September 27, 2018
by Meena Srinivasan

Lesson plan

Belly Breathing To Calm, Focus and De-Stress

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Grade Subject

Students will be able to practice self-calming, manage stress, and improve focus using belly breathing. Student will be able to co-construct guidelines for when they are in circle time.

(5 minutes)
  • Gather students into a circle, either seated in chairs or on the floor. Share with students that they will be gathering in a circle once a week or more to build community with their classmates.
  • Raised attention signal: Once your students are in a circle, introduce or remind students of the raised hand attention signal. Explain that when they see you raise your hand, it’s a signal to stop whatever they are doing, raise their hand in the air, and quietly look and listen to you.
  • Introduce the talking piece: Explain that when they gather in a circle to learn and discuss important things, they will use a talking piece (choose an object that has meaning as the talking piece). Whoever has the talking piece can speak. They do this to make sure they don’t talk over anyone and listen to the person who is sharing. Every week each student rotates and brings in a talking piece that means something to them.
(15 minutes)
  • Welcoming: Circle time always begins with everyone being welcomed into the circle. Ask students why they believe it's important to welcome everyone. Use the talking piece to moderate answers.
  • Then, model welcoming a student and then have each student welcome the student sitting next to them. Example: “Hello Susie, welcome to our community. We are so glad you are here!”
  • Once every student has been welcomed, retrieve the talking piece.
  • Tell students that before they can really learn together, they have to spend some time creating shared guidelines for their class. Everyone will have a chance to offer one guideline to help the class be in harmony. Offer the first guideline as the golden rule (“Treat others as you would like to be treated”), or what you feel is the guiding principle for how to treat one another in the classroom.
  • Have each student share one guideline each and write them down on chart paper. When you are finished, have each student sign the chart paper. Keep this chart paper up during all of your classes; you can refer back to it if a class member isn’t following the shared expectations.
  • Tell students that today during their circle time they are going to practice belly breathing. Belly breathing is a helpful, science-based tool in calming ourselves down when we become stressed or anxious.
  • Check to make sure all of the students are comfortable, then have them put their finger horizontally under their nose and pay attention to their breathing. What does their breath feel like? Using the talking piece, have them share their answers. Some may share their breath feels “warm” “cool” or like "a whisper.”
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that when we are stressed or upset, we sometimes take quick, shallow breaths that stay at the top of our chest. Place your hand on your chest and demonstrate what this looks like. When we want to calm down, we need to take slow belly breaths instead.
  • Ask students to Imagine a balloon in their belly. Explain that when they breathe in, they want to push all the air down and fill up the balloon so that their belly puffs out. Put your hand on your belly and demonstrate this. Then, they breathe out slowly and their belly gets smaller as the balloon deflates. Model this for your students.
  • Have students lay down and place their hands on their belly.
  • Guide students through inhaling and exhaling deeply for at least 10 breaths. Keep an eye on students as they lay down. Share with student that you will also practice, but will be sitting up in case anyone needs help.
  • Share with students that it’s helpful to have a positive word of phrase to silently say to themselves when they belly breathe to help their mind not wander—for example, silently repeating “happiness” or “joy” or “relax.”
  • Hand out colorful strips of paper and have students write down a word or phrase that they can turn to when they are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or upset.
  • Now have students lay down or face outwards (to minimize disruption) and practice breathing with their word or phrase for at least two minutes.
(10 minutes)
  • Have the students remain in a circle.
  • Have them write down on the back side of their colorful strip of paper how it can be helpful to belly breathe and when they think it will be useful in the next 24 hours.
  • Enrichment: Advanced students may want to belly breathe for longer or help you create a belly breathing station.
  • Support: Struggling students may need to be paired with the teacher or teacher’s aide initially.
(5 minutes)
  • During guided practice, look to see who needs support. Sit closer to them to give clues and encouragement.
(5 minutes)
  • Have each student share when they will practice belly breaths next.
  • Close with a collective belly breath.

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