The Learner Blog

The Learner Blog

How Mindfulness Can Help Students in School


With the average high school student bombarded with constant information and social media overload, as well as frequent tests and the ever-present pressure to get into college, it’s no wonder that students report being stressed out. That’s why many schools are introducing a popular technique for stress reduction: practicing mindfulness as a way to slow down.

Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, but most of them involve some form of meditation. You can do this by sitting in a comfortable position for five minutes or more and just trying to focus your attention on the present moment. Popular techniques include counting your breaths, observing the sensations in different parts of your body, or noticing the sounds in your environment. A common misconception is that meditation means emptying your mind of all thoughts. For most of us, though, that’s nearly impossible. Instead, the goal is to notice when a thought crosses your mind and then just bring your attention back to your breath or whatever it is you’ve decided to focus on.

Many teachers and students are finding that practicing mindfulness for even a few minutes every day can have a remarkable effect on students’ anxiety levels, making them calmer and more able to concentrate on a lesson, be creative or take a test. And best of all, it’s free and easy—anyone can do it at any time.

With all these great benefits, it’s no wonder mindfulness has become a buzzword in education. Mindful Schools, a non-profit organization that encourages schools to adopt mindfulness practices, has impacted more than 1.5 million students since 2007 by training teachers to bring mindfulness into their classrooms. And similar organizations are cropping up across the country to do the same.

According to Mindful Schools, numerous studies have shown that mindfulness can help improve students’ attention spans, increase the compassion they have for themselves and others, reduce levels of stress and make them better able to regulate their emotions.

The practice has shown to be especially helpful for students who have witnessed violence or experienced childhood trauma and are plagued by anxiety. In one study, researchers looked at 400 students in an elementary school in California, and after just five weeks of regular mindfulness practice, teachers reported that the students were more focused, caring and willing to participate in class.

Another study in the U.K. that looked at students age 12 to 16 who practiced mindfulness in school showed that it led to fewer depressive symptoms, lower stress and a greater sense of well-being.

Here at Educational Endeavors, our director, Stephen Weber, has also seen the benefits. “Mindfulness is a good tool for reducing stress and anxiety, and that’s good for being able to receive information and learn,” Stephen says.

Educational Endeavors started incorporating mindfulness training into our Ideal Student Workshop this year as a way of introducing the concept to students and showing them how they can try these techniques on their own whenever they feel they need to calm down and concentrate. And we started seeing results right away.

Our program manager, Erin Bosack, reported one instance that really stood out. “On day two we played an experiential learning game, and afterwards the students were really excited and chatty. Usually it would take them a while to wind down from the game and focus on the next lesson, but we did a mindfulness exercise and within minutes everyone was calm and ready to concentrate,” Erin says.

During the Ideal Student Workshop, students spent five minutes each day for the first four days trying a mindfulness technique. On the last day of the workshop, they reflected on the benefits they had noticed and discussed ways to incorporate these techniques into their daily lives.

“We talk a lot about how to develop keystone habits in the Ideal Student Workshop, and cultivating a regular mindfulness practice is one of those habits that is likely to have a domino effect. If you’re being mindful, you’re more likely to build the other academic habits we teach in the ISW, like managing your time, doing your homework, and staying organized,” Erin says. “If you can sit quietly for five minutes, that’s going to carry over to other parts of your life.”


6 Strategies to Complete Your Summer Reading On Time

Summer reading strategies

It’s already the middle of the summer. Do you know where your summer reading books are?

If you answered “no,” don’t worry. While you don’t want to put your summer reading off until the day before school starts, there is still enough time to not only get your reading done, but also really remember what you’ve read so you can be prepared to talk about the book on the first day of class.

