Notes from the Field: A Silent Lesson in Mindfulness from High Tech Elementary
Empowering Education recently observed a lesson in mindful silence at High Tech Elementary School in Denver Public Schools. What we loved about this particular mindfulness lesson was seeing how Ms. Larson created a safe space for her students to regulate and express their emotions by using silence. Keep in mind that silence may work for some students, but it may be triggering for learners that associate silence with traumatic events. Please read our tips on trauma-informed teaching, or read our full mindful-body lesson, for more ideas that work for all students.
Using Silence for a Lesson in Mindfulness
As I walk into Ms. Larson’s third-grade classroom at High Tech Elementary School on a chilly Friday morning, I see 28 students running around the classroom, putting supplies away, with high energy and lots of sounds. Ms. Larson sets a 30-second timer and I begin to see each student getting settled on the ground or in their chairs while starting to close their eyes and cross their legs. Then, I hear a chime and the room goes completely silent.
Ms. Larson peacefully guides the students through a body scan, a mindfulness practice to bring attention to the sensations and feelings in the body all while focusing on ones’ breath. Next, I watch as each student breathes in and out slowly with their eyes closed. I sense a complete change in the room from the busy, noisy classroom I entered just moments ago to a peaceful, quiet space filled with deep breaths and youth completely in the present moment.
Ms. Larson guiding a mindful body exercise in silence for her 3rd-grade classroom at High Tech Elementary.
Exploring the Mind-Body Connection After Mindful Silence
After the first moments of complete quiet, Ms. Larson prompts the students to share how they felt emotions in their bodies. One student explains he is feeling the excitement in his fingers and hands because he has a football game later that day. Another boy shares his mind feels yellow with joy. A girl shares her stomach hurts because she is feeling sad today. Ms. Larson acknowledges each emotion expressed by her student and explains her own personal feelings, that she too has felt sad, excited, and happy all even in one day.
Then, students work independently to color in a mind-body map showing where they feel emotions in their bodies using different colors and pictures. As I walk around the room, I see some students draw a teardrop over their hearts with sadness. Others draw lightning bolts through their legs showing excitement and energy. Several children draw big smiling faces filled with joy to be at school. Lastly, the students take another moment of silence to transition out of SEL time, and into their other studies.
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