Spotlight on Seated Twist Pose

Spotlight on seated twist

What it is: Seated Twist pose is a great pose that students can do right at their desk. It provides a great quick mind break, especially if students have been sitting for long periods, such as during finals week.

Why we love it: This pose doesn’t require any equipment, so it can be done anywhere, anytime. It stretches the shoulders, joints and spine, and helps increase mobility and flexibility.

 How to do it:

  1. Sit up tall and press your feet into the floor.
  2. Breathe in and lift your arms out, up, and over your head.
  3. Breathe out and cross your left hand to your right knee to pull yourself into a twist, pulling your belly in.
  4. Reach your right arm behind you to rest on the back of your chair. Look over your shoulder.
  5. Hold this Seated Twist Pose for three deep breaths.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Our amaZEN U video demos a chair with this pose, but you could just as easily do it on the floor. Students will relish the upper body stretch, and you’ll love the minimal interruption to the lesson or task at hand.

For this pose and other great yoga and mindfulness videos, visit www.amazenu.com. A subscription to our nearly 100 videos is only $5 per month – and we offer a trial month for free!

Summer Learning Ideas

Summer Learning Ideas

Summer is just a few short weeks away (as if you weren’t already counting the days!). Many schools and teachers like to assign students engaging academic work to do during the summer to prevent learning loss. Learning loss is the “loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of the summer. The loss in learning varies across grade level, subject matter, and family income.” Students, and their parents, are more likely to make this vacation summer learning a priority if it’s something they will enjoy. We’ve come up with a list of suggestions here for you that kids will enjoy.

Create a cook book: Encourage students to create a short cookbook of 5-7 recipes. Students will need to test each recipe themselves before putting it in their cookbook and should include recipes for different meals. Age level: Middle School; Skills Learned: Critical thinking, Math

Summer Journal:  Suggest students to keep a journal of the activities they do during the summer. Older kids can write their entries in a journal type format, or write a report about their favorite activity; ask younger kids to write a story about their favorite thing they did this summer, whether it’s a vacation, trip to the zoo or beach, or something closer to home like a new pet.  Age level: PreK through High School; Skills Learned: Writing, Reading

Nature Collection: Have students collect leaves or rocks and try to identify them using books or the internet. Or for the more adventurous, see how many different types of bugs they can photograph and identify! Age level: Middle School – High School; Skills Learned: Science

And don’t forget to keep your skills sharp this summer too! Read books, take classes, volunteer and enjoy yourself!

Read more tips to prevent summer learning loss from our blog post last summer: Tips to Prevent Learning Loss During the Summer

Teacher Appreciation Month – Appreciating YOU!

Teacher Appreciation Month – Appreciating YOU!

Hopefully your school and/or students have planned some fun activities to appreciate its teachers this month for Teacher Appreciation Week (though we like to think of it as a month)! But it’s also important that YOU appreciate you!

According to Gallup’s State of America’s Schools report, nearly half of teachers K-12 report feeling stressed on a day to day basis. Teachers also reported feeling that their “opinion didn’t matter” at work. These feelings can have a direct impact on the achievement of students.

This means you owe it not just to yourself, but to your students, to take care of yourself! Self-care and appreciation starts with you. It’s so important to take time for yourself to do something you enjoy.

Do you like reading? Join a book club at the library or an online “book of the month” club. Cooking or baking? Try to set aside time a few nights a week to try a new or complicated recipe.

Even taking just 10 minutes a day for yourself is fantastic. You can try one of the breathing exercises from AmaZEN U and concentrate on calming your mind for a short time and just focus on you and the moment.

If the thought of finding time to schedule something else into your day – even enjoyable activities – is giving you even more stress, don’t sweat it! Just try to do something for you, that you enjoy, once or twice a week. Save your Saturday morning for a long hike. Or just sleep in past 5 am for once!

When you feel your best, you can give your best and your students will be better off for it!

And don’t forget that we are giving away free annual memberships all month long – just tell us how amaZEN U has impacted your students/classroom for a chance to win by emailing us at sonya@amazenu.com or sharing on social media!

