Monday, 16 October 2017

Book Review: '100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom' by Tammie Prince

Previously, when I thought of mindfulness, I didn't really know what it was. I thought it was hippy mumbo jumbo mixed in with some kind of eastern mysticism. But then I began to notice that a good few folk in my online network were sold on the idea of mindfulness - some of them even assured me that I probably practised some sort of mindfulness unknowingly. I deduced that I must subconsciously be quite mindful, but I still didn't know what it was.

Tammie Prince defines mindfulness simply as 'the mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment while also accepting our feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.' The book's premise is that 'the development of mindfulness in the classroom arms our children with lifelong skills that support their support their current and future mental health and well-being'  and it mentions that studies show there are positive benefits to children learning and using mindfulness techniques. As I understand it there isn't a lot of research into the impact of using mindfulness techniques in the classroom but many of the ideas in the book just seem like common sense - many of them I recognise as things that have helped me to feel less worried and stressed in my own life. However, one recent study on mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) showed that 16 juvenile delinquents who underwent an 8-week programme of MBSR showed increased grey matter in the left hippocampi, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory processes as well as emotion regulation and perspective-taking.

The book is spilt into ten parts, and sceptics, before you read the list, take note of this: 'not all strategies will work for all people'. The ten sections are Breathing; Guided Meditation; Active Meditations; Gratitude; Yoga; Emotional Intelligence; Mindful Colouring and Doodling; Calm Down and Relax; Mindful Walking; Teacher's Mindfulness.

As the title promises, the book contains 100 different mindfulness techniques or ideas to try in the primary classroom. Reading through there were definitely things that I couldn't imagine myself doing with a class but then there were plenty of ideas that seemed only to be tweaks of things I already do. The book contains methods suitable for a range of ages, although some techniques appear to be more suited to particular ages or levels of maturity.

The ideas that impressed me most were the ones that I could see having multiple benefits - there are plenty of techniques with links to the curriculum - reading, writing, drama, PE, music and art, for example. The fact that many of the ideas can be adapted to fit into curriculum time means that the book is more likely to achieve one of its aims: '...that the children will start to use what they have been taught independently...' - in my own experience whenever something is part of the daily routine, children are more likely to internalise it than if it were taught in isolation.

This is a book which is full of practical activities; there is something for everyone here – even the sceptic. With clear links to different curriculum areas, mindful practice can easily be embedded using the ideas in this book. A great starters’ guide to mindfulness.

The book, released 19th October 2017, is available to pre-order/buy here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/100-ideas-for-primary-teachers-mindfulness-in-the-classroom-9781472944955/

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