Introduction

In this day and age, students are faced with ever-increasing academic expectations, competitive classrooms, and both real and virtual bullying (Mindfulness and Learning, 2016). In addition, with technology at our fingertips and large class sizes, competing diversions are constantly challenging learners at all times of the day and in all locations. For many, this offers an enticing escape from the present moment, but it can also create a state of overwhelm that triggers the amygdala into a “fight, flight, or freeze response.” Unfortunately, both of these scenarios foster an unhealthy mindset for which more and more teachers, professionals, and parents seek a solution.

Luckily, there are a number of methods that can help students, and new research suggests that exposing children, at an early age to strategies, can help optimize academic, social, and emotional potential (Goguen-Hughes, 2015; Jennings, 2016). What’s more, teachers, therapists, and parents can benefit too (Rechtschaffen, 2016; Kabat-Zinn, 2017; Siegel, & Bryson, 2019). There are a number of valuable solutions that utilize mindfulness, meditation, metacognition, breathing exercises, hemisphere integration activities, and brain breaks.

The Research and Comprehensive Approach Behind Multisensory Brain Break Meditations (MBBM):

MBBM was created after an extensive search through the current research. In addition, we also consulted with top experts with an intention of combining the most effective methods into a quick, simple, and multisensory approach for teaching preschool through middle school teachers and their students the needed skills to activate both hemispheres of the brain, regulate emotions, utilize metacognitive skills, as well as manage stress, learning challenges, and attentional difficulties. The underlying goal was to create an approach that gets the mind and body in optimal shape for learning.

 

Why do Learners Need Both Cognitive and Emotional Skills?

Research in neuroscience reveals that the prefrontal cortex, which manages higher-level cognition, also plays an important role in processing and regulating emotions. Therefore, “learning involves both a cognitive and emotive schema....” This evidence has “forced us to rethink the relationship between reason and emotion. Not only does academic learning depend on social and emotional skills, but it is virtually impossible to disentangle the two" (Barseghian, 2016).

Why Should Students Meditate?

Mindful meditation is a mental training practice that involves focusing on the breath and managing thoughts and emotions in the present moment. It can involve breathing exercises, mental imagery, awareness of the body and mind, and conscious body relaxation.

According to the research, mindful meditation enables children to manage their attention, direct their thoughts, and regulate their emotions (Colzato, Ozturk, & Hommel, 2012; Modesto-Lowe, 2015; Rechtschaffen, 2016; Tang, 2017; Wisner, 2017). In addition, it is an effective way to manage executive functioning skills, distracting thoughts, and cognitive processing (Biegel, Chang, Garrett, & Edwards, 2014; Burrows, 2017; Colzato, Ozturk, & Hommel, 2012; Flook, Goldberg, Pinger, & Davidson, R, 2015; Flook, Smalley, Kitil, Galla, Kaiser-Greenland, Locke, & Kasari, 2010; Schonert- Reichl, Oberle, Lawlor, Abbott, Thomson, Oberlander, & Diamond, 2015; Vestergaard- Poulsen, Beek, Skewes, Bjarkam, Stubberup, Bertelsen, & Roepstorff, 2009). Mindful meditation also improves memory because, it calms the amygdala, feeds the brain with oxygen, and helps students drop into the moment (Spaeder, 2019; Kabat-Zinn, 2017). Furthermore, mindful meditation can prevent the deterioration of working memory during periods of high stress (Jha, Stanley, Kiyonaga, Wong, and Gelfand, 2019). Finally, mindful meditation has also been shown to increase creativity and learning capacity at large (Barseghian, 2013; Choi, Krause, & Dierynck, 2018; Goguen- Hughes, 2015). In fact, Seigal & Bryson (2019) suggest that mindful meditations integrate the brain and help children feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure.

This new mindset creates a receptive state for learning. Luckily, children are often open and able to commit to the habit of meditation when teachers and parents bring this activity into their daily lives and, if game-like activities are used to teach the process, positive outcomes increase yet again (Greenland, & Harris, 2016; Semple, & Lee, 2014; Tang, 2017; Wisner, 2017).

Why Should Students Use Breathing Exercises?

