Mindful communication is pretty simple: It comes down to being conscious of what you say and how you say it. Being empathetic, tactful, thoughtful, and compassionate on the other hand? Those are learned skills. Children don’t just show up on the first day of pre-school knowing how to mindfully communicate!
So often as teachers we find ourselves mediating disagreements between students. Teachable moments arise when seemingly day-to-day interactions between students cause friction.
Sometimes kids’ no-filter moments are a bit cute or funny, but they can also cause detrimental impacts to their peers.
Mindful communication can be challenging for elementary schoolers. At this stage, kids are still developing social skills, their vocabularies, interpersonal skills like empathy, as well as finding their own unique voices.
Teaching kids about appropriate communication and interaction is a fundamental part of any teacher’s role. Effective communication is important across every part of their academic journey.
Mindful Communication in Online Spaces
The importance of mindful communication extends to all areas of modern life. It’s not only spoken interactions that can escalate if the wrong tone or even just one poorly chosen word is used. Students are constantly accessing digital technologies for learning and fun, and communicating with others online with more regularity and rigor than ever before.
These activities are perfect for teaching about the impacts and implications our words may have, in whichever mode they take.
Mindful Communication Resources and Activities for the Classroom
The common theme that runs throughout all of these activities is the notion that words, once delivered, are irreversible (and so are their consequences, whether positive or negative).
Before you speak, write, or type…
THINK! It’s such a great acronym and super easy to remember, which is why so many teachers have adopted the THINK strategy, which asks students five key questions to filter out inappropriate comments.
All good questions to ask yourself — even for us grown-ups! We have just released this colorful classroom poster outlining the THINK strategy, which would be a fantastic addition to your classroom, e-learning lab, or even to paste into the front of students’ planners!
You can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube!
This is an activity that can be used in any of the elementary grades. Start by asking for a student volunteer to come to the front of the class. Present a tube of toothpaste, and ask the student volunteer to squeeze the entire thing out (tip: pick up a tube at the dollar store!).
Once the student can’t squeeze any more toothpaste out of the tube, then ask them to try to put the toothpaste back into the tube.
The class will soon realize that efforts to put the toothpaste back into the tube will prove futile. It’s nearly impossible to put all of the paste back inside that tube.
Talk to your students about mindful communication, and how the toothpaste represents our words. It’s better to pause and consider what we say and how we say it than to go ahead and push it all out at once, and then have to deal with the mess it makes.
Consider the ‘invisible impact’ of your words.
Another really great way to show students that their words may cause unseen emotional damage is the apple example, which has been passed around online for the past several years.
For this demonstration, you’ll need two identical apples. Prepare before class by dropping one apple repeatedly (but try not to damage the skin).
During your lesson, show your students the two apples which look the same and ask them if either one is damaged (based on appearance only).
Toss the already damaged apple on the ground, and tell the students (and the apple!) that this is the bad apple. Praise the other apple, and encourage the students to do the same.
Next, slice each ‘perfect’ apple down the center, and expose the cross-sections. The undamaged apple will be perfect, but the dropped apple will be bruised on the inside, underneath the skin.
Use this visual to help students understand that unkind words and actions can and will cause lasting emotional damage, which will remain unseen from the outside.
A wrinkled heart hurts.
Before you speak, think and be smart. It’s hard to fix a wrinkled heart!
If you’re looking for more engaging ways to teach children about mindful communication, try these kindness activities: