This past week of Mind Up was spent focusing in mindful listening. We started by introducing the students to a new part of their brain. You may have heard your first grader talking about their Reticular Activating System (RAS). Ok, typing that sentence just made me laugh, but ask your first grader about their RAS and see what they have to share!
A few weeks ago, we had the students focus as hard as they could on their sense of hearing for a short amount of time and then discussed all the things they were able to hear. We came up with a long list, but that was just our sense of hearing. All of our senses are busy picking up different sights, tastes, smells, feelings, and noises and sending them to our brains. Our RAS is the part of the brain that gathers all those messages and decides which senses are important enough to be passed on to the rest of the brain and which things can be ignored. We talked about how when they are trying to listen to instruction in the classroom, we need to train our own RAS to know to ignore distractions like noises from other rooms, the hallway, outside, or friends sitting next to us and focus on the teaching.
To strengthen our ability to focus our RAS, we did some listening exercises and the kids had to work hard to focus on certain sounds and really ignore all other distractions. We took note of what our body does when we are focusing really hard and came up with the following list:
If you were to walk the halls around first grade, you will often hear us asking the kids to show us what mindful listening looks like or to focus their RAS…you can use that at home, as well!
We then introduced using mindful seeing. When we are mindful with our seeing, we are taking in all the details around us. We talked about how it is important to be mindful of what expressions you see on people’s faces.
We talked a lot about what facial expressions show which feelings. And then we talked about how we can be mindful see-ers and if we see someone who has an expression on their face that shows they are not feeling happy or good, then we can check in with them and see if there is anything we can do to help their feelings improve.
We, also, discussed mindful movement. We started by finding our pulse and talking about being aware of the rate that our heart is beating. After doing jumping jacks for 30 seconds, we noticed that our heart rate was much faster than when we were resting on the floor. We talked about how our heart pumps faster when we are exercising to get more oxygen to our body so that we have energy to keep going. But, our heart rate speeds up when we are nervous, excited, or scared as well. We talked about being aware of how quickly our heart is beating and learned a way to calm ourselves down if we notice our hearts beating faster than they need to. We talked about sitting up straight to allow for easier blood flow throughout our bodies and taking deep breaths (or yawning) to slow your heart rate and help calm ourselves.
We also talked about our body movement and how we need to be mindful of how we are moving. Often, first graders are on the move and bump in to people or furniture around them without realizing it. To practice being mindful of our surroundings, we each put a ruler on our head and walked around our room trying to keep it balanced on top. The kids were very aware of where the furniture was, where their friends were, and what speed they were moving so that their ruler wouldn’t slip off. Since having this discussion, we have talked about being mindful of our surroundings while we are moving around the room, especially around our mailboxes or iPad cart where space is limited (no pushing/shoving).