Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students
What is mindfulness?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994), founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), “[m]indfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (p. 4). There are several ways to practice mindfulness. One way to practice mindfulness is to focus on one’s breathing to keep one grounded in his/her present experience. Another way to practice mindfulness is through a body scan. A body scan involves focusing awareness throughout one’s body, and if a certain area feels tense or sore, one is encouraged to focus on his/her breathing until that area relaxes. Other common mindfulness practices are mindful eating, walking meditations, and urge surfing. Mindful eating involves slowly eating while paying attention to the smell, taste, and feel of the food. Walking meditations involve taking a stroll at a familiar pace and paying attention to the sensations of one’s body while walking. For example, noticing how tense one’s shoulders feel, or how one’s feet feel hitting the ground—and then matching one’s breathing with every step he/she takes. Urge surfing involves noticing one’s own thoughts and/ cravings, and then letting those thoughts or cravings go. These are only some of the many mindfulness techniques that exist (Ackerman, 2017). So, why design mindfulness trainings for elementary school students and middle school students? Not only do mindfulness trainings for elementary school students reduce stress levels—but they also are shown to improve students’ math scores, social studies scores, and overall GPA (Bakosh, Mortlock, Querstret, & Morison, 2018).
Audio-Guided Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students
In a randomized controlled trial, Bakosh et al. (2018), tested out an audio-guided mindfulness training series on 337 students in 16 different classrooms. Randomization into the intervention group and the waitlist control group occurred at each grade level. The audio-guided mindfulness training for elementary school students consisted of 90 MP3 tracks, each 10 minutes in length. One of the authors of this study is an experienced MBSR teacher, and modelled this MP3 track program after the MBSR protocol created by Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues (Bakosh et al., 2018).
The audio-guided mindfulness in school training included the following:
- Information regarding the best way to sit, reasons to practice mindfulness, and the expectations to have regarding practicing mindfulness on a regular basis.
- Breathing and focusing exercises
- Relaxation and sense awareness techniques
- Thought and emotion awareness techniques
- Gratitude, kindness, and forgiveness exercises directed at oneself and also at peers (Bakosh et al., 2018).
In the current study, teachers collected Math, Science, Social Studies, Reading, Writing, Spelling, and verbal communication scores before and 10 weeks after the audio-guided mindfulness in school training intervention (Bakosh et al., 2018). Additionally, teachers calculated student GPA data on a grades tracking sheet and compared those averages before and 10 weeks after the audio-guided mindfulness training.
The mindfulness training was delivered via an iPod with speakers at a transition period (e.g., after lunch). Teachers played one mindfulness recorded track per day in sequential order (Bakosh et al., 2018). During the last two minutes of each recording, older students were encouraged to silently create drawings about their experiences with the mindfulness track that day.
When comparing data collected before and after the audio-guided mindfulness training, and when comparing the control group with the intervention group, the following findings came to light:
- The effect of the audio-guided mindfulness training was statistically significant for Math scores.
- The effect of the audio-guided mindfulness training was statistically significant for Social Studies scores.
- The effect of the audio-guided mindfulness training was statistically significant on GPA scores (Bakosh et al., 2018).
Not only did the audio-guided mindfulness in school training improve GPA, math and social studies scores, but the training also was very easy to deliver for teachers (Bakosh et al., 2018). Teachers were trained for one session that was about 60 minutes long regarding how to implement the mindfulness training properly. This training was not time-consuming, and therefore would be very easy to implement at public and private schools (Bakosh et al., 2018).
Is there an even less expensive, less time-consuming way to deliver this audio-guided mindfulness training in school?
Yes. One way to make this intervention even less time consuming to implement would be to offer it through an easy-to-use learning management system. CertCentral’s online course platform requires no training, and makes it easy to store and share multimedia files with students. Easily upload all 90 mp3 tracks to the online course platform and play the trainings out loud to students via SMART Board or desktop computer.
- Learning management systems, such as the online course platform by CertCentral, are also accessible via mobile and tablet—so students and teachers can easily access the audio-guided mindfulness training on their devices of preference.
- A learning management system also allows you the ability to easily add other helpful multimedia mindfulness exercises. An iPod can only play music, but a learning management system can host audio, video, image, and other multimedia files.
- A subscription to a cloud-powered learning management system is less expensive than purchasing iPods, speakers, and extra supplemental materials for every classroom.
What are other benefits of mindfulness training in schools?
Not only does mindfulness training help with academic achievements, but it can also improve children’s social functioning! How so?
- Mindfulness training strengthens children’s self-awareness and self-regulation
- Mindfulness training strengthens children’s prosocial behaviors, emotional control, and responsible decision making.
- Mindfulness training strengthens children’s empathy toward one another.
Now that you know the benefits of mindfulness training for elementary school students, and you know how easy such a training is to implement, speak with your superintendent and see if this option is feasible for your classroom!
Ackerman, C. (2017, February 19). MBSR: 25 mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises and courses [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction-mbsr/
Bakosh, L. S., Mortlock, J. M. T., Querstret, D., & Morison, L. (2018). Audio-guided mindfulness training in schools and its effect on academic attainment: Contributing to theory and practice. Learning and Instruction, 58, 34–41. doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2018.04.012
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York, New York: Hyperion
Walton, A. G. (2016, October 18). Science shows meditation benefits children’s brains and behavior [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/10/18/the-many-benefits-of-meditation-for-children/#1535b5dadbe3