Student Wellness – A Grade 3-5 Approach

Area(s) of Focus: well being, curriculum
Division(s): Junior
Level(s): Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5

This project focused on giving teachers strategies to help create calmer classrooms where students are more in control of their emotions and therefore more ready to learn. By focusing on student well-being, we will see changes in teacher well-being.

Our project focused on student well-being within the junior grades, many of whom have been identified as struggling with anxiety and social/emotional distress. We re-visited the work we started last year as a staff, on The Zones of Regulation, and explored how to include other strategies, such as mindfulness, to meet the needs of all students, both emotionally and academically. Through this exploration, we are beginning to create calmer classrooms where students are more mindful of identifying how they are feeling, and choosing strategies that help them self-regulate their emotions. By addressing this topic, we are hoping that it will also support teacher well-being.

Team Members

  • Erin Silver

    Toronto District School Board

  • Juliana Brown

    Toronto District School Board

  • Susan Kwok

    Toronto District School Board

  • Robert Siegel

    Toronto District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • We engaged in intentional professional learning as a collaborative team
  • We deepened our understanding of what factors may affect student well-being
  • We reviewed current practices in implementing well-being within the junior classrooms
  • We began to build our own toolkit of well-being strategies within junior classrooms
  • We implemented the new strategies and tracked the progress of using them

Activities and Resources

It was essential to meet as a group team on a regular basis to engage in professional inquiry and discourse. At the start of this inquiry, it was important that we brainstormed what strategies we were using and critically reflect upon what is working and not working. Specifically, we looked at how we were using The Zones of Regulation within our classrooms and our school as a whole, whether students had a firm grasp of how their body felt in each zone and what strategies they could use to help them cope and self-regulate. We also discussed the importance of being mindful and what strategies we currently used to promote mindfulness.

We created several surveys and tracking tools throughout this project to support whether implementing mindfulness strategies were working. Once data was collected, we unpacked it to determine what the needs were. We reviewed how we would collect data and share data as a team (see Resources Created).

  • Parent Mindfulness Survey Given to all parents in our small school, explaining what mindfulness is and getting background information about our students
  • Pre-Mindfulness Survey We tracked specific behaviours for one week during transition times, with the intent to determine any visible trends and if with the use of mindfulness strategies there would be a decrease of behaviours
  • The Zones of Regulation Student Self-Assessment Designed for students to assess what zone they are in before and after mindfulness activities
  • Student Mindfulness Feedback Survey Given to students to gauge how they are feeling about the mindfulness activities that they do in class

We researched additional strategies, support models and resources that are recommended to support students (such as mindfulness, restorative practice, growth mindset, etc.)

  • Mindfulness PD – A Mindfulness Instructor was invited in to establish a baseline of what mindfulness is, why it’s important for us as teachers, why it is important for students, and how easy it can be to implement. We looked at the book, Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel. We were able to practise the various activities within the book and discuss how to implement them within our classrooms.
  • Wellness School Visit We visited another TDSB school within our learning centre to see how they have successfully implemented a school-wide approach to mindfulness, in which they use the MindUP Curriculum to create daily/weekly scripts that are read over the PA system at a set time each day
  • The MindUP Curriculum – We began to explore this curriculum, choose lessons we thought would work for our students, and determine if we had the recommended books

We created and will continue to create resources to help with implementing mindfulness strategies. They include:

  • A series of short GoZen! mindfulness videos, presented in a ThingLink so they are all in one place to make accessing them easy
  • Develop scripts to read over the PA system that focus on different aspects of being mindful, taken from the MindUP Curriculum

To support student wellness and mindfulness activities, yoga mats and additional books for read-alouds were purchased. The books to support well-being include:

  • Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel
  • I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde
  • Anh’s Anger by Gail Silver
  • You Can Stay in Control: Wild or Calm? by Connie Colwell Miller
  • You Can Control Your Voice: Loud or Quiet? by Connie Colwell Miller
  • You’re Angry: Throw a Fit or Talk it Out? by Connie Colwell Miller
  • You Can Handle Conflict: Hands or Words? by Connie Colwell Miller

