Strengthening Our Brains With Mindfulness
- Students will be able to identify how the brain and prefrontal cortex (PFC) function and change.
- Students will understand how mindfulness can strengthen their brains.
- Place images of the brain around the room.
- Have students walk around the room quietly. Ask them to notice what they see and wonder in the pictures.
- Allow for students to walk around the room and independently make "notices" and "wonders."
- After a few minutes, ask students to pause at one image and partner up with 1–2 other people there.
- Ask the student pairs or groups of three to talk amongst themselves about what they notice and wonder about the image.
- Ask students to bring their images with them and join together into a circle, either seated in chairs or on the floor. Have them stay in their groups.
- Ask each group to show the class their image and share their notices and wonders.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(5 minutes)
- Project an image of the brain on the board. Review and read what each part of the brain is responsible for.
- Ask the class if they think their brains change. Tell them, "Yes! Our brains are always changing. When we learn something new, our brains change and create a new connection based on our new learning. Every time we practice a new skill, the connection in our brain gets stronger."
- Ask the class to raise their hand as you ask the following questions: "Who knows how to catch a ball? Write a letter? Read a word?"
- Explain to the class that they are able to do these things because their brains change, strengthen, and help us improve.
- Ask the class, "Why is it important to know this information about our brains?" Tell them that it is important so that we remember that we can always learn new things, and that our brains can grow and strengthen.
Guided Practice(10 minutes)
- Refer to Dan Siegel's video, and show the class the hand model of the brain by using one of your fists. Explain that your wrist is the "brain stem."
- Point to the brain stem on the back of your neck, just beneath the base of your skull.
- Point to the front of your fist, and explain that it is your forehead. Then, point to your forehead.
- Ask the class if they remember what that the front part of their brain is responsible for from the images. (Point to the front part of your fist.)
- Explain that the front part of the brain is responsible for reading, writing, focus, and being able to calm down.
- Explain to them that this part of the region is called their "prefrontal cortex," or "PFC" for short.
- Ask the class to repeat after you as you say "prefrontal cortex," then "PFC."
- Ask, "Do you think that we can strengthen the prefrontal cortex?"
- Explain, "Yes, we can strengthen the PFC! By practicing mindfulness (paying attention to one thing), our brain changes so that we can pay attention more easily."
- Tell the class, "Now, let's try mindfulness together. Let's focus on one thing and help our PFC's grow strong."
- Guide students to become still, sit upright, close their eyes or look down, and focus on the sound of the chime. Ring the chime three times, then pause. Then, ask the class to focus on the sounds outside the window.
- Ask them to open their eyes slowly.
- Ask what they notice and how they feel. What part of their brain have they strengthened? (The PFC.)
Independent working time(25 minutes)
- Explain to students that they will be working at their seats to color in the different parts of the brain and build a model of the brain with play dough.
- Show them your sample of the Our Awesome Brains worksheet and your play dough brain. Highlight the brain stem and the PFC.
- Dismiss students to go back to their seats, and distribute the Our Awesome Brains worksheet. Have them complete the project.
Enrichment: Ask students to build other parts of the brain using different colors of play dough.
Support: Work one-on-one with students who have difficulty sharing during the initial activity of walking around the room and observing images of the brain. Give some students a copy of your sample of the Our Awesome Brains worksheet, and allow them to look at your play dough brain for a visual. Work with a small group of students on the Our Awesome Brains worksheet and construction of the play dough brain.
- Observe students during the initial walk through the class, as they look at different images of the brain. Move around the room to listen to students as they share their thoughts, what they notice, and what they wonder.
- Observe students during the independent working time at their seats.
- Collect the students' worksheets to assess their comprehension of the different parts of the brain.
Review and closing(5 minutes)
- After all students have finished making their play dough brains, ask them how they will remember these three important parts of the brain (the brain stem, the forehead, and the PFC).
- Invite students to share what they learned today with an adult at home. Have one student volunteer model what they plan to say at home.