Mother’s Day Make-Your-Own Gift Guide

Mothers Day Make-Your-Own Gift Guide

One of the major goals of most classrooms is to have a cooperative and team-style relationship with your students’ parents. After all, you are all working toward the same outcome – intellectual, social and physical enrichment for their child. What better way to celebrate your “team mates” than helping their child create a thoughtful gift to share? These are some of our favorites for Mother’s Day!

Little kids will love playing with paint to create a work of art for their mothers. They can just use non-toxic paint to finger paint a canvas, or they can decorate a canvas tote bag. Have them create their own masterpiece, or use their hand prints to create flowers, like this idea from Little Page Turners

Kids who are a little older and can handle a glass mason jar without dropping it can make a planter with it for their moms, such as these from Consumer Crafts. This is especially fun because it’s an ongoing project. Students learn how to care for something and help it thrive. Instead of flowers, try easy-to-grow herbs such as basil and mint. All you’ll need are mason jars, seeds and soil.

If your school has a kitchen that you can use for a lesson, teach your students how to make an easy brunch recipe that they can surprise their parents with on Mother’s Day. Executing a recipe is a great way to teach critical thinking skills. Avocado Ricotta toast is a good one that doesn’t require any cooking. Just have your students smash a ripe avocado (remove the skin and pit) and mix with ricotta. Toast a few slices of bread, then spread the toast with the avocado and ricotta mixture. Season with salt and pepper (or better yet, tell your students to put salt and pepper shakers on the table to ensure that the spices aren’t added with too heavy a hand!).

Most importantly, enjoy yourselves! All of these ideas are a little messy, but that’s part of the fun. Any of these can also be adapted and used for Father’s Day (Sunday, June 18)!

Setting the Stage for a #ReadytoLearn Classroom

Setting the Stage for a Ready to Learn Classroom

We often talk about the different activities you can do with your students to keep them focused and attentive. But what about the physical environment in which they sit every school day? Physical surroundings can have a huge impact on a student’s ability to process what they are learning. Here are some ways you can create a #readytolearn space for your kids.

Control Temperature

It is very distracting when one’s physical environment is either too cold or too warm. Students will be thinking about how uncomfortable they are, rather than focusing on the lesson at hand. A study from Loyola University found that memory and test scores are negatively impacted when sitting in a room that is either too hot or too cold. If you have control over your thermostat, 72 is generally considered a nice neutral temperature. But if the temperature of your room is set at a pre-determined setting, try utilizing windows or fans to make your students comfortable.

Set the Lighting

Students perform best in an environment with as much natural light as possible. Open the blinds in your classroom! Let in the sunshine! Not only will the light help students focus, but being able to see outside can have a calming effect on the mind. Learn more about “How Just The Right Lighting May Improve Learning In Classrooms.” If you are unable to open your blinds, or if you room doesn’t have windows, try using light bulbs that are bright and project a cool, white light, most similar to daylight.

Show Students They are Safe and Valued

Most importantly, you want your students to feel safe and valued. Position desks so students are facing each other and can collaborate during group discussions. If possible, let your students have a say in how the room is positioned and decorated. Students spend most of their waking hours inside a classroom – you want them to feel comfortable and at ease.

Creating a comfortable and inviting place for students will help prime them to be ready to learn each and every day. Plus they might even look forward to coming to school!

Earth Day Activities for Your Classroom

Earth Day Activities for Your Classroom

Earth Day is this Saturday, April 22! You can use this day as motivation to plan activities for your classroom or school that draw attention to the environment and the world around us.

The holiday began in 1970 when Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson rallied students to raise public awareness about the effects of air and water pollution. He chose the date April 22 because it was between spring break and final exams. Twenty million people from across the country demonstrated for a healthier planet – leading to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.

There are tons of age-appropriate activities you can do with your students to bring awareness to this day. Here are some of our favorite.

Younger Kids (K-4th grade)

  • Simply start the conversation: “Why shouldn’t you waste water?” and “What are some ways you can use less water?”
  • Read a nature-centered book together as a class.
  • Take your class on a walk outside and ask them to notice some things about the space around them – the grass, wind, any animal life, etc.

