Time to Write ... But First, Yoga

Several students do a yoga pose.

Standing in warrior pose and practicing bear breath, snake breath, elephant breath or bunny breath, first-graders in Brianna Spitaliere’s class at Ann MacArthur Primary School are learning to self-regulate. Students choose the yoga breath they need depending on whether they need to calm down or energize before beginning their writing workshop.
Yoga is practiced in this classroom as a transition between guided reading and writing workshop to help children prepare for their creative session. The mindfulness activity is performed during the Integrated ENL/ELA block with co-teacher Marie Mills.
Standing yoga poses such as mountain, triangle and warrior contribute to the development of strength, balance and focus. Students also learn partner poses, which they do with their writing partners. Elevator and back-to-back chair pose offer additional benefits, such as building trust and cooperation.
Ms. Mills said that yoga has offered a positive transition to the writing process. “Physical movement fosters learning,” she said. Similarly, “writing partners must work together, provide feedback and cooperate with one another,” she said. 
Ms. Spitaliere said that the students have benefited from the workshops in many ways. “Students feeling tired now know some breathing techniques they can use to gain energy, while those feeling like they can’t sit still can use different breaths to calm them down and prepare them to write,” she said.
Co-teaching during the ENL/ELA block has allowed the two yoga enthusiasts to work together to bring more enrichment to the children. The idea was gleaned from a workshop the two teachers attended on Superintendent’s Conference Day. Taught by Bayville Primary School librarian Stefanie Lipsey, the session focused on ways to incorporate yoga into writing workshops and recommended various materials that Ms. Spitaliere and Ms. Mills have incorporated into their workshop, including the use of chimes to signal the start of breathing exercises and for behavior management.