Beckie, founder of Bhumi Yoga and supply teacher with 20 years of school experience, shares yoga-inspired activities which help with behaviour management.
Managing your timetable can be tricky when you’re a supply teacher. You might not know when lunchtime is or might get stuck with a 15-minute wet play. On these occasions, even the most experienced staff deal with challenging behaviour; children who have been sitting down for too long, don’t know who you are, or are just a little fed up.
Since qualifying as a teacher in 2006, I’ve introduced practices that address the restlessness and boredom which often underpins difficult classroom behaviour. At Bhumi Yoga, I support teachers and children through yoga and meditation classes, and believe we should give children the opportunity to be fully present. I've found these activities boost morale and enhance the learning experience.
School timetables don’t always allow for all the breaks that children need. So, giving them five minutes to get up and move around a bit can help them refocus and feel calm - a double win! These ideas can be used at home, to break up lessons or as a reward in early years or primary school classes. For example, “we'll play games at the end of the session, if you're able to focus for this hour!”
Start by having students stand up or sit down in their chairs. Do five big breaths - in and out - by counting to five, breathe in, count to four, breathe out, and do the whole routine five times. Breathe through your nose. To change it up, you can choose to make the exhale a bit longer. So you could breathe in three seconds, breathe out seven seconds. You could introduce a maths element to the game, or change the numbers depending on how everyone's feeling. This activity encourages reflection at a slow and gentle pace.
For ‘ocean's breath’, have the children put their hands on their belly, or one hand on the chest and one hand on their belly. Ask them to try and keep their chest still, feeling their belly expanding and contracting with the breath. Keeping their mouth closed, ask them to constrict their throat to the point that their breathing makes a rushing noise, a gentle snoring sound. Children can put their hands over their ears to make it sound louder. In ten minutes, you should have everybody feeling calmer. Sometimes, I call this ‘Darth Vader breath’ for the Star Wars fans!
To encourage reflection, you could ask the children to think about one thing that makes them happy, and one thing which worries them. As they inhale, you ask them to imagine the thing that makes them happy, then exhale away the thing that’s worrying them. Beforehand, they could have a little think about what their thoughts are, so the breathing exercise is a more contemplative practice.
I hope you find these yoga-inspired classroom activities helpful. Do share with us your favourite poses on Instagram!
Beckie is a supply teacher, forest school practitioner and founder of Bhumi Yoga, an independent yoga business that offers classes for adults and children. She used Zen Educate, an online staffing platform, as an alternative to supply teaching agencies to find supply teaching jobs in London.