Summer Learning: Taking a Brain Break with Meditation

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If you’ve been following our Shurley English Blog posts, you know we’ve been flooding you with creative ideas on how to continue supporting your students’ academic progress throughout the summer.  We are aware that with the high demands placed upon our children in today’s U.S. classrooms, it’s evident that children (and adults) have fewer opportunities to truly unwind and relax. 

Today, my suggestion is to remember to INCLUDE some “DOWNTIME” into your child’s daily summer schedule, and here’s why:

  • Research shows that time off-task is important for proper brain function and health.

  • The brain uses 20% of the body’s energy while on-task.

  • Napping 10-30 minutes can increase alertness and improve performance.

  • Meditation is a way to give the brain a break from work and refresh the ability to concentrate.

  • Resting mental states help us process our experiences, consolidate memories, reinforce learning, regulate our attention and emotions, and keep us productive!

Downtime will give the brain an opportunity to make sense of what has just been learned, and shifting off-task can actually help learners refresh their minds, gain insight, and return to the task with more focus.

Brain Break Exercise: Meditation with Mindful Breathing

I mentioned meditation as a way to give the brain a break, so show your students how to tap into their own superhero relaxation powers with this simple breathing exercise.  Teach your students that their breath is an amazing tool that can help them relax or calm down at any given moment.  It can help them manage the ups and downs of school and life—all they have to do is breathe.

The purpose of a breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace.  We can use breathing meditations to reduce our distractions and feel a deep sense of relaxation.  Allow this breathing exercise to bring more calmness into your classroom while your students learn a valuable tool that helps them relax.

  • Mindful Breathing Exercise (2-5 minutes)

  • Students can stand or sit for this activity.

  • Ask students to put both hands on their belly.

  • Students should close their eyes, or look down to their hands.

  • Guide students in taking three slow deep breaths in and out to see if they can feel their hands being moved.

  • You may like to count “1, 2, 3” for each breath in and “1, 2, 3” for each breath out, pausing slightly at the end of each exhale.

  • Encourage students to think about how the breath feels, answering the following questions silently, in their mind.

    What is moving your hands? Is it the air filling your lungs?
    Can you feel the air moving in through your nose?
    Can you feel it moving out through your nose?
    Does the air feel a little colder on the way in and warmer on the way out?
    Can you hear your breath?
    What does it sound like?

Remember, time off-task isn’t always wasted time or a sign of laziness. I encourage you to create the balance between being a “human-being” and a “human-doing” this summer!

Increasing Retention with Purposeful Movement

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Is purposeful movement an integral part of your instructional toolbox? I was reminded lately of the power of using motion to assist the brain in the retention of information.  I recently set a goal for myself to memorize a favorite portion of scripture, I Corinthians 13, The Love Chapter, which is commonly quoted at weddings.  As I pondered how to best attack this lofty goal, I was reminded of the units that my former coworker and I designed for our third grade students, years ago.  

You see, we took the vocabulary words in the lessons and brainstormed rhyming definitions that incorporated movement. We found these to be quite successful with the classes in assisting them not only to retain the information, but also to have fun while learning it! So, personally, I used this same method to learn the verbs and phrases associated with knowing how to love unselfishly, and it worked!

Now, I am not a brain expert by any means, but there is certainly something that takes place in the mind when you add purposeful movement to words or phrases. It adds that extra bit of distinctiveness which sticks in the memory bank and causes retention levels to soar!

Why not try adding some motions with muscle to your classroom lessons? It does take some preplanning, but it adds fun and a reason for movement to the learning process.  The Shurley English Jingles are a perfect learning tool to help you add movement into your language arts lessons (…and you can find them for FREE on our YouTube Channel).

As you listen to and learn the jingles, think about each line of text. Pay careful attention to the most important words, especially the verbs. Think of purposeful movements you can associate with the texts of each jingle. You will improve the community feel of your classroom by involving kids in the choreography planning, so don’t be afraid to give them the reins. Of course, you will need to be the final judge about whether the motions they want to use make a good association to the jingle text, but their engagement in this process will be invaluable to them in the long run.

Grammar Reinforcement: Creating Confidence Cards

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I love teaching!  I love the challenge of finding ways to teach children how academic content connects to their real life.  My love of teaching has carried over into the world of life coaching, and in this capacity, I can help teens feel good about who they are.

Let’s be real.  Life can be tough for many children these days, and many of them could benefit from a little more positivity in their lives.  For this reason, I found a way to connect my passion for helping teens develop a positive sense of self by using sentence patterns taught in Shurley English. 

Shurley English teaches seven sentence patterns.  All of the patterns include action verbs except for Pattern 4 and Pattern 5.  These two patterns include a linking verb (LV).  A linking verb expresses a state of being and shows no action.  Study the following chart to review the core parts of the seven sentence patterns:

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The core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence include a subject noun (SN), a linking verb (LV), and a predicate adjective (PA).  The linking verb links the simple subject to an adjective in the predicate part of the sentence that modifies the subject.  As students recite the Question and Answer Flow, a step is included to help them understand clearly that a predicate adjective modifies the subject.  Here’s an example:

Pattern 5 Sample with Shurley English.png

Now that I’ve refreshed your memory about the core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence, I’d like to share an idea that will focus on Pattern 5 sentences AND help your students develop a strong sense of self.  It’s called, “Writing Confidence Cards.”

To get started, you will need ten index cards for each student.  After passing them out, follow these steps:

  1. Review the core parts of a Pattern 5 sentence. 

  2. Write the words: “I am ____.” on the board. 

  3. Tell students that they will be choosing a positive predicate adjective to fill in the blank that will describe them.

  4. Model some positive word choice examples (SP LV PA):

    I am creative.

    I am beautiful.

    I am confident.

    I am intelligent.

  5. Tell students to write a different sentence on each index card.

  6. Review the sentences to make sure they have written appropriate sentences.

  7. Ask students to illustrate and decorate each card.

  8. When students have completed their set of Confidence Cards, they will be able to use them in a variety of ways.  (See below.)

Here are a few “Confidence Card” activities to utilize in your classroom:

  • Ask students to choose one card from their deck as their journal writing topic.

  • Create a class deck.

  • Choose a card from your class deck as the topic for a class discussion as part of your morning routine.

  • Make a duplicate card deck for a think-pair-share activity.  Pass out the deck, making sure two of the same cards have been handed out.  Have students with the same card pair up and discuss how their “I am___.” statement applies to them.

  •  Invite the school counselor to your classroom for a team teaching opportunity to discuss the benefits of positive self-talk.

As you can see, Confidence Cards provide a unique way to reinforce the Pattern 5 sentence and boost your students’ self-esteem. Do you have a unique way to reinforce grammar study in your classroom? If so, we would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below.