One of the ideas our group wanted to look at was ways to reduce stress for students in the classroom to improve their focus and achievement. After looking into different pieces of research, I decided to focus on mindfulness strategies for the classroom.
In music, I encourage students to listen to new pieces of music mindfully – especially when we are studying music from different cultures around the world. At KS3, I ask students to fold their arms, put their heads on the desk and close their eyes. I ask them to do nothing except listen to the music (no writing anything down, no talking). By having their heads down and closing their eyes they can completely immerse themselves in the music and avoid any distractions (even just looking at their friends or smirking) and it allows them to listen to the music in a very focused way and really take it in. It creates a calm atmosphere and allows students to really hear every instrument and feature of the music.
When we complete listening activities in this way, it can often bring up some really interesting discussions afterwards, particularly to do with how the music made them feel or any images that it brought to mind while listening and can deepen students’ understanding.
Dave Stonehouse tried out one of the mindfulness techniques using images, which is about giving students the opportunity to sit and think in silence on their own without talking or being told anything about what they see. Students focus on feelings and any emotions that come up as a result. He has shared how he used this in the classroom:
“Year 8 were studying World War 1. I shared this PPT with them and asked them to pick any three of the images and think privately about them for 2-3 minutes before making notes on what they saw in each image and how it made them think and feel. Then they discussed their chosen images with a group.
They then chose one of the war poems and created a group presentation. This needed to include a dramatic reading of the poem over an iMovie of images and sounds to capture the content and emotions of the poem.”
See the attached PowerPoint for examples of what Year 8 did with this work.
Another mindfulness technique focuses on looking at an object as if it is the first time you have ever seen it, really taking in the way it looks, feels, smells and even tastes! In our meeting we tried this using raisins and Jo Brassington decided to give this a try in her art lessons.
“In Art I looked at mindfulness in the classroom by completing a raisin meditation task. Practicing mindfulness can help students bring their awareness to their senses. This was particularly beneficial in art for when students are completing observational drawings, quite often they will assume what their subject looks like and make bits of their drawing up not recording direct from sight. I used this with year 7 as they were new to completing observational drawings and it made them think about the shapes, texture and colour in more detail. This is also a beneficial task as it can reduce stress and bring calmness to students. They did however think that I had gone mad when handing out raisins to the class.
See link below for further reading on the benefits of practicing mindfulness.”
If you’d like to find out more about mindfulness in the classroom, here are some links:
TedX talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mlk6xD_xAQ
University of Leeds video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfuqCj_7gR0
BBC news: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8M5MJdXvJc