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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!

 

 

 

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 

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?

 

How can we save our schools from drowning in assessment?

SATs stressAs I sit in my office this morning, enjoying an unexpected day of productivity (I was called for Jury Service this week but haven’t been required, yet), my mind keeps coming back to all the children and teachers sitting in classrooms this week in the middle of assessments.

My son is 7 years old and consequently is doing his Y2 SATs and honestly he isn’t even aware that they are happening. His teacher is doing an amazing job of staying calm and not letting the pressures impact on the children.

Unfortunately this just isn’t possible with the Y6 tests though as they have to be done in such strict exam conditions you just couldn’t possibly conceal them.

Teaching is widely reported to be one of the most stressful professions and it isn’t hard to see why. As one of our caring professions teachers have not just an obligation to provide the children in their class with an education but they also provide a wide range of social care.

Teachers are highly qualified professionals who spend years training to understand, not just the subjects they teach, but also; child development, child psychology, social expectations, assessment strategies, statistics, reporting, and much much more. Despite this we insist on testing the children in their classes to a borderline abusive level in order to, allegedly, check that the teaching is of a satisfactory standard. In addition to these tests the teachers assessments are scrutinised and then as if this wasn’t insulting enough, we send in OFSTED inspectors with 24hrs notice to check that they are doing their job properly on a day to day basis.

Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that there are some teachers who do not do a satisfactory job. As there are in all jobs. But all too often in teaching, the few instances of lower standards have been caused by mental anguish and unmanageable workload which has either led the teacher to fall out of love with the job or to suffer some form of breakdown, physically or mentally.

We are reading this week about children who have been reduced to tears by the Reading Tests (read the full article here: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/sats-pupils-tears-after-sitting-incredibly-difficult-reading-test), children who are unable to eat, who haven’t been able to sleep. These are tell tale signs of fairly severe stress and anxiety and yet we are doing all this in the name of education.  This is not my idea of education, this is torture, both for the children sitting the tests and possibly more so for the teachers who are fighting their every instinct to teach to test and who know that they aren’t doing the best by the children in front of them.

Something has to change

AssessmentSomething has to change and quickly, before we lose all our best teachers either through stress or despair, and before we are responsible for a whole generation growing up with mental health issues.

I was delighted to see parents taking the law into their own hands last week and keeping their children at home for a day to enjoy the freedom of playing outside and having fun (more information here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36149850), but although they did an amazing job of raising awareness of parental opinion, there has to be a long term solution.

“1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class (1).”

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/training_services/policy/mental_health_statistics

 

One in ten school aged children. Three children in every class. And that is only diagnosable mental health issues. What about all the children who are doing an amazing job of hiding it? This figure is already far too high and with the current trends in education it can only get worse.

What can you do to help?

Whether you are a teacher, a student teacher, a TA, a parent, a childminder… whatever your association with children, you can make a difference.

It is important that we join together now to let our children know that scores, results and assessments are only a tiny part of who they are. There is so much more to a child than a test result. Let’s celebrate the personalities, the quirks, the many beautiful things which make our children unique. Let’s remind them that they are special and that they have a wonderful contribution to make to the world whether they come top of the class or not.

Let’s teach them about the many incredibly successful and intelligent people who did terribly at school but who changed the world beyond measure. Einstein is widely held to be one of the greatest minds the world has ever known but he failed miserably at school.

Most importantly let’s teach children how to cope with stress. If we can’t change the world they are growing up into, let’s give them so many tools to help them deal with that world that they can flourish despite it. If we can educate this generation in the importance of love, calm and compassion as well as subordinate clauses and vertices then maybe, just maybe, they can put right all the things that our generation seem to have messed up.

 

If you are concerned about yourself or the children you teach please get in touch with me and I will do all I can to help. I have a wonderful free ebook, which you can download by filling in the box below, which gives simple 5 minute activities suitable for all ages, and there are also some lesson plans for relaxation lessons available on my blog. Don’t forget my Resources page Which has lots of leSson plans, MP3s and worksheets to help.
There are also lots of ideas for relaxation in schools on my Teachers Pinterest board.