Improving student focus through meditation

Kennedy K students practice walking meditation

Ms. Roxanne Scrima’s Kindergarteners know that the next hour will be full of mindfulness. As they walk to the cafeteria for lunch, they slow down in the corridor to practice mindful walking. Placing one foot in front of the other, they observe their bodies as they move through space and tune into sounds and feelings that they would normally disregard. In 20 yards of hallway, the energy and noise level of the class has taken a marked turn toward quiet. Ms. Scrima tells me she loves using this type of walking meditation on field trips to keep the students engaged and support safe pedestrian habits.

When students arrive at the cafeteria, they know what’s expected. They settle in with their lunches, then tuck their legs underneath them and practice mindfulness while they eat. I hear one student remind his companion ‘shh, it’s mindfulness time. It’s not time for talking.’ Students quietly eat, reflect on the room, their food, and their companions.

Kennedy students eating mindfully

After lunch, Ms. Scrima's Kindergarteners head toward their art room. In the hallway before the art classroom, students stop to practice a few minutes of meditation guided by their teacher, including the “bear breath” and “snake breath.”

The meditation leads naturally into the Second Step topic of the day. Second step is the district’s social behavior curriculum, designed to help students develop socio-emotional skills. Students look at a photograph of a child with a sad expression. They talk about things that could make her sad, like unkind words from other students or feeling left out. They discuss strategies for dealing with strong emotions.

Students learn meditation techniques

“Research continues to show that bringing mindfulness into the classroom reduces student stress and improves student attention and learning” writes 5th Grade Kennedy teacher Lindsey Tosches. Ms. Tosches sends out a monthly lesson, called Mindfulness Mondays, with mindfulness strategies teachers can bring directly to their students. She says most of the Kennedy teachers incorporate the techniques that work best in their classrooms at appropriate times.

4th Grade teacher, Caroline Hanley says “All of the things I do are really simple, so it's not hard to implement into the classroom.” These lessons in mindfulness can be short and simple and occur anywhere. Ms. Hanly says “For example, if we're waiting for a teacher to pick [the students] up …we practice mindful breathing.”

Principal Mark Hurrie credits mindfulness in his school with helping students "calm their bodies and focus on the matter at hand."

 

Read how Mindful Eating Helps Digestion from our Farm to School Coordinator

Read about Mindfulness and Social Emotional Learning - Teachers, Parents, Children by our Early Ed Director

R. Ronen, Communications Specialist, Somerville Public Schools