Minds on Learning

Supporting Students' Self-Awareness & Self-Regulation

Hello, ______________________! I notice your eyes are...

Learning: Activation & Installation

Dr. Hanson's work is grounded in positive neuroplasticity and the amazing potential of our brains to become more resilient. He offers several strategies that we can practice (and teach our students!)

Have a beneficial experience. Notice it or create it.

E- Enrich it. Stay fully with it, feeling it completely.

A- Absorb it: Receive it into yourself.

L- Link it (optional). Use it to soothe and replace painful, harmful psychological material.

Resilient, by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

My Go-To Middle School Resource

But I'm Required to Teach the Common Core!

Connecting Social Emotional Learning to Michigan's School Improvement Framework

Note how Literacy Essentials align to SEL competencies!

K-3 4-5 6-12

Let's approach our learning today considering how the literacy standards, activities and resources we choose can suppport our students' social-emotional literacy.

"Research demonstrates that human development and student learning are highly dependent on interpersonal relationships and positive learning environments (Eccles et al., 1993). However, school improvement efforts often focus on students’ mastery of academic skills with much less emphasis on students’ social and emotional skills, which are integral to human development and are a contributing factor to school culture."

Build the Foundation

Our students need to feel grounded and safe

  • .43 Teacher Expectations

    • Reduce anxiety

    • OK to make mistakes

    • Not yet

  • .72 Teacher/Student Relationships

  • Mirror neurons/chameleon effect

    • Smile .36 workplace performance

    • demeanor/posture/gestures/facial expression/smile/eye contact

10 Mindframes for Visible Learning

Potential Benefits of Mindfulness Integration

A number of studies have identified the psychological benefits, as well as positive changes to the brain. Research on academic improvement is emerging, as this article indicates. Implementing consistent calming, focus, and awareness practices in our classrooms can:

  • Improve classroom climate -engagement, attention, participation, social behavior
  • Improve academic performance - focus, cognitive skills/executive function/working memory
  • Mitigate the effects of bullying (Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun, & Fan, 2016)
  • Provide more self-control, self-awareness & insight
  • Reduce symptoms related to stress, anxiety & depression
  • Reduce test anxiety
  • Reduce suspension rates & teacher turnover
  • Reduce ADHD symptoms & hyperactivity (Zhang et al., 2016)

Teach Students Physical Presence

1. Help children be present in their physical bodies.

2. Teach them how stress hijacks the brain & nervous system.

  • Hippocampus: regulates emotions; plays an important role in learning & memory. Manages our responses to threats.
  • Amygdala: reacts to fear, threat, or danger and can become over-reactive. If we are in a calm, positive state, it sends information through to our thinking, reasoning brain. If we are in a negative state, that information is blocked. (Fight, flight, or freeze)
  • Pre-Frontal Cortex: responsible for attention, problem-solving, planning, & self-regulation. Information is limited to this area if our brains are under stress.

3. Teach them practices that will help them regulate their physical bodies.

Strategies for Physical Awareness

Intentional Movement: Slow motion movement: writing slowly; Breathe & walk; Moon Walk

From Chaos to Calm (aka Shake it Off): Tighten up face, fists, bodies on an inhale; relax on the exhale X 10; then relax completely X 10. Move to shaking and freezing. Have students notice what each state feels like in the body? What is different? What does it feel like to shift?

Rainstorm: Rub hands together, then tap on lap, slowly then quickly; clap hands high for lightning; stomp feet for thunder...then go backwards to still and quiet.

Imagination Breathing: Spider-man breath, Crocodile Breath, Butterfly Breath; Snake Breath; Bumblebee;

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Hey! This works for you, too!)

Teach Students Mental Awareness

1. Teach students to observe how their attention in interrupted by distractions.

2. Teach them how to get their attention back each time they are distracted.

3. Remember: these skills take time and practice!

“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again, is the very root of judgement, character and will. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence. But it is easier to define this ideal than to give practical instructions for bringing it about. --William James, Principles of Psychology, 1890


  • Distractions/Attention

  • Anchor Breathing

  • Focus Breath (candle, object; practice distractions)

  • Listening -using the ears to focus; hold the sound until the end; guess the sounds; listen for sounds they hadn’t noticed

  • The Distraction Game:

    • What is distraction?

    • What does distraction & impulsivity feel like on the inside?

    • what distracts you? What can you do to refocus?

Affirmations & Growth Mindset

Affirmations for Kids-- I AM:

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The ABC's of Life

Writing Connection: The ABC's of Life

  • Accept the Challenge
  • Believe in Yourself
  • Choice not Chance Determines Success

Give students one to write about and discuss each day/week...OR create your classroom ABC's of Life!

Teach Students Emotional Awareness

1. Teach the language of emotions.

2. Teach students to notice their thoughts and the correlating sensations in their bodies.

3. This will allow students to identify and regulate emotions before reacting.

Literacy Connection:

On Monday When It Rained

Listening to My Body

Positive Ninja

The Secret to Clara's Calm

Helping students identify their emotions

  • What does it look like in your face?