Middle Kids (5th – 8th grades)

  • Do a litter patrol. You can do this just on your school grounds, or, with permission, make a field trip of it and visit areas around your community.
  • Discuss what happens to your trash when you dispose of it and how harmful chemicals find their way into our food and water supply.
  • Bring your iPad or tablet outside and use one of amaZEN U’s breathing videos to have students calm their inner dialogue and focus on the environment around them.

Older Kids (9th – 12th grades)

  • Take a field trip and tour a recycling plant to learn about how items are recycled.
  • Discuss the history of Earth Day and visit earthday.org to read about the goals set for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.
  • Ask students to bring in all the disposable water bottles they, their family and/or friends use for the rest of the month. This is a great visual of a common household item that can be recycled but often isn’t.

 

Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude.” Louie Schwartzberg

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” Frank Lloyd Wright

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet…Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” Anne Frank

How to Introduce Breathing Exercises in the Classroom

Breathing Exercises in the Classroom

You may love yoga and practice it often. Perhaps you even regularly use yoga poses in your classroom and subscribe to our amaZEN U yoga video library. But maybe you don’t quite understand how or when to introduce your class to breathing exercises. That’s ok! We’re here to help.

When someone is stressed or anxious, the body’s natural response is for breath to become short and shallow. Muscles become tighter and the heart beats more rapidly. Over time these responses can lead to more stress, more anxiety, as well as depression and mental health issues.

Using deep calming breaths, especially during stressful times like class transitions and test-taking, will help students reverse their body’s reaction to stress. Focusing on their breath brings the students’ attention back to their bodies, which can help loosen muscles, lower blood pressure. It also releases endorphins, which help improve feelings of well being and overall mood.

So where do you start? amaZEN U has some great videos ranging from one to two minutes in length that demonstrate different breathing exercises, along with desired mood outcome. Looking to calm your high school classroom before a big test? Check out the Ocean Breath video. Have students cover their ears and close their eyes. Breathe in deeply through the nose, and out through the mouths. When done repeatedly in a rhythm, this will sound like the ocean.

Want to energize your preschoolers after naptime? Try the Lions Breath 1 video. Students should open their eyes, mouths and nostrils wide as they breathe in; lean forward, stick tongues out and breathe out forcefully.

And there is always our favorite, Take 5 Breath, to help calm and focus any age. Just 5 slow deep breaths in and 5 flow deep breaths out. Each inhale and exhale is for a count of 5.

The best part about breathing exercises is that once your students have done them a few times, they will be able to do them anywhere on their own!

 For these and other great breathing exercises, visit www.amazenu.com. We have breath work videos for preschoolers through high school, and for desired outcomes Calm, Balanced, and Energized.

Spotlight on Cat & Cow Poses

Cat and Cow Pose

What it is: Although these yoga poses are usually done together, they are actually two separate movements. Cat and cow poses are frequently done at the beginning of a yoga class, helping to warm up the spine and core. They’re also provide a great opportunity to link breath with movement.

 Why we love it:  Cat and Cow Poses have several benefits including stretching the front torso and neck – great to counteract poor posture! Take a deeper look at the traditional pair of poses at Yoga Journal.  

When to do it:  Considered a balanced pose, this pair of poses would be great to do during transitions between subjects or lessons, before collaboration, or after small group work.  Younger students will also get a kick out of making cat and cow noises while moving along with their breath! Both poses can be done together and are perfect for your classroom when done in a seated position from a chair. Our amaZEN U videos have two great examples – Cat and Cow 1 for Prek-5th grades and Cat and Cow 2 for 6th-12th grades.

How to do it:

  1. Sit firmly in your chair.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor and rest your hands on your legs.
  3. Press into your thighs, and as you lean forward your belly sinks to your legs. Inhale, look forward and up and curve your spine until your feel a stretch. This is Cow Pose.
  4. Exhale, tuck your chin to your chest, head down, look down, push your belly to your back and round your spine. This is Cat Pose.
  5. Repeat Cat and Cow Pose 2-3 more times.

The two opposing motions on the spine from these poses help the body learn how to sit in a comfortable neutral position. Try these yourself when you’ve been sitting for a long period and need a quick spine adjustment and stretch.

