Mindfulness teaches us to be aware, to be present, to be still. Finding a moment to be quiet and present is difficult for all of us, yet it is particularly difficult for students and their teachers, especially in the age of COVID-19. Whether in a physical or remote classroom, mindfulness exercises can help students, teachers, and parents develop techniques to ease stress and increase focus.
I often used the following mindfulness exercise in my college classes, usually toward the beginning of class but not right away in case someone came in late. Generally, I had students freewrite to a prompt for the first five minutes of class, and then we would do a mindfulness exercise.
Although this type of breathing exercise is typically done with eyes closed, I always invited (rather than told) my students to close their eyes; if they didn’t feel comfortable with eyes closed, then I invited them to find a point to look at on the desk, table, or floor. Inhaling and exhaling to a count of four can be difficult, especially if your students have never done this type of exercise before. You can start with a count of two and increase that number as students progress.
Teacher Says: “Try to inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. When you’re ready, exhale slowly through your nose.”
[allow a few breaths in this manner to help students relax]
“Now, I’m going to count up to 4 and down from 4. Try to focus your breath so that you inhale fully each time I say 4, and then you exhale completely each time I say 1.”
“1-2-3-4.” [slight pause] “4-3-2-1.”
[repeat at least 5 times; if time allows, repeat 11 times]