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How to Plant a Poetry Garden

My favorite holiday is here! It doesn't require battling crowds at the mall to shop. And it doesn't even require cooking a big meal for finicky family members. The only thing you have to do is share your favorite poem! Here's a rhyme to describe it: Easy peasy!

POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY | Do you want a FREE poetry resource you can use TODAY? Check this out!
I wrote all about it here. And I have a free resource that you can use at a moment's notice here

A few teachers have asked me how I go about encouraging students to "plant" poetry and how I go about getting them to carry poems around on Poem in Your Pocket Day. We "plant" all spring. It's the perfect time of year for it. As the weather gets warmer, we're all spending more time outdoors, so it's easy for kids to find an outdoor location for sharing.

Planting Poetry

When I introduce kids to poetry planting, I show them some photos students have taken in the past. Then I encourage them to find a creative place to plant a poem and take a picture of it for the class to see. Sometimes I make it an optional assignment and sometimes it's mandatory, depending on how much else is going on in the rest of their classes. 

The kids are wildly creative with their poetry placement, and the class enjoys seeing a slideshow of all of the poems when the photos are in.
POETRY | NATIONAL POETRY MONTH | Want a fun and easy way to celebrate poetry with your students? Try these ideas!

Poem in Your Pocket Day

As for Poem in Your Pocket Day, we carry our poems in many different places other than pockets. Most of my students don't wear pants with pockets. They're into leggings, lacrosse shorts, and sweats. I always offer them a cut-out pocket, but only a few take me up on it. Most prefer to carry their poems in other, more inventive ways. Some carry a poem in their phone case, many of the girls will stick the poem down the side of their Uggs, or they'll fold it up and put it in their ponytail holder or tie it into their shoelaces. 

Believe me, these kids are creative and they actually enjoy the challenge of sharing. I ask them to step out of their comfort zone and share their poems with those they meet outside of school. Many of them memorize their poems and proudly recite them. 

Last year, state testing was the same week as Poem in Your Pocket Day, and I almost didn't get around to celebrating it. Then I started to get questions about it from staff members who look forward to it. What really sealed the deal was when kids started asking me if we were going to "do that poetry sharing thing" that their older siblings had done. 

How cool is that? There's no way this teacher is going to let any state test get in the way of a "poetry thing."

Run an Awesome Escape Room in Your Classroom!

The shrieking zombies on the other side of the door got louder. Sweat trickled down my neck, as we struggled to find a cure before it was too late. Then, with minutes to spare, my husband dug deep and discovered his inner Indiana Jones, enabling us to find the final piece of the puzzle!

We escaped the escape room!

As we left, we were already planning our next escape. And I became determined to find a way to create an escape room experience for my students.

Mindfulness in the Classroom

Are you noticing evidence of rising anxiety and stress rates in your students? If so, you are not alone. It's an overarching problem, and it is exacerbated during testing season.

Classroom teachers have little control over most of the testing that our kids are subjected to. However, we do have control of the tools we give kids to self-regulate for a sense of calm and focus. This is why many of us are turning to mindfulness education.

Introducing young people to mindfulness -- in which the brain is relaxed but focused -- can provide them with a lifetime of mind and body benefits on several different levels. Research has found that mindfulness promotes

  • lower stress levels
  • improved concentration
  • increased self-control
  • kindness and empathy toward others

More importantly, this is what kids practicing mindfulness say:
MINDFULNESS | MINDFUL CLASS | TEST ANXIETY | In just a few minutes, you can introduce students to mindfulness, a state in which the brain is relaxed, but focused. Mindful practices can provide students with a lifetime of mind and body benefits and will help kids manage stress, improve concentration, and increase self-control. It can also promote kindness and empathy toward others! Learn some simple mindfulness exercises here!

Simple mindfulness practices provide an ideal way to start class. They can also be used any time students need to be refocused. I use them as bell ringers and before tests.

You don't have to be an expert to practice and promote mindfulness. In fact, showing students that you are learning with them is a powerful way to demonstrate that we are all lifelong learners.

Mindfulness Exercises to Teach Students

Begin by setting the stage for mindfulness. Dimming the lights and playing some soft background music helps enhance the mood. This is one of my favorite tracks to play in the background: 

Mindful Breathing: 3-2-4

The best way to practice mindful breathing is to simply focus on each breath. Ask students to close their eyes. Speak slowly, and ask them to observe each breath. Ask students to observe the rise and fall of their chest as they take in air. Tell them it is normal for the mind to wander, just try to bring it back to focusing on each breath.

Ask students to deeply inhale through their nostrils for three seconds, hold the breath for two seconds, and exhale through the mouth for four seconds. Set the pattern for them by repeating, "Inhale through your nostrils for three seconds. Hold for two. Exhale through your mouth for four."

Repeat the breathing pattern several times. Remind students to refocus on each breath. Then ask them to open their eyes. 

Ask them how they are feeling. Some may say they were falling asleep, others will say they feel calm. With practice, almost all of them will see the benefit. The first time I did this with middle schoolers, many opened their eyes repeatedly. They are fearful of looking foolish if they are the only ones with their eyes closed. Again, with practice, they became more and more comfortable. 

Body Scan

Tell students that a simple technique called a body scan can help them relax. It can be used to before bed, before a test, before an athletic event, or any time they feel tense or anxious.

Guide students through a body scan by saying,

Begin by focusing on your breath. Notice the sensation of the air moving into and out of your nose and lungs. Notice the expansion and contraction of your chest and abdomen as you breathe.

Move your attention to your feet. Feel the weight of your feet pressing down on the floor. Breathe deeply. Fell the air bringing new energy down to your feet.

Next bring your awareness to up to your calves and upper leg. Notice any tension. Feel your clothes brushing against your skin.

Shift awareness to your back and stomach. Notice any tension there. Continue deep breathing to release the tension. 

Move your awareness to your shoulders and then your jaw and head. Draw breath into each area to release tension. Breath and release. Breath and release.

Practicing Mindfulness

Just like anything, it is only through practice that we learn to direct our thoughts in positive directions and imagine new possibilities.

You can also encourage students to write about their mindfulness experiences and practice techniques for calming themselves, finding focus, and promoting their own joy. In my 30 Days of Mindfulness Journal, students will write about gratitude, happiness, acts of kindness, positive and negative feelings, and nature. They will learn a variety of mindfulness techniques, and they will always have practices they can call upon when needed. 

You can get it here: 

In just a few minutes, you can introduce students to mindfulness, a state in which the brain is relaxed, but focused. Mindful practices can provide students with a lifetime of mind and body benefits and will help kids manage stress, improve concentration, and increase self-control. It can also promote kindness and empathy toward others! Learn some simple mindfulness exercises here!

Eckhart Tolle said it well. "In today's rush, we all think too much -- seek too much -- want too much -- and forget about the joy of just being."

Mindfulness practice centers us and reminds us just to be.

Do you practice mindfulness, either alone or with students? I would love to hear about your experiences!

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