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Teaching Mindfulness During Distance Learning

By Rachel Fuhrman

As educators, we are tasked with more than just teaching our content; We are often solely responsible for the emotional development for our students as well. In the classroom, we can find ways to incorporate social-emotional learning to ensure that our students have the skills they need to become successful, self-sufficient adults. However, because of the global shift to distance learning, it is essential that we find ways to provide such social-emotional learning opportunities online . Mindfulness is one strategy that we can teach our students that can support them in dealing with the stress and anxiety they feel today as well as that which they may face in the future. 

When I first began to think about this upcoming school year, I immediately began to brainstorm the ways I could teach my students to practice mindfulness. One of my favorite ways to teach mindfulness in the classroom had been through breathing exercises and meditation. Luckily, such exercises can be easily translated into my distance learning classroom. This breathing bubble video teaches students deep breathing which is a skill they can employ continuously when facing anxiety. The video could be used during a synchronous distance learning session or an asynchronous session. If done synchronously during a Zoom session, I would recommend sharing your screen with students and instructing them to follow along with the inhale and exhale prompts. Students may want to turn off their video during this time if they are feeling self-conscious. If done asynchronously, I would post the video link along with a set of reflection questions to ask students how it made them feel and how they could envision themselves practicing such breathing techniques in the future. Such reflection questions could be completed through a Google Form and discussed at a later date or on a Google Doc so that students could see and respond to one another’s answers. 

A second strategy I would recommend for teaching mindfulness during distance learning would be through a synchronous session using a Jamboard. A Jamboard allows you, as the teacher, to create a collaborative board on which students can post sticky note responses to questions. I would recommend creating a Jamboard with relevant questions about how students are feeling and strategies for reducing anxiety and stress. Once you have students in a Zoom session with you, share the link to the Jamboard so that they can respond directly. From there, you can guide students through a discussion of employing best practices for remaining mindful, allow students to share out their own feelings and experiences in a whole group, or utilize the Breakout Rooms feature on Zoom to engage students in small group discussion.  Here is an example of what a Jamboard about mindfulness might look like once completed. 

My final recommendation on teaching mindfulness during distance learning employs the use of Nearpod and is a great option for teachers that are not as confident leading a class through a discussion about mindfulness or have less experience with social-emotional learning. Nearpod has many lessons already created that can be used to teach mindfulness at various grade levels which can be found here. To use one of these lessons, I recommend beginning a Zoom session with students and then allowing them to join the relevant Nearpod. This will ensure that all students are able to see and work through the lesson while maintaining the ability to engage in discussions through Zoom. 

Although teachers are currently facing an unprecedented school year, it is important that we continue to not only explore our options for teaching content, but also discover new ways to support our students in all facets of their learning. Mindfulness is one way we can begin to engage our students in the type of social-emotional activities they need now, likely more than ever before. 

Rachel is currently a high school special education math teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana. She recently earned her Master of Science in Education Studies from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. She is passionate about improving educational equity and strives to serve traditionally underserved communities. Additionally, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Urban Education in the future in order to further identify avenues through which to support all students in achieving at the highest levels.