Tuesday, August 16, 2016

You Asked, Kindergarten Diva Answers! Second Edition: The Beginner's Guide to Yoga in the Classroom

How do you start doing yoga in the classroom? 

When I introduce myself to my class every year, I use a "teacher box". It's a medium-sized box full of some of my favourite things. For example, it includes an empty bottle of perfume, a cardboard cutout of a pizza slice, an empty shopping bag, a yoga strap. and a dog leash. I tell my students that this box contains special items that tell things about their teacher, and I ask them to guess what each item means. When I pull out the yoga strap, it leads naturally into a discussion of what yoga is. With young children in a school setting, yoga poses (asanas) are the most accessible and easily recognizable component of yoga, and I always begin there. Next, I might show some pictures of me doing various yoga poses and talk about why I'm doing each one (strong arms, improve balance, feel brave, to help me sleep or relax, etc.)

You might choose to share a book about yoga from the Peaceful Piggy series. If you download this book digitally to an iPad or iPhone, you can Airplay it to your Apple TV and project it. Reading the paper copy is always great too. I love the Peaceful Piggy series as it simply and engagingly explains yoga poses and meditation to kids. If you don't want to purchase the books, there are YouTube videos of people reading them, but I'm not sure about the quality. Another book to check out is Moody Cow Meditates if you wish to explore meditation with children.

A couple of my teacher friends do a yoga pose of the week as part of their morning routine. After children hand in their planners and do their morning jobs, they head to the carpet (or wherever) and start practicing the designated yoga pose. You could teach this pose on Monday, or you could have a video playing on the SMART Board for children to follow along with. One of my friends really likes Go Noodle's Maximo. This part of the site features short yoga pose videos that are very accessible for kids.

The wonderful thing about yoga is that it can be woven into anything you're doing in your classroom without making a big deal about it.

Yoga in your gym class...or as a movement break!
Play musical yoga mats: it's just like musical chairs, but we set up the mats in a circle and move from mat to mat. I like to mix up how we move--walking, hopping, running, crawling, etc. When the music stops, everyone finds a mat and one child names a yoga pose for everyone to do. Or, the teacher could name a pose, or a child can choose one from a pile of yoga pose flashcards.
Play yoga frozen tag: when children are tagged, they strike a yoga pose (own choice, teacher's choice, or choose a flashcard).

Partner yoga: put some mats down on the gym floor (the thick ones stuck to gym walls work well) and introduce one partner yoga pose at a time. Kids of all ages (and adults) love partner yoga! Check out these ideas here.
Simon Says: use this old favourite game with yoga poses instead!

Here are great resources with more ideas: Yoga Games for Children  Yoga in My School 

Retell stories using yoga poses!
Almost any story can be retold with yoga poses, but stories about animals work especially well. We love using Jan Brett stories as they always contain a wide variety of animals. Learn more here about our retelling of The Mitten with yoga poses. The Snowmen series by Caralyn Buehner is great too, and it's easy to make up the poses to represent the characters/actions WITH your students (you don't need to be the expert). Namaste Kid has many scripts for retelling stories with yoga poses.

Indoor recess fun!
Check out Cosmic Kids for a great indoor recess or movement break activity. Project one of their videos on the SMART Board and allow kids to physically participate in the story they're featuring.

Points to consider
-yoga with kids will NEVER look like an adult yoga class, so get all ideas of perfection and silence out of your head. First of all, it's really important to use the kids as your #1 resource and allow them to co-create yoga sequences with you. "What pose would feel good next?" "This story has a rabbit in it. What pose could we do to be the rabbit?" "Let me hear you meow and moo as you do cat/cow!" Yoga with kids is fun! If it's not fun, they won't want to do it.
-not all families support the idea of yoga in the classroom. Always let families know that you are planning on integrating yoga poses and movement into your classroom. Explain how yoga enhances learning and teaches important skills such as focus and self-regulation (in addition to physical health benefits). Sometimes families confuse yoga with a religious practice. Yoga is spiritual but not a religion, and I wouldn't recommend including that spiritual side in your classroom anyway. Make sure families understand that you will be focusing on the physical poses of yoga and address any questions or concerns they might have.
-and always make sure your administrator is aware of what you're doing in your classroom and supports it. The best way to accomplish this is with a quick overview of the many ways yoga enhances a child's ability to learn!

How do you encourage students who don't want to try yoga?
As long as your families and school administration are supportive of yoga in the classroom, I would never present it as a choice. It is yet another learning activity that we all engage in together in our classroom. Occasionally I would experience reluctance from some of my little boys, and I would explain that yoga makes us better at all of the sports we like to play. Hockey players who crosstrain with yoga were a powerful motivator for them. If a child completely refused to do yoga, I'd tell them to sit quietly on their mat. Usually when they see how much fun the other kids are having, they are reluctant to miss out.

