A day in the life of a teacher can feel wild, frantic and unpredictable. These feelings may ebb and flow at certain times of the year, but a classroom practice of mindfulness can help curb the crazy. There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness and its benefits, but essentially, mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment. Focusing on breathing is a great way to do that.
I’m calling these mindful breathing activities, “Brain Breaths” because like Brain Breaks, they are powerful classroom tools to address students’ needs and foster a healthy and productive learning environment. Brain Breaths help prepare students for class, enhance listening skills, calm and focus minds and lay the groundwork for deeper digestion of the language. The best part is, Brain Breaths not only set students up for success, but they help teachers as well.
Setting up is easy!
Here is a list of vocab I use to familiarize my students with Brain Breath lingo. I do this through quick translations, modeling, and pointing as I introduce my first Brain Breath or TPR style before we begin.
- eyes closed/looking down
- sit down
Once these are down, you can add more such as,
- sit with a straight back
- hold your breath
- calm/still body
3 simple Brain Breaths:
Five finger breath – Hold your hand up in front of you with your fingers spread and your palm facing in. As you breath in, trace up to the top of your thumb. Breath out and trace down to the base of your thumb and index finger. Repeat with all 5 fingers. Each finger is a full breath.
Bee breath – Breath in. Hold your breath for 1-3 seconds. As you breath out lightly press on the small flap on your ear closest to your cheek (it’s called the tragus) and hum the letter “M.” You should feel the buzzing vibration as you exhale. Brain Breath in action* Here is a video of me leading Bee Breath with my 1st graders.
Square breath – Point your index finger outward like you are pointing at something. As you breath in, draw the index finger upward like you are drawing the side of a square. Breath out and draw the index finger to the right, like you are drawing the top of a square. Breath in and draw the finder down. Breath out and draw the finger to the left to connect the square.
Food for thought:
Are you already feeling a bit anxious about the start of another school year? I know I am. Keep in mind that summer is the perfect time to slow down and rejuvenate your love and passion for teaching. Why not play around with some Brain Breaks yourself and see how they feel? They might benefit both your students and you. I personally like to introduce Brain Breaths into some of the “tight” moments of my day. For example, when my 1st graders come leaping into my room after recess, they need a moment to breath. Or, when I have 4 classes back to back in the afternoon with no break, I need a moment to breath. Where are your “tight” moments? Would breathing into them and noticing how that feels help? I think it’s worth a shot.
31 Brain Breath ideas: Here are downloadable/adaptable slides for 31 Brain Breaths. (*Free to download. All images are copyright free. Step-by-step instructions are in the notes.)