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5 Key Parts for Building a Successful Kids Mindfulness Lesson Plan

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Written by Kayla Reetz, Trauma Supports Team Member + Yoga Teacher


Jenna leading students through the Seated Practice during a Yoga in the Schools lesson

"Each lesson includes five parts of practice that are intentionally designed to increase a mind/body connection, encourage social-emotional growth, and offer a calm space in the middle of the school day." - Grow: Tending to the Hearts and Minds of Children through the Practice of Mindfulness

Normally, I would start my blog posts talking about me, but today, I need to begin with our Founder + CEO, Molly Schreiber.


If you follow our blog posts, let me first say a huge, heartfelt THANK YOU, for taking the time out of your day to read them!


If you are new to our blog posts, let me continue by telling you a little bit more about Molly.


Molly is the founder and CEO of Challenge to Change, Inc. She opened its doors in 2016 and began to work toward her goal of providing yoga and mindfulness into the school systems to help raise happy, healthy, safe kids who make the world a better place.


Something you may not know about Molly is that she started out as an elementary teacher.


If you know any elementary teachers, you know how much work they put into absolutely everything they do.


Molly is no different.


When she left her position as a teacher to teach in a whole new way, she still wanted to make a difference in student’s lives through yoga and mindfulness.


In the rest of this blog post, I will be breaking down The Five Parts of Practice, explaining its purpose, and sharing a taste of how Challenge to Change, Inc performs each part to create a successful kids mindfulness lesson.



Building a Kids Mindfulness Practice: The 5 Parts of Practice

As a former teacher, she understood that curriculums are organized so that students' daily schedules build upon one another.


They must select a theme and fully explore its applications to address both their students' needs and their curriculum requirements.


And there's good reason for this. Anyone who is in or has been in education knows that most students work better with a common routine.


When they can move throughout their day and know what comes next they can better, plan, prepare and engage.


So, Molly started to think about how to structure a yoga session where the students felt successful, had fun and gained knowledge along the way.


Knowing that she wanted to teach children and not just adults, Molly knew she needed to have a plan. She started workshopping her structure. Through trial and error, she found each part’s intention and purpose.


This was the birth of the Five Parts of practice!

Seated Practice


Seated Practice: Giving students the time to connect to their breath first allows them to focus in and engage more on the content of the lesson.

To help children learn how to sit in stillness and be comfortable doing so, we begin each lesson with a Seated Practice.


This Seated Practice also provides a smooth transition from whatever is taking place in the classroom and the outside world to the lesson at hand.


To help students learn how to do this and feel competent in it, we always start a lesson with connecting to our breath. Breathwork is the foundation of any mindful practice. Breathing calms us and reminds us that we are fundamentally safe and alive.


My C2C colleague, Melissa Hyde, described this best in her blog about the Seated Practice:


“We live in a world that celebrates busyness and constant movement. Yet we expect children to sit for prolonged periods of time in school and to be attentive while doing so. Not only that, but we expect them to inherently know how to do these things.” ~ Melissa Hyde, Kids Yoga Teacher, Curriculum Creator, and Author


To give direction to that practice while still incorporating free expression, we often utilize mudras or, as we call them, “yoga for our fingers”.


We teach children that mudras help to connect the body, to the mind, and to the breath. A popular mudra is Plug Into the Earth.


In this mudra, participants make the “peace sign” with both hands, and then connect their pointer and center fingers to the ground beside them. In this way, they are symbolically plugging themselves into the earth. This mudra is meant to still the body and quiet the mind.



Another favorite mudra is Eagle. To complete the Eagle mudra, participants cross their wrists with their palms facing them, allow their thumbs to “hug”, and pause the hands at heart center. Eagle mudra is an expression of the feeling we have when we share love, kindness, and compassion with the world.



Movement


Movement: Giving students a safe, constructive approach to moving their bodies while also connecting the movement to their breath.

Our second part of practice is movement.


Connecting movements to each inhale and exhale, also known as yoga, is a deceptively hard task to do.


While yoga is in actuality an eight-limbed practice, the physical piece of yoga with its postures and flows is easily the most recognized part of the practice today.


It is a practice of moving mindfulness that requires discipline and focus.


Molly likes to tell a story about how asana (the physical practice of yoga) came to be.


