Garcia walked her class through an exercise in nonverbal cues, asking the children to imagine times when they felt sad or angry or frustrated, and then to freeze in those expressions and postures. As the kids slumped forward in exaggerated positions of woe, Garcia complimented them on small details: a bowed head or hangdog expression. Afterward, Garcia turned to the class. “This is the thinking part of your brain,” she said, holding up her thumb. She pointed to her fingers. “And this is the feeling part of your brain.” Folding her thumb into the center of her palm, she closed her fingers around it. “When we have strong emotions, the thinking part of our brain can’t always control them,” Garcia explained, waggling her fist. “What do we do in those moments?” As the kids called out answers — counting to five, “self-talk,” “dragon breaths” (a kind of deep-breathing exercise) — Garcia nodded.
Great article in the New York Times Magazine today — Can Emotional Intelligence be Taught? — about programs in the schools that recognize that kids can’t learn if they are worried or scared.
I love the image of the thumb-brain being pinned down by the fingers-emotions and will use it. I got curious about the dragon breath, and found this description on the British Cosmic Kids blog, which has four more breathing exercises that can be used with young children:
Interlace the fingers underneath the chin. Inhale and lift the elbows up to frame the face. Exhale, lifting the head up making a whispered ‘hah’ sound towards the sky, like a dragon breathing fire. At the same time, lower the elbows back down to meet at the bottom again by the end of the ‘hah’ exhale. This breath technique builds strength and heat within so is a good energizer. It helps us feel brave when we might be nervous or pepped up when we’re a bit tired.
If you’re interested in teaching some of these techniques in your home, school or youth group, the peaceCENTER has published Rosalyn Collier’s Working it Out: Managing and Mediating Everyday Conflicts. WIO! contains about 50 fun activities that can be seamlessly integrated into the pre-K through upper elementary classroom. Children learn relaxation techniques, communication skills and conflict transformation and the adults learn right along with them.