And don't forget...
Introducing yoga to your classroom practice is a great way to teach kids important tools to support their learning and increase their ability to cope with stress. I really wish that yoga had been part of my life from a young age instead of something I turned to later in life. Just remember to make sure everyone is aware of your plans, start small by choosing one thing to try, share your successes with your staff and families, allow children to co-create, and HAVE FUN! 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Leap and the Net Will Appear: My First Ignite Talk

Preparing and delivering my first Ignite talk was a huge undertaking! And I don't think I've ever been more nervous about speaking in front of a crowd. But I'm pleased to say that it went really well. A big thank you to Andy McKiel and the organizers of Riding the Wave in Gimli for asking me to share my yogic journey. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Making a Maker Faire...and a Yoga Festival Too: Part 1

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that my kindergarten students love yoga. They've been passionate about it since I first started teaching them in December. In May, I discovered another thing that they really love, and that is making. After attending Riding the Wave in Gimli, Leah Obach and I were inspired to do more with maker space in our classrooms. Like most of our projects, it soon took on a life of its own with our young learners in the driver's seat. 

Leah and I introduced the concept of making one morning in our weekly Skype call, We discussed how everyone is a maker, and shared some of the things that Leah and I like to make. Boys and girls then shared with each other what they liked to make, and we made a promise to each other to try maker space that coming week and report back to each other the following Friday. This Skype accountability with our partner class is key in ensuring that we follow through with our plans! 

We assembled materials with a visit to the Co-op for cardboard boxes and scoured the supply room and the recycling bins. For added inspiration, we viewed Caine's Arcade on YouTube, which they absolutely loved. After a discussion of safety and scissor/stapler use, I let them loose. Take a look at the high levels of engagement, creativity, and problem-solving in this short video

Very quickly, making became my young learners' favourite thing to do. At Miniota School, our buses drop off half an hour before school starts. If I wasn't in the room when my students arrived, I would find them already making, choosing to work on their creations instead of go outside and play or eat breakfast. It was impossible to contain their enthusiasm....or the mess that was taking over our classroom!

Here is what I learned about making with young children:
-safety comes first (for example, no stabbing into boxes with scissors when someone is inside the box!)
-provide long blocks of time a couple of times a week, as once they get started they don't want to stop. And, I'd rather clean up a huge mess once or twice a week then a smaller mess on a daily basis.
-don't place limits on what they can make
-don't do it for them
-photograph their creations 
-embrace the chaos and marvel at all the amazing learning happening! 
-develop a system for organizing and storing supplies (one teacher I read about uses green dots for materials the students have free access to and a red dot for materials they need to ask to use)

Leah's students were experiencing the same passion for making, and of course this turned into another collaborative project. Our boys and girls decided they wanted to host a maker faire where they could make things together, and teach other people about making. My students took the lead on this project, and we decided to host it in our school, as Mrs. Obach's class took the lead and hosted the Code-a-thon. As both of our classes also love yoga. we made the decision to host our maker faire on International Day of Yoga so that we could have a yoga festival in the afternoon. 

As always, we followed a project-based learning model--students taking the lead, collaborating and creating with technology, and involving multiple partners. As teachers, Leah and I helped the students to "uncover" more of the curricula, providing interdisciplinary lessons as needed to help the students move the project forward. Regular Skype calls allowed us to each take on different tasks, report back to each other, and make decisions about the maker faire and International Day of Yoga Festival. 

We used shared writing to compose this letter to our principal:

Although we are young, we love yoga clothes. and we decided to ask Inner Fire and Lululemon if they would support our yoga festival. This was an excellent opportunity to talk about persuasive writing, and we developed a little presentation using Haiku Deck. Inner Fire was amazing, responding instantly and providing prizes and a free yoga tank for me! Wow! 

Hello there Inner Fire! -  

Our next job was to create invitations. We used Microsoft Publisher to make these simple cards, and also exported them as a PDF to email to faraway guests. QR codes on the back of the invitations provided links to movies and more information. 

We made an extensive guest list and addressed and decorated the envelopes. We used tally marks to see how many stamps we would need to buy and how many could be hand-delivered. 

As for every project a to do list guides us and acts as a plan. 

With our Grade 1 friends, we brainstormed a list of materials that we wanted for making. We divided up the list, making decisions about who was responsible for getting the items. We also put out a plea on social media for donations. 

We collaboratively developed this schedule for the day and a list of healthy snacks. We decided to ask our parents to donate snacks, and they were wonderful to provide everything we needed. We asked Mr. Lewis (our principal) for a budget to buy ingredients to make punch. This led to some excellent math learning.  

We walked to the Co-op and shopped for supplies. 

We made playdough for one of our maker activities at the maker faire.

One of the activities I was most excited about was mapping the gym, as it brought in social studies, numeracy, and ELA outcomes in a very authentic way. We paced out the gym, counting our steps, then drew and labelled this map on the SMART Board. This map was later posted in the gym to help us set up. 

Developing a job chart was much anticipated by the boys and girls! They decided that the boys would act as greeters at the door and the girls would preside over the guest book and snack table. 
We were also lucky enough to enlist the help of our Grades 7/8 class and Hamiota Collegiate student council (some of whom attend my yoga classes in Kenton) for our yoga festival. 
And after a frantic last day of preparations, the gym was set up and we were as ready as we were ever going to be! Stay tuned for a second post about the actual event, and tips for running your own maker faire and yoga festival!