Managing your timetable can be tricky when you’re a supply teacher. You might not know when lunchtime is or might get stuck with a 15-minute wet play. On these occasions, even the most experienced staff deal with challenging behaviour; children who have been sitting down for too long, don’t know who you are, or are just a little fed up.
Since qualifying as a teacher in 2006, I’ve introduced practices that address the restlessness and boredom which often underpins difficult classroom behaviour. At Bhumi Yoga, I support teachers and children through yoga and meditation classes, and believe we should give children the opportunity to be fully present. I’ve found these activities boost morale and enhance the learning experience.
School timetables don’t always allow for all the breaks that children need. So, giving them five minutes to get up and move around a bit can help them refocus and feel calm – a double win! These ideas can be used at home, to break up lessons or as a reward in early years or primary school classes. For example, “we’ll play games at the end of the session, if you’re able to focus for this hour!”
1. The Numbers Game
Start by having students stand up or sit down in their chairs. Do five big breaths – in and out – by counting to five, breathe in, count to four, breathe out, and do the whole routine five times. Breathe through your nose. To change it up, you can choose to make the exhale a bit longer. So you could breathe in three seconds, breathe out seven seconds. You could introduce a maths element to the game, or change the numbers depending on how everyone’s feeling. This activity encourages reflection at a slow and gentle pace.
2. Ocean’s Breath
For ‘ocean’s breath’, have the children put their hands on their belly, or one hand on the chest and one hand on their belly. Ask them to try and keep their chest still, feeling their belly expanding and contracting with the breath. Keeping their mouth closed, ask them to constrict their throat to the point that their breathing makes a rushing noise, a gentle snoring sound. Children can put their hands over their ears to make it sound louder. In ten minutes, you should have everybody feeling calmer. Sometimes, I call this ‘Darth Vader breath’ for the Star Wars fans!
3. Breathe Happiness In, Worries Out
To encourage reflection, you could ask the children to think about one thing that makes them happy, and one thing which worries them. As they inhale, you ask them to imagine the thing that makes them happy, then exhale away the thing that’s worrying them. Beforehand, they could have a little think about what their thoughts are, so the breathing exercise is a more contemplative practice.
4. 5-10 minutes of poses
- Inhale, and then while exhaling, bring your chin to your chest and roll your head gently from side to side, opening the back of the neck and shoulders.
- Roll your shoulders up, back down, and up again, then forwards and back – a few times each way.
- Clasp your hands in front of your body, inhale, and stretch your arms up overhead, turning your palms towards the sky. Then exhale and release your hands down. Repeat.
- Clasp your hands in front of your body, inhale, and stretch your arms up overhead, turning your palms towards the sky. As you exhale, bring your hands down to the right, stretching and opening the left side of the body. Inhale and bring your hands back to the centre. Repeat on the left side, opening the right side of the body.
- Place your hands – with fingers pointing down to the floor – on the back of your hips. While lifting your chin, bring your elbows and shoulders back, to open your chest and throat.
- Bring both arms up over your head from the sides of the body, as you inhale. On your exhale, turn and twist to the right, bringing your left hand to your right knee and look back over your right shoulder. Inhale up to the centre and exhale down to the left, bringing your right hand to your left knee and looking back over your left shoulder.
- Fold forwards, putting your hands near the ground and head to your knees. Breathe there for five long, slow breaths before slowly rolling up.
I hope you find these yoga-inspired classroom activities helpful. Do share with us your favourite poses on Instagram!