Imagine this: A group of twenty-five 5th graders transitioning from lunch/recess back to the classroom. The only thing between the cafeteria and the classroom is a narrow, steep staircase. What would that sound, look and feel like? If you answered rumbling, crowded and chaotic, you are correct.
After a couple of weeks tolerating the madness, I decided to apply a bit of creative mindful imagery. Instead of meeting students at the door to help shift the energy, I met them at the bottom of the staircase. I let them all gather into a group and quiet down before issuing this single instruction: Today the staircase is a rainbow. Silently, walk up the rainbow.
Now, imagine how the scene shifted. How did this single direction change the sound, look and feel of this transition? If you answered quiet, serene and sublime, you got it.
Did a few eyes roll at first? Sure. Were a couple of students apprehensive about the idea? Of course. Do most students revel in the idea of their next standardized test? No. Do you get my point?
Let’s not be afraid to use our imaginations and creativity to elicit helpful behavior from our students. The same students who initially thought the rainbow idea was “weird,” also benefited from the shift in behavior by the whole class.
What happened the next day? I met them again at the base of the staircase. One instruction: Walk in silence up this snowy mountain. You would have thought a cold breeze swept through the stairwell. Students instantly crossed their arms to get warm and made their way.
Day 3, I posted a sign at the bottom of the stairs: Tiptoe silently up the dragon’s back.
After a week of this practice, using intriguing imagery, my students were warmed up to the idea that walking quietly and calmly up the stairs was a better way to start the class than jamming up the stairs in a hurry. The transition shifted from one of frantic incoherence to a mindful ascent.
What other imagery could be applied to create a mindful transition? Please share your creative ideas in the comments.