For this and other great yoga poses, subscribe to amaZEN U’s yoga videos – only $5/month! Your first month is FREE so try it today and see how easy movements can really change the dynamic of your classroom!

Fun Activities – Spring Break Edition

Spring break is fast approaching or already here – as you and your students are probably well aware! Even though it’s only a week, learning loss can still occur and slow your classroom’s progress when students return. Whether you make it extra credit or a required activity, offer your students some fun things they can do while on break that will encourage learning outside the classroom.

A safe, and always relevant stand by is assigning students a book to read. You can choose a book for the entire class, create a reading list that students can pick from, or just ask that students read a book of their choosing and write a one page paper explaining the book and why they chose it. This is a nice way to ensure that students will continue with some thought work outside of school, without creating too much of a burden.

Another idea is to offer credit for volunteer experiences. High school students can sign up in advance for an Alternative Spring Break and take a service trip to another state or country during their break time. Habitat for Humanity offers one week trips year round for students aged 16 and older, as do many other organizations.

For those who are staying closer to home, most medium to large cities boast several museums. Ask students to visit the museum most pertinent to your subject area. Visit the museum ahead of time yourself and assign students different exhibits to write a short report about. Or ask students to visit some of your city’s smaller museums that they may not have been to before. For example, any museum related to women’s history (Cleveland has a Women in Aviation museum), art-specific museums (the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts) or historic homes (Frank Lloyd Wright’s original home and studio space near Chicago). Other cultural experiences you can ask your students to attend include live theater or music venues.

If you want to be more budget-minded, have students walk through their neighborhood or a local park and write or sketch their thoughts and/or observations. This is a great way to encourage mindfulness and ensure that your students spend time outside and away from screens while out of school!

Lastly, don’t forget about yourself! Challenge yourself to visit at least one place you’ve never been. You don’t have to travel far – as mentioned above, just check out one of your cities’ smaller, independent museums or public spaces. Or take a fitness or painting class that you haven’t had time for but are interested in trying.

Enjoy your break!

Supporting Students with Special Needs

Supporting Students with Special Needs

During the course of your teaching career, you will be exposed to many different students with different personalities and learning styles. As more and more research sheds light on the positive benefits of an integrated classroom, it is highly likely that you will also have students in your room who have special needs. With just a little extra preparation and assistance from you, these students – and your typical students – will have an enriching and productive school year.

Students with disabilities are required by law to have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and often have a thick file that accompanies it, depending on how long they’ve been in school. Do your research, but don’t do so much that you become influenced by past teachers’ opinions – you will want to make your own observations. Try to find out their strengths prior to the first day of school so you can encourage them to grow these strengths and use them to assist in areas of weakness as suggested by this post from We are Teachers.

Sometimes typical students – and their parents – don’t understand the challenges that people with special needs may have or why they may require additional resources or time. Create a lesson or activity that will illustrate these difficulties. Try assigning each of your students a different famous person with a disability and have them research his/her accomplishments (ex: scientist Stephen Hawkings, Lou Gehrig’s Disease; director Steven Spielberg, ADHD; animal activist Temple Grandin, autism spectrum disorder (check out her fantastic TED talk!); or actress Lauren Potter, Down syndrome).

Just like your typical students, kids with special needs may become overwhelmed in a classroom and need a break. Offer plenty of “brain breaks” throughout the day so that none of your students become too frustrated or overly stimulated. Check out our yoga and mindfulness videos at www.amazenu.com for some great ways to refocus your classroom’s energy; you can also try offering quiet, individual reading or study time, a not-too-difficult art project, or a short walk outside, if the weather is nice.

Teaching students with special needs should be a rewarding experience for you and your students. Prepare them for the future just as you would your typical students. Then sit back and watch how far they fly.

Today, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day (three copies of the 21st chromosome = 3/21). Show your support by wearing mismatched, fun socks. Next Sunday, April 2 is Autism Awareness Day; all of April is Autism Awareness. Wear blue to show your support. This will be the 8th year that the Empire State Building lights up blue!

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