Unexpected Challenges

  • Receiving the acceptance letter not until late November did not give us enough time to adequately assess and implement well-being strategies, and when we did receive the initial cheque, there was a lot of confusion and discrepancies of how to deposit it into our school account, which further delayed the start until March
  • Booking multiple supply teachers (four) in March, April and May to cover release time was extremely difficult as there were very few supply teachers available, and that sometimes resulted in being creative with schedules so all or most of the team could meet without having to cancel our meetings
  • Many unexpected staffing changes occurred throughout the year. For example, one of our team members changed mid-way; a team member was unexpectedly on a medical leave; we had an acting principal in for a few weeks; and we have had three different superintendents this year. With so many changes to our team, it made consistency and planning challenging.
  • When implementing mindfulness within our classroom, on our own time, was sometimes challenging because there were other distractions occurring within the school at that moment. It was also difficult for teachers to be consistent. Implementing it as a whole school at a set time each day would help with student focus and engagement. Also with more consistency, students will have more practice and therefore be more mindful.
  • With most of the release days being April/May, our Grade 3 team member found it stressful to leave the class with the added stresses of EQAO. Being able to start the project earlier would have allowed for team meetings or learning opportunities to be spread out to once a month.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

We were able to tailor our understanding of various strategies to individual student needs and students are starting to feel more comfortable advocating about what works best for them, specifically what they need. By supporting students individually with strategies, we were able to work as a team to identify when problems were beginning to occur, not when students were already explosive.


Although this is a project with teachers teaching in the junior grades, we shared regularly with the teachers who teach in all panels within our school. We shared with parents and community members monthly (through parent council meetings or newsletters). We will continue to share our successes and strategies through Twitter to inspire other teachers and share our journey with other schools.

Project Evaluation

Overall, we believe we were successful in reaching our goals. While we sometimes found it difficult to meet as a complete team for an extended period of time, we were able to regularly review our goals and readjust our focus as needed.

Teachers were asked, by way of a Google Form, “What was your personal learning goal for the wellness project?” Some responses included:

  • My personal learning goal for the wellness project was to learn more about implementing mindfulness at the school. I was hoping to learn some classroom-specific ways of teaching mindfulness and ways to help students focus both emotionally and academically.”
  • “My personal learning goal was to have a greater understanding of what mindfulness is and how as teachers we can implement it in a way to create a calmer classroom.”
  • “To do more mindfulness activities in the classroom and record students’ feelings about it.”

When unpacking the data that we initially collected, introducing parents to our mindfulness focus, we realized that the easiest way to unpack the data was to enter it into a Google Form (see Resources Created). This information gave us great insight into the willingness of parents to extend the inclusion of strategies that we were going to introduce to a home setting. It also helped us have a better understanding of how often some of our students feel anxious or worried. This supported our belief that a mindfulness focus would be beneficial.

Both the Mindfulness PD and the Wellness Focused School visit served as valuable experiences.

The Mindfulness PD helped to deepen our understanding of what factors may affect student well-being. For example, we were able to understand that we all have a “window of tolerance,” and for the students struggling with anxiety and social/emotional distress their window may be very narrow, and that is why they may be unable to self-regulate their emotions. Giving students the strategies to being present in the moment, and learn to observe and manage their emotions peacefully is at the heart of mindfulness, and ultimately, if we practise mindfulness regularly, we will be calmer within the classrooms. It was also helpful as teachers to get first-hand experience trying out the activities before we initiated them with our students. As mentioned by one teacher, “I feel more confident in how to implement these strategies now that I have tried it myself.”

It was very insightful and helpful to see how mindfulness can be applied as a whole-school approach. When visiting the school, we noticed that there was an amazing calmness that came over the building all at once. One of which we would love to strive for!

