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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.

 

 

 

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 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Anxiety

School day tummy aches… is there more to it?

As we move into another school year most children will, at some point, use the line “I don’t want to go school, my tummy hurts”. Usually it coincides with the first day in a new class, tests, incidents of bullying, a lesson they don’t like, or some other one off or specific incident which hopefully isn’t a long term issue. However it can be a sign of a more serious issue for some children, school anxiety. Recent studies have shown that children who regularly suffer from tummy aches are more likely to suffer from anxiety in later life, (some have even linked it to hormone deficiency during pregnancy) but it would be naive to conclude that tummy aches are an indicator of future anxiety without acknowledging that anxiety in children is a growing issue.
Low level anxiety is normal and nerves before a test or school production are normal and can actually be productive but it is estimated that 8-22% actually experience anxiety more acutely than other children and this can be physically and emotionally upsetting and can lead to physical pain and genuine discomfort.
Whatever the cause school, separation or any number of other pressures on children these days, anxiety is a very real problem for some of our children and the best way we can protect them from this very real threat is to give them tricks to help them calm the butterflies in their tummy before they become more severe.
Here are my top tips for reducing anxiety in children:
  • Talk it out: explain, as much as you can what will happen when you get somewhere new, what the new routine will be, what will be expected of them and that is may be something new but there isn’t anything scary about it.
  • Breath it out: there is a reason we are told to “take a deep breath” when we get upset or anxious, breathing deeply is a wonderful way to stretch the muscles in the stomach which contract when anxiety sets in, it also calms the body and gives your mind something to focus on while you concentrate on breathing more slowly.
  • Shout it out! It may sound silly but going somewhere you won’t disturb too many people and shouting loudly can also really help to release anxiety, again it is using the stomach muscles in an exaggerated way and often, in children, results in laughter which is wonderfully healing.
  • Hit it out: I do not advocate hitting usually but physically hitting a pillow or punch bag is a wonderful way to relieve anxiety for many children (especially boys but girls benefit too).
  • Write it out: for older children writing down everything they are feeling and getting their inner anxieties out on paper can be very therapeutic, a diary or secret journal can be very helpful. If they don’t want to write an art journal can also be wonderfully healing.
  • Chill out: Guided meditations can be very helpful when encouraging children to relax and      de-stress.