Sunday 21 October 2012

Mindfulness Exercises

Teaching Mindfulness in the Classroom

The videos that I posted previously are summaries of the first three Mindup lessons. The purpose of these summaries is to help my colleagues learn the basic information to convey to students before using Mindup's "core practice" with them. In the book, there are handout sheets to accompany these lessons and there are numerous activities that can be done with students to help them learn and remember this material. I have not explained the "core practice" as I don't want people to feel that there is no reason to buy the book The Mindup Curriculum Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning-- and Living. My next post will go over some mindfulness exercises that I have used in the classroom before I came across this book.

Friday 19 October 2012

The Core Practice

Mindful Awareness

Mindful Awareness is about being fully present. When we are being mindfully aware we are alert and aware of what is happening around us. This is an optimal state to be in when we are learning. It sounds simple but most of us benefit from some training in this area in order to be able to practise it regularly when we wish to.

In this second MindUp lesson children compare mindful and unmindful behavior. Mindful behavior is when we are reflective and attentive. Unmindful behavior is reflexive and unaware. The children also identify the parts of the brain responsible for controlling these types of behaviors. When sensory input enters the brain if first reaches the amygdala which determines whether this input is threatening or pleasurable. They amygdala is not capable of making the distinction of perceived or actual threats. If it perceives a threat then it triggers reactive behavior. If it perceives it as pleasurable then it sends the information on to the prefrontal cortex where it can be analyzed and a reflective behavior can be chosen.

Below is a quick summary of these ideas.
Video on Mindful Awareness

How Our Brains Work

Why should we teach children how the brain works? It interests them. Why wouldn’t it? The brain is mysterious and intriguing to even us adults. Teaching children about how their brain works helps promote metacognition and helps them feel more in control of themselves and their learning.

The purpose of this first MindUp lesson is to teach children about the three parts of their brain that help them think and respond to stress. Most importantly it will help them begin to understand that they may not be able to choose what happens to them but they can choose how they respond to what happens. Ultimately, the MindUp curriculum aims to teach children to monitor and regulate their behavior by calming themselves rather than becoming anxious and focusing their attention so that they can take more responsibility for their learning.

The first lesson focuses on teaching children about three parts of the brain.  Buried deep inside is the amygdala, our security guard, which helps protect us. Not so deep and on either side of our head behind our ears is the hippocampus, our memory saver, which helps us learn and remember. At the top and front of our head is our prefrontal cortex, our wise leader, which helps us make good decisions. Below is a video of me giving this lesson to the Wix-Brown staff.

My Mind On Learning

When our minds are focused on learning, we learn. The more actively we use our minds while learning, the more deeply we learn and the better we remember what we learn. This blog is dedicated to my professional development as an educator. It is a method for me to track, record, and wrap my mind more tightly around and into the issues I choose to learn more about.