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I Made Health and Wellness Part of My Daily Classroom Routine and It’s Made All the Difference

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fit is a health-activation program from Sanford Health, developed to empower children and parents to make healthy lifestyle choices. Browse videos, activities, games, and printables—all designed to kick-start healthy habits and launch important conversations about topics like nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and mindfulness.

As any first grade teacher can tell you, mornings with 6- and 7-year-olds can get a little chaotic. That’s why I made the switch to “mindful mornings,” and let me tell you, prioritizing health and wellness in my classroom routine has made a world of difference for my students.

In my classroom, after students have breakfast, I lead them in mindful meditations, yoga sequences, and goal-setting. Doing this instead of morning paper worksheets sets a tone for the day. I’ve seen firsthand how students are calmer, more engaged, and more on task. It’s a great way to start the day and has become something students look forward to when they arrive.

So how do I do it? Read on and I think you’ll see that integrating social-emotional skills development into your regular school day is as doable as it is valuable.

Mindful Meditations

Make the space feel calm and engaging before beginning. Turn off the classroom lights. (Be sure there is some light in the classroom, such as natural light from windows, a lamp, or LED lights.) If you have a projector, you can project nature scenes with music on your wall or board.

Talk to your students about how they want to feel today. Come up with several words to use as affirmations. Each affirmation statement should begin with “I am …,” which brings ownership to each child.

Healthy Happy Mornings! Morning Mindset card

Being a yoga practitioner as well as a teacher, I choose to use affirmations that go along with the chakras, or energies. I don’t mention these in detail, but I have students place their hands in these areas for movement and color visualization.

In my classroom, it looks something like this:

  • Place hands on lower back, visualize an orange light, and say, “I am creative or talented.”
  • Place hands on belly, visualize a yellow light, and say, “I am brave or confident.”
  • Place hands on heart, visualize a green light, and say, “I am loved.”

Here’s another mindful meditation I love.

Yoga

fit poster of child's pose

I love to integrate physical activity into my classroom routine. Research shows that school-based physical activity improves the social and emotional climate for learning. My students love participating in yoga activities. When there is time in the morning after our mindful meditation exercise, I include a yoga sequence that goes along with the theme of the meditation. If not, I include the yoga practice at the very end of the day, once students are all packed up before dismissal, to give them time to reflect and breathe before going home or to an after-school program. 

One of my favorite sequences is :

  • Mountain pose
  • Tree pose
  • Warrior 2
  • Warrior 3
  • Downward dog
  • Mountain pose
  • Repeat on the other side
  • Cat/cow
  • Camel pose
  • Child’s pose
  • Easy pose

If you and your students are unfamiliar with poses, try these posters with single poses (like the child’s pose one above). I also like to use these fitFlow yoga sequences.

Goal-Setting

Aim High goals poster

SMART goals in first grade? You bet! Setting goals builds self-regulation and accountability skills. I start by discussing each piece individually with my students. Then, we put them together to create one big goal that spans two months. Here’s a refresher on SMART goals:

Specific: Answer the 5 Ws.

Measurable: Make sure your goal can be tracked

Attainable: Stretch your abilities but make sure it’s still possible within your limits. 

Realistic: It has to matter to you personally!

Timely: Every goal needs a deadline. 

Example: “I can wait my turn to share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings in a group discussion at least three times a day by [DATE].”

Cozy Spot

Keep Cool Card with tiger and text 'Big Squeeze!'

I allow my students to go to my cozy spot one at a time as needed throughout the day for a 5-minute brain break. In this area, I have sensory items such as fidgets, play dough, glitter bottles, a yoga mat, wiggle chair, mood cards, and posters with strategies on how to identify feelingsMy cozy spot also has a morning check-in component that helps give me a sense of how each student is arriving and who will most likely need to come to my desk to talk or will be in need of the corner throughout the day.

Try this fun, free kit to create your own cozy spot!

Want more ideas for promoting health and wellness in your classroom? Get more resources at Sanford fit.

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