As mentioned, the practice of yoga contains eight limbs, and most of these branches are philosophical in nature. In yoga’s earliest days, the practice was only for the men and boys, and it centered on sitting around and having deep exploratory conversations about what it means to live a true and authentic life.


Sitting in deep contemplative study for extended periods of time , however, was challenging for the boys. The men soon realized that if they were going to have periods of productive discussion with the young boys, they would first have to help them burn off their excess energy (some things never change!).


Hence the physical movement of yoga was born.




A foundational approach to this is by teaching the Sun Salutation A. This 7-pose flow begins and ends the same way- in Mountain Pose. By teaching and practicing this in each lesson, we are not only structuring success, but teaching a tool that can be used anytime, anywhere, whenever they need to.


After learning the Sun Salutation A, we apply that learning to a song in pop culture with a positive message. This, combined with even more foundational poses, gives the students the ability to practice with any song of their choosing.

I am yoga by Emily Arrow is one of the kids' favorite songs!


Heart of the Lesson



Heart of the Lesson: Giving students tools and techniques to use in their everyday life.

Once we have transitioned our participants to our lesson with the Seated Practice and channeled their energy with Movement, we move on to the Heart of the Lesson.


Now that students have focused their mind and have a similar energy level, they are better able to focus on the content of the lesson.


The Heart of the Lesson is when we teach new mindfulness and social emotional skills.


This might look like a mindful read-aloud, a partner or community-building activity, a new breath work practice, a yoga flow, or a new specific mindfulness skill. Sometimes we combine several of these practices into one exciting lesson!


A favorite start to this is by teaching a book our CEO and Founder, Molly Schreiber wrote called Sadie Loves Yoga.


The book introduces students to the practice of yoga and mindfulness through Sadie’s story and the beautiful illustrations.


This also allows them an idea of what to expect from their lessons.


Guided Mindfulness



Guided Mindfulness: Giving students time to reset their mind through the use of their imagination.

Our fourth part of practice is guided mindfulness, or a Yoga Nap.


This is the part of the lesson students (and teachers!) look forward to the most. It is a time where we allow students to settle their bodies into stillness and again, connect back to their breath.


This is otherwise known as meditation.


The benefits of meditation for children are numerous. According to recent research, children who are shown how to practice guided mindfulness reap several benefits including increased concentration and decreased anxiety.


Studies have also found a connection between meditation and better executive functioning (planning and organization) skills, as well as decreased depression and increased feelings of happiness and kindness towards others.


After connecting them to their breath, we encourage focus on each inhale and exhale as they listen to a guided journey into the imagination.


When completing the guided mindfulness, many students feel more calm and relaxed. This is why we say it’s like unplugging and replugging in or restarting an electrical device. The device, in this case, is our brain, so it’s understandable why so many people enjoy their “yoga nap”!




Close of Practice



Close of Practice: Gives closure to the practice and allows students to transition back to their daily tasks.

At the end of a lesson comes the close of practice. During the last part of the lesson, we often end with a short song that contains a positive message. These activities are designed to gently wake the children up from their guided mindfulness practice, or Yoga Nap, and bring the lesson to a final conclusion.



The close of practice activities are songs or chants cited in unison in order to build classroom community. Another common way to bring the lesson to an end is for students and teacher to simply share the word “Peace”.


Many often also include hand movements that require fine motor skills and possibly even jump the midline of the brain in order to promote cognitive development. Students love the challenge of trying to match their movements to the words of the song.



One of the most popular close of practices is Sa-Ta-Na-Ma, which translates to I Am Awesome. We tell the children we chant this mantra over and over again to remind ourselves that each one of us is incredibly wonderful and unique, and each one of us has gifts that help make the world a more awesome place.


Watch Amy demonstrate the Sa Ta Na Ma close of practice


As participants recite each syllable, they touch a finger to each thumb, starting with their pointer fingers and ending with their pinkies. The students follow along to sing the word three times, whisper it three times, and then just think the syllables in their minds three times each. The word is then whispered three times again, and finally sung three times again to bring the activity to a close.


And now, as we end this five-part series on our Five Parts of Practice, we will bow to you and say the word, “Peace!”


Thanks for reading!

Kayla


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