Calming Activities for Your Classroom
Are the students driving you mad? Are they bouncing off the walls of the classroom?!
We’ve all had days like that, when students come in from break-time and they are heightened because of arguments or fights out in the yard. Sometimes even the weather can contribute to the emotional state of the classroom! Whilst energy can be fantastic for learning there are times when you want to bring the class down to a calmer state.
What we need to do as teachers is guide students into a more relaxed state.
According to psychologist Dr. Herbert Benson (1974) “The relaxed response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress.”
It is characterised by:
- Slow, deep breathing
- Lowered blood pressure
- Decreased heart rate
- Increased circulation in the extremities (warm hands and feet)
- Relaxed muscles
- Slower reactions
- Reduced anxiety
- Calm, clear thinking
- Conserved energy and increased stamina
Therefore we need to find activities we can do with students that lead to these mind and body states.
- Art - Ever wondered why the art room tends to be the calmest room in the school? Art is often done independently and involves engaging the creative part of your brain. Because there is always a level of art that students can participate in, it is a good activity for students to relax their minds and simply do something creative. Art that can be done in the classroom usually involves some level of drawing. Some students are happy with a blank piece of paper where they can create something. Others will need more creative assistance for example mindful colouring and colouring mandalas. Whilst there are many mindful colouring books in bookstores that can be purchased, there are also a plethora of downloadable options online that can be tailored to the interests of the students. There are even books of giant dot-to-dots that many students enjoy. It’s a great idea to have a tub of drawing resources in the classroom that is tailored to your students so that you always have something on hand when it is needed.
- Reading - Lose yourself in a book... This is a fantastic independent activity for students to engage in to bring their emotional state down. However, it does require that your students are independent readers. If your students are not at that level, then you could read to them, perhaps they have a favourite book or perhaps you are currently reading a chapter book with them.
- Meditation - There has been so much research into the effects of meditation with an overwhelming amount of studies advocating for its daily use in both adults and children. With that research comes a myriad of free or cheap resources to choose from. Spotify has multiple options for meditation just from searching for ‘meditation’ or ‘guided meditation’. YouTube is just as plentiful but the benefit with YouTube is that many come with great video graphics which adds a visual dimension for your students. Have a look at ‘The Honesty Guys’ and ‘Kids Relax’ or simply search for ‘visual meditation for kids’. There are also a great number of applications available for download on smart phones e.g. Smiling Minds. Smiling Minds is a great application because it has set guided meditations for different ages groups so you can be sure that your students will be able to understand the instructions and visualisations in the meditation you choose. If your students enjoy meditation, you may want to think about conducting a guided meditation for them. You can find scripted guided meditations online (including breathing exercises and visualisations) or can make one up yourself, turn the lights off in the classroom and put some soft relaxing music on and you are all set!
- Yoga Poses - Yoga is a fantastic discipline to learn for the mind and the body but you don’t have to be a master at it to use it in the classroom. It is quite easy to research a few simple moves that you could show your students in the classroom. When required to copy body poses, your brain has to integrate left and right movement, meaning that both hemispheres of the brain are in use which leads to concentration and a relaxed state.
- Sensory - To assist with all classroom calming activities it’s a great idea to use the senses to create the right ambience:
Visual - Turn the lights off, visual stimulation from the interactive whiteboard
Audio - Relaxing music, meditation, Tibetan singing bowl, Tingsha bells
Touch - Have a comfortable temperature in the classroom, cushions, bean bags
Smell - Try burning a scented candle or incense (if allowed in school)
Taste - Try guiding a meditation with a piece of food e.g. chocolate than melts and lingers in the mouth
Activities are not limited to these. It’s whatever you can think of for your students that will bring them into the relaxed response state as indicated above.
Remember that you should always have a reason for whatever activities that you do in class in order to get the best outcomes for students. If you are interested in finding out more about evidence-based practice in education take a look at our free publication available on iBooks.
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