Inviting the Bell

Our first mindfulness lesson was quite fun.  The children are used to hearing the sound of the mindfulness bell.  They have also been working on what to do when you hear the bell.  (Stop what you are doing, take a deep breath in through your nose, out through your mouth, and then put your attention on the person who rang the bell.)  Since the children had been in school a few days already, they were somewhat practiced.  After we remembered what to do, and practiced taking deep breaths, we decided to play some bell games.
Children explored listening the whole time the bell rings, and practiced gathering their attention when they hear the bell. It is important that children learn how to bring focus from within.  Many children can tell you what it looks like to listen: sit still, don’t talk, eyes on the person talking.  But if you really think about it, we have not intentionally taught children what to do with the thoughts still going on in their heads.  Attention and focus truly come from within.  The use of the bell in the classroom stems from the belief that it will cultivate that ability.  When the bell is rung, children are allowed a moment to take a breath, direct their focus from within, and stop their current activity without fear that something is going to happen to it.  Teachers intentionally use the bell for more than transitions so that the bell remains a signal to take a breath and come into the present moment, not just a signal of another classroom transition.  While play is occurring  the bell may be invited to give children an opportunity to see who they are playing with (sometimes to just see that they really are playing with someone).  The sound of the bell may be an opportunity for teachers to remind students to use voices appropriate for indoors without having to talk over children.  The bell has even been used one on one with a child who is feeling a large emotion and needs assistance calming down.  Rather than an object to get children’s attention, we try hard to use the bell in ways that will nurture the growth of focus coming from within the children.The breath is at the heart of so much of what we ask children to do, whether we are looking for self-regulation, self-awareness, focus, or to begin the conflict resolution process.  It has been a very rewarding experience working with children to recognize different aspects of their breath and how they can control their own breath.

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