Deep, belly breathing is a simple and mindful practice that offers many benefits. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and it stimulates a relaxed state that helps lower the harmful effects of the stress hormone, cortisol, on the body (Kabat-Zinn, 2017; Spaeder, 2019). A hypothesis provided by Jerath, Crawford, Barnes, Harden, 2015 suggests that breathing stimulates vagal activation of GABA pathways from the prefrontal cortex and insula, to inhibit amygdala over-activity. In addition, it decreases one’s heart rate and also lowers one’s blood pressure (Brown, Gerbarg, & Muench, 2013; Spaeder, 2019). Finally, the belly breath helps to refresh the mind and enhance the ability to learn, focus, concentrate and memorize (Spaeder, 2019; Kabat-Zinn, 2017; King, D. 2018). The brain requires oxygen to function and this increased, mindful intake helps students achieve clarity and increase productivity (Spaeder, 2019; Kabat-Zinn, 2017; King, D. 2018).

What are the Benefits of Multisensory Instruction?

A multisensory approach to learning, multisensory teaching, or multisensory instruction, is a way of teaching that engages students by implementing lessons that activate more than one sense at a time. Sensory ways of teaching engage greater numbers of students when compared to traditional teaching methods (Shams and Seitz, 2008). However, in my practice and materials, I like to take it to new heights by honoring all twelve ways of processing information so students remain fully engaged in the learning process.

  1. Visual Learning: incorporates pictures, drawings, and even personal visualizations. This helps students learn through imagery.

  2. Auditory Learning: involves learning through listening. This helps students to learn how to focus on and determine the salient information from what they are hearing.

  3. Tactile Learning: consists of touching or feeling objects or artifacts. It also involves the encoding of information when taking notes or drawing things out.

  4. Kinesthetic Learning: encompasses learning while moving one’s body. For many students, movement can help enhance engagement in learning and memory of information.

  5. Sequential Learning: entails teaching students in a step-by-step manner that sequences instruction by time, alphabetical order, or a numerical series. This prepares students for outlines, timelines, completing long-term assignments, and keeping materials organized.

  6. Simultaneous Learning: involves teaching children how to categorize materials. This prepares students for webbing information, conceptualizing main ideas, understanding flow charts, and diagrams, as well as keeping materials organized.

  7. Verbal Learning: incorporates teaching children how to process ideas aloud. This helps students participate in class discussions and feel comfortable expressing ideas.

  8. Interactive Learning: consists of teaching children how to work with others. This trains learners to collaborate and work in groups.

  9. Logical/Reflective Learning: encompasses teaching children how to reflect upon or think about what they are learning. This prepares students to work independently and process ideas internally. 

  10. Indirect Experience Learning: entails teaching children how to watch and learn from a demonstration. This helps students attend to and glean information from vicarious learning experiences.

  11. Direct Experience Learning: involves teaching children how to use their own environment to learn. This informs students that continuing education is ever-present in our everyday surroundings and that there are fabulous learning experiences available through museums, aquariums, historic sites, and other locales.

  12. Rhythmic Melodic Learning: consists of teaching children how to use melodies and rhythm to learn. This provides students the tools to utilize beats, songs, or melodies when trying to memorize novel information.

What are Brain Brakes, and Why Are They Effective?

For new information to be encoded into memory, it passes through the amygdala, an emotional filter, before it goes to the prefrontal cortex. When students’ brains become anxious, highly confused, or overwhelmed, the activation of the amygdala puts the brain in a state of “fight, flight or freeze.” Learning comes to a halt because the information is held up in a part of the brain that is unable to make sense of and encode the content. Even if students are comfortable with the pace or content, “a point often arises when the amygdala exceeds its capacity to manage information through its networks into memory” (Godwin, Almeda, Seltman, Kai, Skerbetz, Baker, & Fisher, 2016; Willis, 2016). Brain breaks can be used to restore the emotional state needed to reboot the amygdala and return it to an optimal state for the flow of information (Godwin, Almeda, Seltman, Kai, Skerbetz, Baker, & Fisher, 2016; Willis, 2016).

Why Activate Both Hemispheres of the Brain?

It is common knowledge that the brain’s two hemispheres are joined by a bundle of nerves that pass across the corpus callosum. Although this pathway exists, it is not always used, and many people get by using half of their brain. However, by utilizing the power of both hemispheres, students can create an internal environment for optimal learning.

