Finding Flow in Our Kindergarten Day

Saturday, 15 September 2018

What do a great yoga class and kindergarten program have in common?

I can sum it up in four letters:

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

I came to this conclusion during a not-so-great yoga experience I had this summer.

The teacher, we'll call her "Yogi," knew the poses well enough, but did many things that disrupted the flow of the class.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

Flow can be defined as moving along in a steady, continuous stream.

It can also be defined as losing ourselves in something.

Both on the mat and in the classroom, it can bring about a sense of calm and focus.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

The best yoga teachers know how to orchestrate a “dance” between themselves and their students that seamlessly pulls you along through a series of movements in a continuous, steady flow.

I've also seen classroom teachers create a flow to their day through well-thought out routines and transitions built around students' needs and development.  

So, how do we get flow?

Well, this is what I'm thinking, during the above mentioned yoga class, as I noted Yogi's mistakes between sips of water and downward dog.

And while that probably wasn't very "yoga-like" of me, it did help me identify 7 flow factors.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

Full disclosure: I too have made every one of Yogi's mistakes as a classroom teacher and have had much to learn about flow!

#1 Bring Positive Energy

Yogi arrived a few minutes late and brought with her an energy that was hurried and frazzled.

How many times have the children arrived at your door when you weren't quite ready for them?  Getting to school a few minutes early can make a big difference in the whole trajectory of the day. The energy we bring filters down to the children.  Calm, focused teacher = calm, focused children.

#2 Prepare the Environment

Because Yogi was late, she didn't get a chance to survey the space to ensure that it was optimal for the yoga experience. The fan was too loud making it difficult to hear her directions and the music kept fading in and out.   

Check your space to see that there are no disruptions to learning.  Make the environment as comfortable as possible and welcoming for the children.  Play background music that enhances learning rather than amps kids up. Choose cool colors that calm vs. bright colors that stimulate. Be selective about what goes up on the walls so the learning space isn't too visually cluttered.  Consider adding plants and soft lighting for a more soothing effect.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

#3 Ready the Materials

Usually yoga materials are gathered and distributed at the beginning of the class.  Yogi suddenly decided that we needed straps in the middle of the class, so we all left our mats and headed to the supply closet to get them.

Gather your teaching materials before students arrive and designate a bin or basket to keep them close to your teaching area.  Student supplies should be easily accessible for them to retrieve during transitions.  Have a consistent plan for sharpening pencils and replenishing supplies to minimize interruptions during instruction.

#4 Have a Plan

Yogi kept changing her mind about what she wanted us to do and it was noticeable that she didn't have a solid plan in place. 

Begin with a plan that has an end goal in mind and is "back-mapped" to create a well-thought out course for you to follow.  Use routines that are safe and predictable for students, but throw in a little novelty to keep things engaging. Remain flexible and responsive, but rather than making a lot of adjustments in the moment, set aside time to reflect and alter the following day's plan based on your observations.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

#5 Consider the Sequence

Yogi didn't follow a challenging pose with a restorative (resting) pose which failed to give our bodies exactly what was needed in the moment. One movement didn't flow into the next and there was no sense of rhythm to the class. 

Carefully balance the activities in your day so that children receive a good mix of structured vs. unstructured activities along with much needed water and movement breaks.  Consider building your day around larger learning blocks to create less transitions.  Explore the idea of alternating between "in and out breath" activities as introduced in Waldorf education. 

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

#6 Minimize Talk

Yogi's directions were sandwiched between comments and stories that were unnecessary and distracting.

Choose your words carefully and be concise with your directions. Use predictable language that children will come to recognize as part of the routine of the day.  For example, you might use a catch phrase or "magic words" such as "Off we go," to signal the end of a lesson and the dismissal of students to independent work.

#7 Be Responsive  

Yogi didn't offer any suggestions for modifications as we moved through the poses even though some of the participants clearly needed some.

With each assignment, think up a few ways to alter it for those who might find what you are offering a bit challenging.  Provide choices so children can learn to decide what is best for them in the moment.  Leave space on your plans to note observations throughout the day that might better help you meet individual needs.  Set aside time to sit down at the end of the day to read over your notes and make adjustments to the next day's plans.

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

At the End of the Day

When I left Yogi's class, the "bumpy" experience left me distracted, annoyed, and feeling negative.

Typically, when I leave a yoga class, I feel calm, focused, open-hearted and ready to give to others.

Think about how you want your students to feel at the end of  your school day.

How will you establish a flow to your day that will help them feel calm and focused?

Which of the flow factors are you doing well?

flow of the day kindergarten schedule back to school

Which ones are you working to improve?

Thanks for stopping by!

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