whole Early Years and Primary age range available in my shop. Please take a look if you have found this lesson helpful.

 

 

Inside Out Mindfulness Lesson Plan

Inside Out Lesson PlanInside Out, Disney Pixar’s award winning animated film and one of the most popular films of 2015, is a fabulous film for introducing the idea of emotions and “the little voices in your head” to children.  In addition to that it does a wonderful job of simplifying the changes that everyone experiences when growing up. More importantly than all that, children LOVE it! What could be more fun than treating your class to an Inside Out Mindfulness Lesson?

It is also a wonderful place to begin introducing mindfulness to children. By creating a simple script and teaching the children a few simple breathing techniques, yoga poses and tai chi moves, children can enjoy this wonderful story in a much more calm and relaxed way.

Whether you are new to mindfulness, relaxation and yoga or you are a seasoned yogi and meditator you can access these easy relaxation techniques for yourself and your children and add an element of calm to your working day.

If you teach children of primary age or you work with young children in any capacity, you can download my free Inside Out Mindfulness Lesson Plan by clicking the link below:

Inside Out – Relaxation Lesson Plan

 

I now have a wide range of lesson plans for the whole Early Years and Primary age range available in my shop. Please take a look if you have found this lesson helpful.

 

 

“Back to School” – Making returning to school stress free

“Worry less, smile more. Don’t regret, just learn and grow” – unknown

back-to-school-calligraphic-designs-retro-style-elements-typographic-concep_z16rC7Ou_L As the summer holidays begin around the world and our children grow up and move on it is a time of great excitement but also great anxiety for many. Particularly for children who are making the move from one school to the next, but even for those moving between classes, the idea of going back to school can be a daunting one. With over a million school aged children being treated for stress we need to be armed and ready for any issues which may add to the often unavoidable stresses our children now face.

For many a new school year is an exciting time of new school bags, pencil cases and shoes and they can’t wait to launch themselves into the challenges of the year ahead. For others it is a time of terrifying change, that fear of the unknown sets in and it can be paralysing. It is easy as a parent to forget that feeling of dread and brush it off with a “you’ll be fine” but for your child it is equivalent to an important job interview, that will last a whole year!

It is a time of many difficult questions…

What will the new classroom be like? Will the new teacher have different expectations? What if they don’t like me? What if they make me sit next to the child who picks their nose? The work will be too hard, I won’t find my way round, they won’t have the food I like… sounds pretty intense doesn’t it?

So how can we help our children to cope with all these changes?

Preparation

This is the key to successful transition whether it is starting school, changing class or moving school. If possible familiarise your child with the school, visit as often as possible, (when moving to a new class all schools give the children a chance to have time in their new classroom). Make sure they know the new routine; What time is break/lunch? Where will they eat their lunch? Where are they allowed to go during break? And so on. The more they know about how the day will run the easier it will be to picture themselves going back to school.

Reassurance

Whether they are worried about academic performance, sports, reading aloud, making friends or how they will find their way round, reassurance that they will be great, and are capable of making this change is vital. Let them know that as long as they work hard you will be proud of them (avoid saying try your best because that is a difficult thing to comprehend and it could be argued you can always try a little more!). They will probably be with existing friends but if not try to get to know other children their age locally who will be in their year and arrange play dates over the holidays if possible.

Relaxation techniques

Simple breathing techniques can really help children to stay calm in difficult situations. Teaching simple methods, such as equal breathing (breathing in to a count of four and out to a count of four) instantly calms down the body’s fight or flight reflex and helps us regain control.

Sensory triggers

These are very powerful for children of all ages, even as adults we can smell our Mum’s favourite perfume and feel comforted. Choose a relaxing essential oil such as lavender or chamomile, sit and hold your child while letting them smell the oil maybe listen to some relaxing music, read a book together or watch a happy film. You can then recreate that feeling of security and comfort for them by giving them a tissue with the oil on to take to school or even putting a dab of it on their sleeve.

Preparing for any change can be daunting but if we are prepared, secure and have that secret smile that comes from the knowledge that we have a whole host of people on our team it becomes much easier. Make sure your child knows you will be there when the bell rings at the end of the day to share all their adventures and give them a hug if they need it and together you can get through anything.

For more information why not download my Back to School ebook which goes through the many causes of school anxiety and how to best handle it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids Yoga

I was delighted when i was asked to review the new book by Brian leaf “misadventures of a parenting yogi” as i knew that so many of you would be interested to read it. When the book arrived i was even more delighted. I flicked through it to get an idea of the style and before I knew it i was reading excitedly through the pages, smiling and at times laughing at the approachable and easy style. i have been doing yoga for a few years now, i’m no expert but i enjoy the slow, relaxing style and always feel fabulous when i have finished. with anxiety and stress levels on the increase among our children relaxation techniques such as kids yoga are becoming more and more important. THis wonderful excerpt from the book talks about Brian leaf’s experiences of this delightful practice.

 

Misadventures of a Parenting YogiAn Excerpt from Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi

Noah is taking a kids’ yoga class with lots of other two-year-olds. It’s supercute. They pretend to be animals and crawl around the room and hold postures and have imaginary adventures.

But, little kids, I’m convinced, don’t really need yoga.

Older kids and teens, by the way, are a whole different story. They need yoga. Reimagine your teenage years with yoga. Seriously. Picture yourself at age sixteen. What are you wearing? How are you standing? Now insert yoga. You’re more grounded in your body. You have self-assurance. You stand tall. You’re able to identify what really matters in life. Everything from the boundaries in your relationships to your skin is clearer.

But little kids, I think, don’t need yoga. You can do cobra or tree or revolved triangle with them, and it will be fun. They are so cute bending and twisting. I love doing sun salutations with Noah. But, really, we’re the ones who need the yoga. Our kids need to eat less sugar and to frolic in the woods more.

I need yoga to control my fear that Noah will be eaten by a bear or that the sweaty guy on the elevator is going to grab him and run. Or to deal with the panic when he disappears for three seconds behind the microbrewed soap display at Whole Foods.

I do yoga to stretch and to manage stress — neither of which kids need to do — and on a deeper, more spiritual level, I do yoga to open my energetic channels and allow for growth and transformation. And to live my truth, my dharma. But kids are already doing this. I do yoga to become more like them.

I remember teaching a toddler yoga class and being frustrated that the kids wouldn’t do what I wanted. They were giggling and playing. I wanted them to be obsessive, perfectionistic, and neurotic like me.

I can, however, let my yoga make me more relaxed and present, like them. I can let it open my mind so that I see my kids as they are, not as I imagine they should be. I can let it open my heart so that I love my kids as they are, not as I imagine they should be.

We need the yoga. Let them frolic.

 

Kids YogaBrian Leaf is the author of Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi and Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, as well as the owner and director of the holistic New Leaf Learning Center in western Massachusetts. He has studied, practiced, and taught yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda for twenty-three years. Visit him online at http://www.misadventures-of-a-yogi.com.