The various tracking tools and student feedback illustrates that implementing mindful moments, using the audio CD from the book Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel is beginning to make a difference with the students ability to self-regulate their emotions. Overall students are enjoying these mindful moments.

Based on the following responses from students, we believe we are meeting our goals (see Resources Created).

When students were asked, “What do you like most about doing the mindfulness activities in the classroom?”, some responses included:

  • “We get to listen and relax.”
  • “I like to rest during that time. It’s nice to sit in peace.”
  • “Doing new lessons.”
  • “It keeps you calm and quiet in class.”
  • “Everyone is quiet.”
  • “After it, you feel more calm and it gets people ready to learn. For me, I feel calm after.”
  • “When we have a lot of energy from recess, we can calm ourselves down.”
  • “The biggest thing I like about mindfulness is it makes you feel calm, it helps you get out stress and it is relaxing overall. Mindfulness is fun.”

We realized that there are some challenges with implementing some of these strategies and, based on some of the student responses, we feel like doing a mindful moment at the same time each day as a whole school will decrease some of the student frustrations listed below. We also feel like using the yoga mats and changing the location and positions sometimes, would be helpful.

When students were asked, “What do you find challenging when doing mindfulness activities in the classroom?”, some student responses included:

  • “I think doing mindfulness in the class is easy.”
  • “Getting frustrated because it is hard to do. Trying not to put my head down.”
  • “Trying to get in a good spot to get comfortable.”
  • “To sit still, not talking to friends.”
  • “I find it challenging to focus when I hear noise, but I usually focus after I bring my attention to it.”
  • “It’s a bit weird and challenging too because I can’t stay in that position for long.”
  • “Focusing on the person who is talking in the mindfulness activity.”
  • “When other people are talking.”

As teachers, we learned various things throughout this project. One teacher said, “I learned how different students benefit from different types of mindfulness activities. I also learned of the challenges of doing mindfulness class by class versus the whole school. I also learned that based on both teacher- and self-assessment, mindfulness helps students significantly.” Another teacher said, “Listening to guided meditations really works!” and another, “Students really seem to enjoy doing the activities and there always seems to be calmness when we are done. I also feel calm and am able to handle my own frustrations easier.”

Our teaching practices have changed in many ways. One teacher indicates, “My teaching practice has changed by being more aware of student emotions. It has allowed me to increase my window of tolerance and has made time for mindfulness activities.” Another teacher points out, “I’m working more mindfulness time in and listening to guided meditations.”

When we discussed how integrating wellness topics engaged students in our classes or enhanced student well-being; and we agreed that they were more engaged through music and shared interests, that they have been able to calm down and focus more on academics following mindfulness activities, and that they recorded feeling more calm and peaceful after mindfulness.

When reflecting on what our next steps as teachers might be for improving wellness in our classroom or our own professional knowledge, our team had this to say:

Teacher 1: My next steps as a teacher for improving wellness in my classroom is to learn from other teachers what strategies and activities they used with their classrooms. Also, looking into mindfulness as a school-wide activity is a next step in my professional knowledge.

Teacher 2: Doing mindfulness more often and looking for other guided meditations so that I don’t repeat the same ones too often.

Teacher 3 and 4: We are going to enrol in the Mindfulness Fundamentals course offered through Mindful Schools. We are interested in developing an even deeper understanding of how to use mindfulness for our own well-being and our students’ well-being as we look at moving to a school-wide focus.

Resources Used

  •  The Zones of Regulation: A Framework to Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control by Leah M. Kuypers
  • The MindUP Curriculum by Scholastics
  • Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel  (with CD)

Picture Books:

  • Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel
  • I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde
  • Anh’s Anger by Gail Silver
  • You Can Stay in Control: Wild or Calm? by Connie Colwell Miller
  • You Can Control Your Voice: Loud or Quiet? by Connie Colwell Miller
  • You’re Angry: Throw a Fit or Talk it Out? by Connie Colwell Miller
  • You Can Handle Conflict: Hands or Words? by Connie Colwell Miller