Picture books are a great fit for middle school classrooms! I’m a sixth grade teacher, and I love using picture books for many reasons. One of my favorite things to do, though, is to use them to bring mindfulness into my classroom. Here are some of my favorite books to use along with activities for each one.
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1. The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito
Yoshio is in tune with all the sounds around him, beautiful in their own way. One day, he meets a koto player whose favorite sound is silence. After this encounter, Yoshio seeks silence everywhere he goes, but struggles to find it, even in nature. Eventually, he discovers the sound of silence, the peace it brings, and how it has been with him all along.
How to use it in your classroom: I use this picture book to teach mindful listening as well as the Japanese concept of ma. Ma is the space that exists between sounds or objects. One of my favorite activities to do in conjunction with this text is to listen to the songs of Toru Takemitsu, a Japanese composer who utilized ma throughout his musical compositions.
2. Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth
This picture book follows the adventures of three siblings who meet a panda named Stillwater. Their adventures leave the reader with short meditations to ponder and challenges them to look more carefully at their habits, desires, ideas, and fears.
How to use it in your classroom: After reading each of the three shorts in the text, I challenge my students to determine what the author wants us to take away from them. For older students, you could challenge them to write their own Zen short to encourage their reader to look more carefully at their life.
3. Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake up Story by Mariam Gates
This picture book introduces yoga to students, beginning with breathing exercises and progressing into poses related to nature. The text concludes with positive affirmations and visualization strategies to get your students ready for the school day.
How to use it in your classroom: You can use this picture book to guide your class through different yoga poses and get them ready for the day through sun breaths, forward folds, and balancing table yoga poses.
4. Meditation Is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids by Whitney Stewart
This picture book shares meditations designed specifically for kids. Each meditation targets a different set of skills, such as kindness, decision-making, or working with big emotions.
How to use it in your classroom: I use this picture book in response to what my class needs in the moment. For example, if my class is getting fidgety, I will guide them through the “Special Place” meditation found in this text.
5. My Magic Breath: Finding Calm Through Mindful Breathing by Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor
Like the title suggests, this picture book guides the reader through mindful breathing. It will help students focus on positive, calm moments.
How to use it in your classroom: I use this text in conjunction with a Hoberman Sphere, and I have students inhale and exhale in response to the sphere expanding and contracting. As you manipulate the sphere, ask students to focus on positive moments from their day, as suggested in the text. This will help minimize the impact negative moments have on them.
How do you bring mindfulness into your classroom? Do you use picture books in middle school? Share your ideas in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out our mindfulness guide for educators.