Mindfulness in the Classroom

By: Kristine Burgess, M.S.Ed. (Reading Department Head at Landmark High School)

The Landmark School Outreach Program's mission is to empower students with language-based learning disabilities by offering their teachers an exemplary program of applied research and professional development.

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Mindfulness is a growing practice that involves being present in the current moment. In order to arrive at this state of awareness, research suggests several activities. Most of these practices involve the key term “mind-body medicine,” which refers to all activities that connect the mind to the body (mental to physical).

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice meaning “to live fully in the present moment with intention and without judgement” (Kriyonich, 2017). It’s the act of paying attention to what you are doing while you are doing it (Buck, 2017) or being present in the moment.

Why teach mindfulness?

Study outcomes suggest that mindful meditation decreases anxiety and detrimental self-focus, which, in turn, promotes social skills and academic success for students with learning disabilities (Beauchemin, 2008). Research over the years has seen a benefit of mindfulness in each of the following areas:

  • Social emotional health: The practice of mindfulness helps students to increase self-esteem and self-acceptance, reduce stress levels by taking a break from the day, and develop a sense of calm. Did you know that 3 calming breaths can reset the amygdala (the emotion center of the brain)?
  • Physical, intellectual, and cognitive abilities: Consistent incorporation of mindfulness has been shown to decrease heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and muscular tension. It can increase immune and digestive functions, as well as improve executive functions. Overall, mindfulness can strengthen attentional capacities of the brain.
  • Metacognitive thinking: By utilizing mindfulness principles, students can “create space” in their minds by counting to 10, possibly also using a physical anchor (such as the hand on the stomach). This process brings awareness to the brain and body.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A University of California study found that sustained mindfulness practice provided results comparable to pharmaceuticals used to treat ADHD. With the understanding that the brain is a muscle, students can use mindfulness to train direct attention to specific stimulants. In order to develop this skill, students might begin with cues for focused listening. This helps to hone sensation versus perception in instances where one might notice something but not react to it. All of these skills help to regulate attention.

How can mindfulness be incorporated into the classroom?


One popular mindfulness practice requires people to reflect on what they have to be grateful for. In the day to day hustle, it can be easy to become bogged down in the negative and forget to be thankful for all the good in our lives. Here are some suggestions of ways to include gratitude practice in the classroom:

  • Gratitude Jar or Journal: Have students record at least one thing they are thankful for as they come in the class each day. These thoughts can go on slips of paper or in journals. When students (or educators) are having a particularly bad day, they can review some of the gratitude statements to remind them of more positive times. Educators report that they enjoy reading through a gratitude jar over the summer.
  • Gratitude Wall: The same concept applies to a gratitude wall. With this idea, students post statements about what they are grateful for. The wall serves as a constant and prominent reminder of all the good in our lives.


Deep breathing is a powerful stress relief tool. It sends signals to the brain to calm down, particularly the amygdala, which is the emotion center of the brain. Three calming breaths can be all it takes to reset this emotion center. When a student is feeling particularly stressed or needs a moment or two to transition from an activity or a class, consider:

  • DeStress Monday: Project a shape from the website Destress Monday (as seen to the right) to help guide students’ as they breathe deeply. The shape gives their breath a structure to follow and a focus for attention.
  • Anchor: Including a physical anchor, such as a hand on the stomach, can help guide students to experience the specific physical elements associated with deep breathing.
  • Nostril: Popular yoga practice includes using fingers to block nostrils on a rotating breathing schedule. This, again, helps to guide focus and attention to the specifics of the breath. This intentional breath practice is what helps to calm the brain and body.


This ever-growing practice includes many different schools of thought and implementation, but the underlying principles always involve the mind-body connection. While the option of a full yoga class is not always available, educators could consider introducing a few yoga poses as a warm-up or transition activity.

  • Tadasana (Mountain Pose): This pose asks that the arms come to the sides while the feet come hip-width apart. Ground down through the feet, lengthen and straighten the spine, and lift and open the heart.


Meditation is one mindfulness practice involved in training the brain. Research suggests that students are better able to transition from one activity or task to the next when given the time for meditation where they “let go” of the day so far and prepare for what lies ahead. While most people tend to think of meditation as silent reflection and contemplation, there are other ways to incorporate meditation into the classroom:

  • Guided thoughts: Educators have found success with leading students in a 1-2 minute guided meditation where they focus on something specific (visual or auditory) and work on clearing their minds and readying themselves for the next class or activity.
  • Support with sound: When silence becomes difficult, consider following along with meditative sounds. This can help to anchor thoughts and focus.
  • HeadSpace: Some school systems even implement specific programs that instruct and support meditation. Headspace is one option.

How does mindfulness in the classroom connect to Landmark’s Teaching Principles?

Mindfulness as mind-body medicine includes the physical body and the mental process. As educators, we know that it is best to incorporate practices that rely on more than one modality in order to get the full benefit of an educational experience. The suggested mindfulness strategies include auditory, visual, and kinesthetic activities. These activities can even be altered or adjusted to fit each student’s individual needs and styles. The benefits of mindfulness are being studied in even greater detail, but preliminary reports suggest that it can and should become a piece of daily classroom routines.

The incorporation of mindfulness in the classroom is an example of Landmark’s second teaching principle, “Use Multiple Modalities,” because there are a variety of ways to bring this practice into the classroom. Each of the suggested mindfulness methods can include multiple learning style types: auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. Utilizing more than one learning style makes it possible for all types of learners to take part in the practice, and it also provides for more successful learning when differing parts of the body and brain are focused.


Beauchemin, MSW. et al. (2008). Mindfulness Meditation May Lessen Anxiety, Promote Social Skills, and Improve Academic Performance Among Adolescents With Learning Disabilities. Complementary Health Practice Review: Vol. 13. 1. Retrieved from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1533210107311624

Buck, Elliott. 2017. Mindfulness Goes to School: How Meditation Helps Students with ADHD Thrive. ADDitude Webinar.

Kriynovich, Elizabeth. 2017. Benefits of Mindfulness and Metacognition in the LD Classroom. LDA.

Kristine Burgess, M.S.Ed. (Reading Department Head at Landmark High School) (2018)