  • What does it look like in your body? Posture

  • Our range of emotions are okay and temporary

Strategies for Emotional Regulation: BREATHE

Vacuum Breath

This can be a very helpful exercise to do when you are feeling anxious or dysregulated or if there is conflict or stress in the classroom. The goal is to collect all of the anxious energy and then release it all out. This is a great exercise for teachers to do on their own, too!

  • Imagine that you have a vacuum cleaner in your stomach that you can suck up any tension or stress.
  • As you take a long inhale, imagine that any stress from your head, shoulders, chest, is getting sucked down into the bottom of your belly.
  • Then you hold the breath for 3 seconds in your belly .
  • When you release, imagine that you are releasing any gunk down into the ground (Model a powerful exhalation and repeat this 3-5 times).

7/11 Breath

  • Count to 7 on the inhale; 11 on the exhale (start with 3/5, 5/7)
  • Repeat 3-5 times
  • Used by paramedics, firefighters, and first responders
  • Also: Square Breath-Inhale to 4, hold for 4, Exhale to 4, hold for 4)

Let the clouds come and go

  • 3 breaths

  • Dark clouds

  • Breathe them away

“Today I’m going to be…”


Visualize the Calm

Mental rehearsal has been shown to be effective for athletes; the brain responds to visualization; body reacts as if it is actually happening.

For the next three minutes, visualize of one or more of the following favorite, reassuring, and uplifting items in as much detail as you can.

  • Favorite color(s)

  • Favorite wise person

  • Favorite healthy food

  • Favorite song or sound

  • Favorite peaceful place

  • Favorite animal

  • Favorite natural setting

  • Favorite quote

  • Favorite soothing activity

Teach Students Social Awareness

Our brains are hard-wired for compassion, empathy, and kindness!

1. Teach students to be intentional in their social interactions.

2. Teach students forgiveness, acceptance, kindness.

3. Teach students to understand others and their impact on others.


  • Increases optimism; happiness, self-worth

  • More compassion, generosity, forgiveness, stronger relationships

  • Better sleep

  • Greater resilience

Strategies for Cultivating Social Awareness

Thankful Book

*Write a letter of gratitude to someone who made a difference in your life

*Send a text

Kindness/Compassion/Positive Qualities

Flow and Tell: “In the present moment, I’m aware of…”

Rose & Thorn (great for reflection)

Mindful Games Activity Cards (Great for Kids & Teens)

Integrate thematic units that exemplify positive qualities (See Every Child a Super Reader: belonging, curiosity, friendship, kindness, confidence, courage, and hope)

Belonging: Community River

Cut out different color "stones" and give several to each student. They will write their name on the back and then respond to the following (or prompts of your choice), one on each stone:
  • I like to learn about...
  • My favorite author is...
  • My favorite type of book is...
  • Something that makes me happy...
  • When I read I like to...
  • Something I like to do for fun is...
  • I can help my classmates with...

Adhere to a "river" on the wall. Students can notice what they have in common, what makes them unique, what makes them special.

"I'm Doing Yogurt!!"

Teach Students Global Awareness

1. Teach students to understand how their actions impact the world and their connection to it.

2. Provide opportunities for students to experience and explore nature.

3. Investigate where an object or food item came from: what is it made of? How was it produced? What happens to it when we are done with it?

Other Integration "Pause-abilities"

  • Peaceful Pause during morning announcements, before transitions, lunch or recess

  • Integration in PE/Health, advisory, or other elective

  • Get students involved in leading mini-movement/breathing practices throughout the day

  • Integration into Positive Behavior Support/Restorative Practices

  • Natural integration into classroom culture in all content areas

  • Lessons/activities for attention, emotional control, positive self-concept, positive interactions

  • Lunch or After School Club

“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being” (Eckhart Tolle).

Taking Care of YOU

Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators

  1. Know yourself
  2. Understand your emotions
  3. Tell empowering stories: Try This! 3 Good Things
  4. Build community
  5. Be here now
  6. Take care of yourself
  7. Focus on the bright spots
  8. Cultivate compassion
  9. Be a learner
  10. Play and create
  11. Ride the waves of change
  12. Celebrate & appreciate



Write it down!

Something you’ll commit to:

  • Right away

  • Next few months

  • Before the end of the year

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Lisa Madden, MACT, RYT 500, E-RYT 200, YACEP

Lisa Madden is a Learning Coach for Lapeer Community Schools, coaching other educators on the implementation of evidence-based practices. Lisa started her career in education over 25 years ago as a high school English teacher in beautiful Suttons Bay. She transitioned to Lapeer County, where she worked as an Education Consultant at LCISD, then Supervisor of ELA and Social Studies for Lapeer Community Schools, and Coordinator of Curriculum & Special Projects at Genesee ISD.

A student of yoga for over 20 years, Lisa is a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, and founded IN2 Yoga in Lapeer, MI in 2016. This blend of experience has cultivated her commitment to advocate for the integration of mindfulness practices and social-emotional learning; attention to educators' well-being and resilience; and the fostering of healthy, supportive relationships within classrooms, schools, and systems. Lisa completed her 300-hour yoga certification through the Beaumont School of Yoga Therapy, and is currently studying for her Yoga Therapy Level III Certification. She has also studied Yin Yoga under Joe Barnett, and Restorative Yoga with Jillian Pransky.

Questions? Contact Us!