Mindfulness, as well as physical activities, get the hemispheres communicating (Siegel, D. & Bryson, T, 2019). Crossing the midline activities/exercises are any physical movements when the arms and/or legs cross an invisible line that separates the right and left sides of the body (Siegel, D. & Bryson, 2019). When this is done, both hemispheres are activated and bilateral coordination is also developed. For almost every activity that we perform, hemisphere integration is essential because it allows us to unite and comprehend multiple sensory inputs (Siegel, D. & Bryson, T, 2019). Dr. Dan Seigel suggests, “A healthy and productive mind emerges from a process called integration" (Siegel, & Bryson, 2019).

What are the Resources in this Publication?

I worked with a dream team of experts and we have combined these theories and practices in a multisensory format to help preschool through middle school students learn mindful breath meditations and self-regulation approaches that calm the amygdala, activate both hemispheres of the brain, and get the mind and body in optimal shape for learning. This publication offers a number of multisensory resources to help students and their instructors learn and practice daily mediations.  

What is Included in the Publication?

7 Text Files

  1. Multisensory Brain Break Meditations Manual (18 pages)
    1. Background research that supports this publication.
    2. Step-by-step instructions.
  2. Color my Best Breath Experience (4 pages) is a fun lesson and coloring activity to help students be mindful of their breath. It also encourages students to draw and visualize their best breath. Suggested discussion questions are also presented.
  3. Visualization Meditations Scripts (12 pages) allow teachers to read aloud meditations to their students.
  4. Tactile Meditation Handouts (5 pages) enable learners to see, feel, and experience an organized representation of a 4-2-4-2 breath. Please note that you can always use a 4-1-4-1 breath if it is uncomfortable for students to hold their breath for two seconds. See this publication for more information.
  5. Tactile Meditation Scripts (10 pages) offer scripts that can be read to students when they are working with the Tactile Meditations Handouts. 
  6. Kinesthetic Meditation Scripts (11 pages) offer scripts that can be read aloud to students. These can be used once they have watched, followed, and learned the kinesthetic videos.
  7. Additional Breath Handouts (7 pages) the 4-2-4-2 and the 4-1-4-1 are just one of many breathing options when doing these meditations. Students can also experiment with a number of other breaths that are presented as printable handouts.
    1. The Sloth Breath: The Sloth Breath creates a cooling and calming effect on the body.
    2. The Hummingbird Breath: The Hummingbird Breath is a quick way to heat the body and promote quick energy.
    3. The Puppy Breath: The Puppy Breath brings oxygen to the brain and helps students wake up and feel alert.
    4. The Bumblebee Breath: The Bumblebee Breath can be used to calm the mind and inspire creativity.
    5. The Rock and Roll Wave Breath: The Rock and Roll Wave Breath is calming but also energizing.

9 Audio Files

Audio Meditations: 

As students learn to manage their breath and meditate, they can be introduced to the audio meditations.

  1. Butterfly Belly Breath Meditation: This short meditation (3:59) helps students practice the belly breath, so they can learn how to use it to maintain their attention.
  2. Busy Bumblebee Finds His Breath and His Way Home: This short meditation (2:50) helps students learn the belly breath and understand how using this breath can help them to regulate their emotions and find their attention.
  3. Bubble Breath - Being Your Best Self: This short meditation (4:45) allows students to visualize a past experience at school that was difficult and helps them to learn from it and let it go.
  4. Slow Down Sloth and Hummingbird Body Scan: This short meditation (3:48) allows students to visualize and experience a relaxing body scan with the help of two sloths and a hummingbird.
  5. Manage your Energy Control Station – Increasing your Energy Level: This short meditation (3:59) helps students learn how to increase their energy level with the use of visualizations and breath.
  6. Manage your Energy Control Station – Decreasing your Energy Level: This short meditation (4:02) helps students learn how to decrease their energy level with the use of visualizations and breath.

Drum Beat & Nature Sounds for use with Meditation Scripts: 

Background sounds can aid in the meditation process when a teacher, therapist, or parent wishes to use the scripts or just want to complete the visual and tactile activities with some sounds. (The beat can help students count out the 4-2- 4-2 or the 4-1-4-1 breath).

