Mindful Breathing

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Learning Goal

Students will learn why and how to breathe deeply.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the lessons, students will be able to:

  • Explain the difference between a belly breath and a chest breath
  • Understand the connection between our breath and how we feel
Learning Summary

The lesson begins with a mindful moment in which students bring awareness to their body by pushing through their legs and feet into the ground. The lesson then has students notice their breath and count how many times they breathe in a minute. Students then learn and practice two different types of breaths, shallow versus
deep breathing, noticing the differences and how each type of breathing makes them feel. The class then discusses how breath might be tied to their emotions. For example, if they are feeling angry, what might their breath be like and how could they alter their breath in that situation to help them feel more at ease? The lesson ends with students reflecting on how different types of breathing makes them feel.

computer icon Online Teaching Tips for Mindful Breathing

When modeling breathing, live or recorded, breathe loudly and have the microphone closer than usual. You want your breathing to be audible.

The online format makes counting breaths easier. You can show a clock on the screen (just search for “timer” in Google and you should see one that you can enlarge and then share screen).

A “breathing buddy” exercise works great with students at home – have them find some small stuffed animal or item to place on their bellies and then chests to practice different sorts of breathing. The search for the right buddy in their house is part of the fun!

See lesson one on Mindfulness for some general teaching recommendations about doing live or recorded social-emotional lessons.

The breath charades activity can work well live as can “breathing fails.” If you do the latter, give students quiet time to come up with their “breathing fails” before they have to present. 

Consider modeling and assigning the cotton ball and straw activity (students can use a crumpled up piece of paper for a cotton ball if needed). Have them draw a maze and practice blowing their cotton (or paper) ball through it.

Breathing buddies and the cotton ball activity are great opportunities to ask parents to send you pictures and videos to post in a shared space.

CASEL Competencies

Self-awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.

Self-management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation & agency to accomplish personal/collective goals.