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Sunday, May 7, 2017

5 Reasons Why ClassDojo's New Mindfulness Series Will Improve Your Classroom

As a parent, a classroom teacher, and a presenter I was overjoyed to hear of ClassDojo's latest "Big Idea." ClassDojo, and the lovable Mojo, that brought classrooms and families video series on social-emotional learning that include: "Growth Mindset, "Perseverance," and "Empathy," announced their newest series on May 7th, 2017. In collaboration with Yale's Center for Emotional Intelligence, ClassDojo is bringing MINDFULNESS to students around the world.

Read the press release here.

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Now, for the "5 Reasons Why ClassDojo's New Mindfulness Series Will Improve Your Classroom."

1. Focusing on Mindfulness will help students become self aware.
Most students today are no more aware of their own body language, emotions, words, or their effect on themselves, their environment, and others than my black lab. It's true. My Labrador Retriever doesn't realize that her waggedy tail is hitting me in the face while she turns to my wife to see what goodies she might have, just like a student doesn't realize that he or she just interrupted an important conversation. Teaching mindfulness will train students how and when to stop and consider what they are doing, how they are doing it, why they are doing it, and most importantly, the effects of what they are doing on themselves and others. This awareness will help students and adults make better choices in the future.
6th grade student showing the
Anti-Bullying video game
she created.

2. Mindfulness will include Metacognition strategies.
Metacognition is thinking about thinking. In the constantly swirling world we all live in, it is difficult to stop and consider what we think and more importantly "Why" we think and believe what we do. As a young boy growing up in tree-forts and floating on homemade rafts on a pond, I had a lot of what we would now call down-time. Time with just my own thoughts. There was little outside "noises" from electronic devices or super organized extra-curricular activities. Today, most students either have every minute so scheduled for them with school and non-school structured activities, or they have very little outside activities and adult support, that they fill their days with interactive media and games. Students are never allowed to be bored enough that they delve into their own thoughts, and often when they do, they feel alone or afraid. A person that cannot stand being alone with their own thoughts will have a difficult time being with others.

3. Mindfulness will improve students' Executive Functions.
Executive Functions include:
Image result for impulse control

  • Impulse Control
  • Emotional Control
  • Flexible Thinking
  • Working Memory
  • Self-Monitoring
  • Planning & Prioritizing
  • Initiating Task
  • Organization
There are other "Executive Functions" and subsets of each of these, but if you have students that struggle with any of the items listed above, ClassDojo's Mindfulness videos and activities will be a benefit to you and your classroom. In my 6th grade elementary classroom, there are few students that don't have difficulty in one or more of these areas.

One activity that can show potential executive functioning deficits is related to students' ability to judge time. Several times a year, I have students just quietly lay their heads down, close their eyes, relax, and try to clear their minds. Then, when 3 minutes have passed, I'll very softly ask them to raise their hand if they think "5" minutes have passed. The next time, I may tell them that we will relax with our eyes closed for 10 minutes. Then, about 4 minutes in, I'll ask them to raise their hand if they think there is more than 3 minutes left. Students that struggle with judging time often struggle with other executive functioning issues. Practicing mindfulness,  a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment can certainly help build executive functions.


4. ClassDojo's new series and activities will help students deal with Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Since ClassDojo classrooms have already taught Growth Mindset, Empathy, and Perseverance, students will be prepared to deal with any adverse experiences that have taken place in their lives. As they become mindfully aware of themselves, their thoughts, their emotions, their words, their actions, their reactions and the reasons behind them, students will be able to use their growth mindset training to realize that their negative life experiences do not need to define who they are today or what they do.

In addition, as students overcome and persevere over their Adverse Childhood Experiences, their classmates will be prepared to empathize with them. In my 6th grade classroom, we read Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. After students vicariously travel through the transformation that Cole Matthews undergoes through they story, they not only increase their own mindfulness, they develop an amazing amount of empathy. It is not uncommon for students to feel safe to share life's challenges. They understand that what happens in you life may be beyond your control, but you always get to choose how you deal with it.

Students prepping
materials for a presentation on 3-D
printing, coding, and electric circuits
at the Idaho State Veterans Home

5. Mindfulness is self awareness that leads to better collaboration in the classroom and beyond.

Students who are mindful see the big picture in life. They not only understand themselves, but they are able to understand and react appropriately when others treat them badly. Life often brings us in contact with "Hurting" people, and as Dr. Phil says, "Hurt people; hurt people." Mindful students understand this concept. Thus, when someone is having a bad day and regurgitates their nastiness on them, they understand that the persons hurtful actions or comments are not their problem, but rather, a symptom of the individuals stress. These mindful students move on. They don't accept the nastiness. They don't return the nastiness. They don't have a need to "Get Even" or "Get Ahead." And amazingly, they will more often respond to the nastiness with kindness. I wish we had a lot more mindful people in the world.

ClassDojo originally revolutionized parent communication. Now, ClassDojo is revitalizing classroom and school climates around the world. The mindfulness series, available on ClassDojo's Big Ideas page, is a fabulous accompaniment to their previous series. I cannot wait to meet more self-aware students. Students that understand their own thinking. Students with improved executive functioning. Students that show empathy and can collaborate with others effectively. Now that is a Big Idea.

Allen Hancock
6th Grade Teacher
Conference Presenter
ClassDojo US Ambassador

Follow me
Twitter @Ahancock516

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