Using deep breathing practices with children to sustain attention during lessons

As someone who has a great interest in mindfulness and meditation, I decided to explore how using deep breathing practices with young children could be used to foster sustained attention and engagement during lessons. I hoped that as children slowed down their breaths and concentrated on the rhythm of their breathing, they would be able to focus more readily as their parasympathetic nervous system began to have an effect on their bodies. This study proposed that incorporating deep breathing practices daily, immediately before teaching a mathematics lesson would sharpen the children’s focus and attention for the duration of the lesson, leading to better learning, progress and outcomes for Nursery age children. 

Meditative practices are thought to have originated in India several thousand years ago and have long been studied as a means to quieten down and focus the mind. There are many pedagogical grounds for including deep breathing practices as a part of pupil’s daily regimes. “The practice of mediation reduces stress, promotes relaxation and well-being while developing the skills of concentration and self control, while enhancing emotional intelligence and self-esteem”. 

There was a significant improvement in the levels of concentration and engagement displayed by the focus children during the maths carpet sessions. Prior to the commencement of this research, these children did not have a secure knowledge of numbers 1-5 and very poor number recognition. By the end of the research period, their ability to order numbers 1-5 had significantly improved, as well as their general number recognition. These children were actively engaged, listening and interacting in the lessons. The research project was so successful that my placement school decided to permanently include the breathing exercises into the children’s daily routine. Schools will be dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic for many years to come; taking care of the pastoral needs of children will be central to the recovery effort. Similarly, due to the pandemic and consequent school closures, many children will be struggling to catch up and schools will be looking for innovative ways to foster engagement. Incorporating deep breathing practices into everyday classroom life is a way to enhance both wellbeing and engagement; as they go hand in hand. I hope to bring the knowledge and expertise I have gained in these areas with me into my future teaching career. 

By Sarah Ali 

Primary PGCE student