Mindful Colouring

Mindfulness can be described as paying attention on purpose. It involves a conscious direction of our awareness. The idea of mindfulness has been buzzing around for the past number of years and even more recently has been the attempt to incorporate it into the classroom. Today I was introduced to mindfulness colouring books by another RE teacher. Immediately I decided this is something I must try in the classroom. The idea behind these books is that colouring in is an easy way to calm the mind and occupy the hands. When using mindfulness we use different types of meditation to centre our minds and create a sense of peace. At a mental health workshop in 2009 communication expert Mark Robert Waldman explained that active meditation focuses attention on simple tasks that require repetitive motion. Concentrating this way replaces negative thoughts and creates a state of peace. When we colour the repetitive action focuses the brain on the present, blocking out any intrusive thoughts. In a classroom the teacher can introduce the topic of mindfulness, handout the colouring pages and put on some simple meditation music (Link for one here) and allow the calm to spread. One of the leading authors of these books is Johanna Basford. Watch how she creates her images here 

These colouring books have become extremely popular and can be found in almost all books shops and online. Easons, GillandMacMillian, Waterstones, Amazon and Chapters are only a number of places who stock these amazing books. Deals and Lidl in Ireland are also selling a less expensive version which can be easily photocopied for large groups. While aimed at adults these books can be used with second level students especially when students are stressed or worried. I predict that my bag will be full of these come exam time 🙂

examples of mindful colouring sheets

examples of mindful colouring sheets

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The ‘Free Class’

subapplelogoFor the last couple of weeks I have been working as a substitute teacher in an all boys school. Most of the time I am covering for subjects which I do not teach. This has proven to be difficult at times for a number of reasons.

  1. I do not know what classes I will have until 8:30 am so I am unable to prepare a full lesson.
  2. Teachers get sick unexpectedly and don’t leave material which needs to be completed.
  3. I do not know the content of subjects that are not my usual subjects so I am not confident in the classroom.
  4. The students see me coming and immediately think ‘YES Free Class’.

The ‘free class’ mentality is in every school I have ever experienced. Students love a substitute teacher who lets you do homework, study, watch a movie or have a chat. Students do not love a substitute teacher who enters the room with a pile of work or notes to copy into their notebooks. Principals and other teachers however expect a certain amount of work to get covered in this ‘free class’ so what do you do?

I have started to create my own sub folder. I have spent the last number of weeks searching the internet for resources and ideas that can be adapted to fit all classes, subjects, ages, genders etc. I have found students respond best when you have something fun that they can actively engage with. There are so many websites teachers can use to create quizzes and games. My favourite has to be Kahoot.  Kahoot allows teachers to log on and create a quiz. Students then use a device or computer to log onto the student site Kahoot.it to enter and compete with each other. Quizzes are easy to make and you can save them and use them over and over again.

Only last week I was introduced to studyclix. This is an online site which creates tests on any subject and topic. It is free for teachers to join and tests can be printed and used for group learning. There are so many websites that have handouts ready to print for emergency classes I could not possibly list them all but two I definitely frequent are StudentHandouts and SuperSub.

Another favourite with almost all students is creative writing competitions. What ever class you are in pick a topic and ask students to explain the topic as creatively as possible. You could have a small prize for the winner. Food usually goes down well 🙂 This week the first year class I was supervising produced some pretty amazing ghost stories for Halloween.

An idea I came up with on the spot for foreign language classes is as simple as they come. Hangman. Students have to use their dictionaries to find the word and the meaning and be able to put the word in a sentence to gain the point for their team. This game can be simplified for younger classes.

This is only the start of what I hope by the end of the year will be a pretty impressive arsenal of resources. If anyone would like to contribute please feel free. Having these ideas has helped me as a substitute with my classroom management and with my actual teaching. They are also fun for students and teacher. My students know now when they see me coming there is no ‘free class’ but it can be a fun filled class. I hope this can be of use to somebody else too.

Twitter as a Learning Resource

As I mentioned in a previous post I am relatively new to the world of Twitter. I have set up my new Twitter account for my Digital Learning module as part of my Masters degree. The purpose of my new Twitter account is to connect with as many people as possible from the world of education in order to learn and grow as part of the education online community. Before being set this task I would never have thought of Twitter as a place where I could find resources or advice on teaching. But I was unbelievably wrong. Twitter is a goldmine for the educator if you know where to look . In order to discover how to make the most of twitter I began looking up tutorials and articles to see how to use twitter and how it can improve my work as an educator. The first article that stood out to me is written by Megan McPherson, Kylie Budge and Narelle Lemon. This article talked about twitter as an informal learning space. I immediately liked how they described twitter as this informal learning space as I think it takes away some of the pressures usually related to learning and educating. They speak about twitter broadening the conversation from the hallways and staff-rooms into the global sphere. You have control over the type of profiles you follow to ensure the news you want to see comes up onto your profile. The 140 word maximum tweet also provides a quick vies of the story and then if you want to research further you can use the hash tag to search for more opinions and discussions. ‘Twitter efficiently filters information through’ (McPherson 2015) so we can see what we need to see.

The second author that spoke to me was a fellow blogger, Tom Barrett. Barrett, in a blog about twitter for teachers, describes twitter as a constantly flowing river (Barrett 2008). When we open up our twitter accounts or feeds we are at the banks of the river looking at the ever flowing water. Some people stay here looking on taking in the new information or some people dive in and eagerly contribute. Whether you are on the banks or in swimming you need to be involved to see what is happening. If you are away and miss a tweet it has been washed downstream and unless someone re tweets it is likely gone forever.
I think what stood out to me as an educator from both these articles is the possibilities twitter holds for people. It is a mass collection of information, resources and opinions that can help you form opinions and gather ideas. At the start it is ok to sit back and watch the flow but I think for educators to get the most from twitter they need to learn to swim. It is important to share opinions and begin discussions in order to learn and grow. I think it is time I put on my armbands and go for a swim also. If you have read this and have anything to add please find me on twitter and join me in discussion 🙂 5j16MsDunne is my twitter name I look forward to hearing from you.
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