Training Our Puppy Mind
Students will understand how thoughts can be trained, just like a puppy, with kindness and gentleness.
- Ask for a student volunteer to come up to the front and participate in the "Taking a Walk with These Thoughts" activity (described below).
- Without the rest of the class hearing, tell the student volunteer to play the role of your thinking mind, and pretend to be your mind's thoughts as you walk around the room. Tell them to say, "Wow, look at this messy board" when you walk by the whiteboard, and "I have so much work to do" when you walk by your computer.
- Begin walking around the room, and have the student volunteer say these thoughts. While this is happening, invite the rest of the class to guess what the student volunteer is doing and the role they are playing.
- Build upon everyone's answers, and tell them that the student volunteer was playing the role of your "thinking mind."
- Tell the class that we tend to be thinking all the time, even if we don't share our thoughts.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(15 minutes)
- Explain to the class that, just like a puppy, our minds can be distracted in so many ways.
- Ask, "What makes a puppy get distracted?" Build upon students' answers, and offer some of the following examples of things that make puppies distracted: food, sounds, people, and smells.
- Ask the class, "How is a puppy trained?" Build upon students' answers, and share that puppies are trained with lots of love and kindness. Puppies are also rewarded when they come back to you after being distracted.
- Explain to the class that our minds can be just like puppies. For example, our minds can be distracted by a smell and think, "It smells like someone is eating an orange. I could really eat an orange right now. I'm hungry..." Then, we get lost in a train of thought. Perhaps thinking about oranges leads us to think about the orange grove we visited once and the time we spent with our family there.
- Share that when our minds wander, we can gently bring our thoughts back to the present moment by focusing on feelings in our body, sounds, or our breath. We should make sure to do this with kindness and gentleness.
- Explain that with mindfulness, we can gently come back to our breath or body when we notice that our mind has become distracted. This us how we can train our "puppy mind."
- Ask the students to come into a standing position and to feel their feet in their shoes. If they'd like, students can close their eyes or soften their gaze.
- Guide them to notice when they begin to think. Remind them that there is nothing wrong with thinking. As they notice a thought, ask them to gently come back to the feeling of their feet in their shoes.
- Tell the class that they can see their thoughts like clouds moving in the sky. They can notice the clouds of thoughts, but they don't have to grab them.
- Explain that our minds wander, and that's okay. Practicing mindfulness helps us notice when we've wandered and brings us back to the present so we can experience what's happening here and now.
- Share that mindfulness is how we pay attention, and it's a really important skill for both school and life.
- Have the students slowly open their eyes when they are ready.
Guided Practice(20 minutes)
- Ask students to share what they noticed when practicing mindfulness.
- Ask them to raise their hands if they noticed their minds wandering. Then, have them raise their hands if they were able to gently bring their attention back to the feeling in their feet.
- Tell them to raise their hands if they found this practice challenging, and let them know it's okay if they found it tough.
- Explain that with practice, mindfulness can become easier and easier.
- Tell students that they will work with a partner in the first activity, which is called "Taking a Walk with These Thoughts." This is the same activity you modeled with the student volunteer at the start of class.
- Divide the class into pairs.
- Explain to them that they will each have two minutes either playing the role of the thoughts someone is having, or being the person having the thoughts.
- Tell them that you will ring the bell to begin the first "Walk with These Thoughts," and you will ring it again after the two minutes are up.
- Ring the bell at the beginning and end of two minutes.
- Ask the partners to switch roles, and repeat this activity for another two minutes.
- Bring the class back together in a circle.
- Ask them what they noticed, and what this activity can teach us.
- Explain that mindfulness helps us put space around our thoughts, so that we can watch our thoughts and not get caught up in them.
- Tell the students that in the next activity, they will use clay to mold a figure that represents training the mind (or "puppy mind") with gentleness. For example, students could create a clay puppy on a leash to represent training their minds.
- Show them your example clay figurine.
Independent working time(25 minutes)
- Ask students if they have any questions.
- Dismiss them back to their seats, and distribute the Clay Puppy Models worksheet.
- Have the class complete their clay models.
Enrichment: If students finish making their clay models early, they may read the book Puppy Mind by Andrew Jordan Nance, on their own or in a small group.
Support: Give some students your sample clay figure for inspiration. Work with a small group of students to help them make their clay models.
- Observe students during the independent working time.
- Collect worksheets and observe clay models to understand thought processes behind the pieces they made, and to assess their understanding of mindfulness of thoughts.
Review and closing(10 minutes)
- Ask all students to bring their clay models to the front of the room.
- Ask the class to walk around and observe the models in silence. Tell them to observe how the clay models represent training the "puppy mind."
- Ask the class to share what they notice in the models.
- Explain that their work will be displayed in the classroom as a reminder that our thoughts and mind can be trained, just like a puppy.
- Ask the class, "How can mindfulness of thoughts and training the mind help us?" After hearing some responses, explain that mindfulness can help us because we won't get so swept away by our thoughts and stories.