Primary schools positive psychology and physical literacy for mental health and emotional well-being.
A class room experience.
The class sessions started with me saying good morning, the response from 28 year four students was like a drone, a dull sound lacking energy. I asked the students about the characters from Winnie the Pooh and explain that my character, my favourite character was Eeyore.
I then proceeded to show them physically and walked around with my head down repeating the words ‘I think I’ll go home now.’ In an Eeyore tone, how they laugh at me.
I shared with them that this feeling, that I was felling, was because of the dull un-energised response to my question, so we tried it again and they totally understood for the response was positive, constructive and controlled. My body language then changed to be fuller more upright and proud and this I thanked them for. I explained that it made me feel more engaged, energised and happier to be in the hall.
At St John’s primary school Ealing they have four quadrants of emotions, four colours with faces and words within them. This is to help the students recognised and understand their emotions.
We started the class with 21 big breath breathing cycles, this is something they learn on their first lesson and we repeat in every class. Completing this I asked them to show me an angry body that is full of anger but without sound. This is to get them used to what their body does and what it feels like to be angry. There was lots of facial expressions, a lot of pointing fingers and some fists there was also some almost sulky expressions. Then I asked them to show me what it looks like to be scared, some of them showed the same so I encourage them to explore what the body feels like and looks like being scared. I would select one or two students who displayed it well to show the rest of the class what scared looks like or what anger looks like. This peer example encourages and motivates the others to explore the two different emotions.
What we have just covered here is the colour red so that the young students can now associate and start to connect emotions and feelings. It was at this point, after we have explored anger and scared but I asked them what they feel. Receiving this feedback from the students engages them more and when I praised them for their feedback, good or bad and give my reasons why we then have more involvement from other students. Some of the students said that they ‘felt hot, sweaty, dry mouth, not happy.’ And when you have a happy student they tell you they’re still happy even when they try to show you anger. So, we must explore some of those feelings and body expressions.
Then we come to the next quadrant yellow so I asked the children to show me what annoyed body postures were, this was interesting as some showed anger so I then changed to disappointed then we have a change of body language which is good. Show me worried, the facial expressions and body language changes again, so their beginning to differentiate between words and the body, what it feels like. I ask again to show me annoyed and then there is a significant change between the body language of annoyed and anger they begin to differentiate between the two. Similarly letting them express silliness, without sound. We then talk about these feelings, the body language and then put the association of the colour yellow. Asking them would you like to be in the yellow space or in the red space and they all said as they worked in the yellow space. Positive connections are being made.
Next quadrant Blue. Tired and Sick are in this one, a lot of them would lie down on the floor tired and sick. I asked them to stand up so I could see how they showed it. This is about body language and communicating using the body, emotions and feelings. Next was bored very good at bored I try to encourage students to understand bored because it is actually quite a nice place to be and to progress from. Sad, this one I shared with them a story of my experience of putting one of my pets to sleep. I spoke about my feeling at the time and how I now think of all the fun I use to have with my pet who died, passed away, 15 years ago. During this they could hear my voice change along with my face and body and when I told them a funny storey of my pet the obvious change in my sadness has become positive. Hungry the classic holding the belly, hungry sad shoulders dropping, facial expressions. So again, associating the colour blue with these emotions is important and again identifying and differentiating between blue, yellow and red. How their body feels, how their emotions combined with it.
And now the green quadrant, we now explore happy, how wonderful the body feels to be happy and then calm they start out doing the big breath, so they show that they know the connection that the breath helps to calm them down, now instinctively. Beautiful feelings of calmness and happiness together showing in their body. We talked about the colours the different emotions and we jumped from them to yellow shown the yellow emotions worried annoyed nervous or disappointed. So, become a game for them as we went to each quadrant. We spoke about the choices of what quadrant we could be in and how we can choose to be in a different one when needed. How you choose to change. And how the breathing helps them change, so if they are angry and focused on their breathing it would help them to calm down and be happy, they established they could go from red to green.
At this point I added in a new green one a new green expression and this was the Positive Posture of Power the three PPP’s
First, I asked the children to show me how would they would celebrate when they achieve something good or if there was and an athlete crossing the winning line like Mo Farah. Or any form of sporting star, how they celebrate that, how they show their winning posture. This engaged their body and their expressions, good fun, but encouraging all the students to take part walking around the hall to encourage and praising them for their efforts, helping them to understand how good it feels to find those feelings and positively sharing them. Then I asked them to think about their favourite superhero, whoever that maybe, it doesn’t matter, but to show me the body posture of a superhero. Some are obvious Superman, Spiderman and then we get to the fun bit. I asked them to combine their feeling of achievement with their superhero so they create their own Positive Posture of Power. I explained to them that they can use this at times when they are struggling, if they were feeling a bit yellow or even blue they can use their PPP’s.
This at this point I take photographs of all of them in their PPP’S so that we have evidence which can be used as photographs within the classroom to remind them of the positivity of their posture. This can also be used as a spot check of fun for the teachers to randomly ask a student to demonstrate their PPP. This I recommend you do in the corridor because in the playground you will have all the whole school wanting to show you.
This should always be with and at a time when a student is feeling good as this begins to build a constructive understanding of their body and emotions. It will broaden their field of emotional understanding, and it can also assist in supporting a constructive mindset of change. The longer it is engaged the better the response.
It should not be used to pull a student out of a deep spate of sulking or anger, in a major Red.
I then instruct the students to embrace the posture, a Tai Chi posture, which is static, and is called embracing the tree. I have renamed this as koala bear resting this is where they have a wide, horse stance, and the hands are at shoulder level creating a circle around their body as if they’re holding a large balloon between their hands and chest. When they are in koala bear resting, I asked them to apply their The PPP into their posture as if the bursting out, but they have got to keep the shape of koala bear resting. This develops an understanding of positive calmness, develops mindfulness, cognitive discipline, breathing awareness, standing meditation, strength in stillness and much more. It must have the element of challenge for the individuals development.
This one experience of Tony Ulatowski teaching Tai Chi in primary school’s physical education curriculum time. Tony is the UK’s leading authority in this field.
He is also qualified in positive psychology, teamwork, coaching and the CEO of Consciousbreathworks tm.
*The mood meter http://moodmeterapp.com/
*Barbara Fredrickson, Broaden Build theory
*Amy Cuddy, Power Poses