.b (www.mindfulnessinschools.org) aims to help young people to experience greater well-being (e.g. feel happier, calmer, more fulfilled) and improve their concentration and focus, in classes, in exams and tests, on the sports field, when playing games, when paying attention and listening to others – and when practiced over a longer period even much more.
- to understand the potential of mindfulness for creating a positive learning climate in schools
- to learn some exercises of mindfulness that can easily be integrated into everyday school life
- to become inspired to explore further different aspects of mindfulness in educational contexts
- to learn more about „.b“ – a successful program from the UK bringing mindfulness into schools
- chocolate / candy (one piece of chocolate or one candy per participant)
- device for showing a video
- internet access
- video scene from „Kung Fu Panda“ – Master Oogway’s Awesome saying: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq8loZlpa_8
The learning activity can take place in any classroom. You can do a full lesson or take some exercises and integrate them regularly in lessons. Ideally it becomes a regular practice, not just a one-off activity. The description here is for a whole lesson but you can adapt as suitable for your reality.
Step by step description (including questions for reflection)
Don’t say too many words at the beginning – only that you are going to do some activities helping students to concentrate better, to deal better with stress, to become more focused and calmer.
Establish some principles:„Be in your own bubble“: We will do exercises in silence, individually – if you cannot or do not want to do them it is okay, but stay in your own bubble and do not disturb your neighbours in their bubbles.„Try it out“: Give it a try even if it feels strange at the beginning.„Strong silence“: Try to experience the positive effects of silence- not in the sense of having to „shut up“ („weak silence“) but as a chosen wanted silence.
First exercise – FOFBOC
FOFBOC stands for „Feet On Floor Bum On Chair“. It is one of the basic activities to experience „strong silence“ and practice mindfulness.
Invite the students to move back the chair a little bit away from the table, put the feet flat on the floor, sit with a straight back but not stiff – that is a basic position helping to be in the moment, rather than all over the place with one’s thoughts. Students can close their eyes if they want or otherwise look down on the floor (that supports being with oneself). Then invite the students to follow their breath. It is enough to try this for a minute or two at the beginning.
Some students surely will giggle and laugh at the beginning – do not worry or get even angry with them; the more often FOFBOC is practiced the more „normal“ it becomes.
- Intro – What is mind?
Ask students what they think „mind“ is and where it is located in the body. Usually they believe it is in the head. But „mind“ is all over the place, it is not situated in one part of the body – it can be directed to different places in the body. Let’s try this with the next exercise.
Second exercise: Clap 1/2/3
Invite students to sit again in the FOFBOC position – they should hold their hands up in front of their face as if they would hold a basketball.
Invite them to notice what they feel in their hands in this position.
Ask them to share what they notice (if some say „nothing“, that´s fine, too).
Then invite them to clap three times and keep the hand again in the position as before. Ask what they feel now in their hands. Invite them to share.
This exercise helps to explain that mindfulness is a lot about noticing what happens in the moment and the body supports this. We can direct our mind (or our attention) to specific parts of the body to notice what is happening there – in this very moment.
What is mindfulness then?
Let’s watch first the video sequence of „Kung Fu Panda“.
Then ask the students what they understood – especially what the wise turtle said to Kung Fu Panda at the end:„Yesterday is history – Tomorrow is mystery – But today is a gift – and that´s why it is called the present.“
Hence mindfulness is about training the mind to be in the present moment and noticing what is happening in this moment as much as possible without judging it.
For this the body helps because with our thoughts we are often in the past or in the future – but the body can help us to be in the moment. That´s why we do these exercises like FOFBOC or Clap 1/2/3 and some others that will still come.
Use the torch to demonstrate how our thoughts often wander around and with them our attention. Point the beam of the torch to different places changing quickly from one to the next. Then start pointing and focusing with the torch to one detail in the room – this is what we can do with mindfulness: focus our attention. Suddenly you notice things you have not seen or realized before!
Invite students to share if they know these situations when their thoughts are all over the place. If you feel asking to share about this makes some students too vulnerable or exposed in front of others, you can also invite them to write anonymously about these situations. In that case collect what was written down and read out the situations afterwards.
This exercise is to support being here and now. You can introduce the exercise by introducing the concept of „autopilot“. Ask students what they have already done on „autopilot“ today (e.g. most probably brushing one’s teeth, having breakfast, …).
Especially eating is unfortunately very often done in autopilot-mode – but it is a very good opportunity to practice being here and now, in the moment.
Let’s practice this now!
Give everyone a piece of chocolate or a chocolate candy with the strong invitation not to eat it immediately. Then say:„Let’s wait until everybody has his or her candy or piece of chocolate. Now look at it carefully, focus all your senses on it, smell it – and then touch it with your lips and slowly start to make a first bite. Notice what you sense in different parts of your tongue. In this way you eat slowly and mindfully the candy.“
Invite students to share what they noticed.
Try perhaps to do the FOFBOC activity a little bit longer than at the beginning.
Invite them to try it out sometimes at home, or in school or even in the bus. Anyway people would not notice and it does not have to be long.
Suggestions for adaptations and variations
Two other small body-awareness exercises to practice mindfulness are the „Finger-Breathing“ and the „7/11“:
- Finger-Breathing: With the pointing finger of one hand you trace up one finger after another of the other hand with your in-breath and trace them down on your out-breath.
- 7/11: Count to 7 during your in-breath and up to 11 during your out-breath
All these small body-awareness exercises can be integrated into the beginning of lessons – helping to arrive together and being ready to start the lesson. If it becomes a regular activity, it will get more and more normal for students and often they will even ask for it.
Reference / original source of the method
This set of methods was developed in the context of the „Mindfulness in Schools Project“ (www.mindfulnessinschools.org). The activity was facilitated by Peter Hofmann during his workshop „.b – The Power of being in the Moment“ at the aces Academy 2016 in Senec.