  1. Bird Sounds and Drum Beat (5:17)
  2. Ocean Sounds and Drum Beat (4:18)
  3. Rainforest Sounds and Drum Beat (4:23)

5 Video Files (1 Tactile and 4 kinesthetic)

Visual/Tactile Meditation Directions: (2:26) This video offers a demonstration of the four tactile resources. 

  1. Tactile Meditation Directions: (2:26) This video offers a demonstration of the four tactile resources.

Kinesthetic Meditations Directions:

  1. Kinesthetic Bumble Bee Breath Meditation (2:14) This video offers a demonstration of this meditation.
  2. Kinesthetic Butterfly Breath Meditation (2:40) This video presents a demonstration of this meditation.
  3. Kinesthetic Slow Down Sloth Breath Meditation (1:58) This video shows a demonstration of this meditation.
  4. Kinesthetic Puppy Pause Breath Meditation (2:08) This video offers a demonstration of this meditation.


Full references are offered in the course.

Course Curriculum

  • 1

    Module 1: Manual for this Publication

    • Teacher and Parent Manual for Multisensory Brain Break Meditations

  • 2

    Module 2: Color My Best Breath Experience Lesson

    • Color My Best Breath Experience

  • 3

    Module 3: Busy Bee Belly Breath

    • Busy Bumblebee Finds His Breath and His Way Home (also available in Module 5)

    • Busy Bumblebee Finds His Breath and His Way Home

    • Visualization Meditation Scripts

  • 4

    Module 4: Visualization Meditation Scripts

    • How to Use the Visualization Meditation Scripts

    • Visualization Meditation Scripts

  • 5

    Module 5: Audio Meditations

    • Busy Bumblebee Finds His Breath and His Way Home (also available in Module 3)

    • Butterfly Breath Mediation Playing Attention

    • Slow Down Sloth and Hummingbird Body Scan

    • Manage your Energy Control Station Meditation - Increasing Energy

    • Manage Your Energy Control Station Meditation - Decreasing Energy

    • Bubble Breath - Being Your Best Self

    • Additional Breath Meditations and Handouts

  • 6

    Module 6: Tactile Meditations

    • Tactile Meditations Directions

    • Tactile Meditation Presentation.pdf

    • Tactile Meditation Handouts

    • Tactile Meditation Scripts

  • 7

    Module 7: Kinesthetic Meditations

    • Kinesthetic Butterfly Breath Meditation

    • Kinesthetic Slow Down Sloth Meditation

    • Puppy Pause Breath Meditation

    • Kinesthetic Bumble Bee Breath Meditation

    • Kinesthetic Meditation Scripts

  • 8

    Module 9: Drum Beat & Nature Sounds for Use with Meditations or Activities

    • Directions for Drum Beat and Nature Sounds

    • Bird Sounds and Drum Beat (5:17)

    • Ocean Sounds and Drum Beat (4:18)

    • Rainforest Sounds and Drum Beat (4:23)

Instructor(s)

Learning Specialist, Educational Therapist, Author of Educational Materials and Course Creator

Dr. Erica Warren

Dr. Erica Warren is an educational therapist/learning specialist and executive functioning coach but tells her students that she is much like a personal trainer for the brain and magician because she offers fun exercises and tricks to make learning both fun and memorable. She is an avid blogger, vlogger and podcaster and Dr. Warren has over 150 popular, educational publications at Good Sensory Learning that include multisensory lessons, games and activities for professionals and parents that help learners strengthen areas of weak cognition or academics while kindling a love for learning. She also offers teacher training courses and she has a full time New York practice, Learning to Learn where she empowers students of all ages to maximize their learning potential. Aspiring to empower “out of the box” learners, Dr. Warren created a degree program that united coursework and research in School Psychology, Special Education, Psychology, and Adult Education. With a full assistantship at the UGA Learning Disability Center in assessment, she pursued a doctorate that focused on life-long issues in learning, special education, the impact of learning difficulties across the lifespan, and comprehensive diagnostic evaluations. In addition, she earned a full assistantship with the National Science Foundation while working towards a Master's degree in Educational Psychology. Finally, Dr. Warren often refers to her bachelor’s degree in fine arts, “as my secret weapon as it brings joy, color, and creativity into my sessions.”

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