Here are a few strategies you can try to get your summer reading finished and truly understand what the book is about:

  1. Set Weekly Reading Goals
    OK, let’s say you have a 300-page book you need to finish by Aug. 27. Instead of trying to read everything at the last minute, break the book up into manageable chunks. Divide up the number of pages by the number of weeks left in the summer and then mark your calendar with how many pages you’ll need to read each week in order to be finished by the due date. You can even set a reminder on your phone to alert you to when you need to start reading. Tackling a little bit at a time will make it so much easier!
  2. Read the Book with a Friend
    Instead of struggling through a book on your own, why not read it with a friend? You can either form a book club with a couple people and meet to talk about it when you’ve finished, or find one friend reading the same book and check in with them about it each week. Not only will this keep you accountable for reading, but you’ll have someone to discuss with when that one character does something really shocking.
  3. Tell Your Family About the Book
    While this might not be as much fun as talking with someone else who is also reading the book, telling your family about what you’ve read is a great way to make sure you have understood and remembered it. Give your family a summary of what is going on when you’re at dinner, or tell them some things that surprised you as you were reading.
  4. Annotate Your Book
    Struggling to remember what you just read? Try annotating your book — highlighting or underlining sentences, writing down notes in the margins or using Post-it notes to mark interesting passages. Be sure to mark down any places where you have a question or read something that surprised or interested you, as well as passages that reminded you of something in your own life, in another book or in society. Sure, it may seem like a chore, but learning how to take notes effectively is essential as you tackle more and more difficult books.
  5. Make Up Study Questions
    Want to really impress your teacher when you get back from summer break? Think about some study questions that your teacher might ask about the book, such as ones that might spark a debate or lead to further discussion. It’s a great way of getting yourself to think more deeply about the book and get yourself prepared for an in-class discussion.
  6. Keep a Vocabulary Journal
    When you come across a word you don’t know as you’re reading, jot it down in a notebook or on your phone. Then when you’re finished with the chapter, go back and look up the definition of each word. Not only will this give you a better understanding of the text, but you’ll also be strengthening your vocabulary, which will be a big benefit when it comes to taking standardized tests.



Our Favorite Summer Reading Books for 2017

summer reading

It’s summer, and that means lots of lazy days at the pool or beach and lots of free time to kick back with a good book. Although you might have some summer reading that is required by your school, it’s always a good idea also to pick out a few books that you want to read just for fun.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best new books on the shelf this year, as well as a few of the most popular books in the last decade and a handful of timeless classics you can choose from. Whether you’re into comedy, romance, sci-fi or current events, we have something on the list for you.

Three New Releases to Check Out

1. The Hate You Give (2017)
The Hate You Giveby Angie Thomas
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement, this story by African-American author Angie Thomas has spent 15 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list for good reason – it’s relevant and timely. The story follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, who has recently witnessed the murder of her friend by a white police officer. When Starr, who lives in a poor neighborhood but goes to an elite prep school, has to testify in front of a grand jury about the incident, her carefully constructed worlds start to collide.


2. The Upside of Unrequited (2017)
Upside of Unrequitedby Becky Albertalli
Molly is used to unrequited love. She’s had 26 crushes, all of them in secret. Her twin sister, Cassie, on the other hand, usually goes for what she wants in love. But when Cassie develops a crush on a girl named Mina, Molly suddenly feels left behind. Luckily, Mina has a handsome brother who could become Molly’s next crush, but who has time for that when she has to spend so much time with her nerdy co-worker? A snarky, fresh story with richly developed characters, including some LGBTQ teens, this is one a wide variety of readers will relate to.


3. North of Happy (2017)
North of Happyby Adi Alsaid
Carlos Portillo lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family. When his older brother, Felix, is killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, telling him to run away to the United States and follow his dream of becoming a chef. Carlos ends up in Washington State, where he works at a restaurant and falls in love with his boss’ daughter, all the while working through his grief and trying to figure out where his true path really lies. With a real recipe at the beginning of each chapter, this is a book you’ll definitely want to sink your teeth into!


Three Recent Releases Not to Miss

4. Everything Everything (2015)
Everything Everythingby Nicola Yoon
In the mood for a little romance this summer? Then this book should definitely be on your must-read list. The plot centers on Maddy, a girl who lives sequestered from the world because she is allergic to everything. One day, Maddy starts forming a relationship with Olly, the new boy next door, and she is faced with the realization that truly living might mean risking everything. Bonus: This book was recently turned into a movie that is out this summer, so after you’re finished reading, head to the theater to see how the movie matched up.


5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2009)
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie
If you’re looking to laugh a little this summer, you’ll love this funny, yet heartbreaking story about a budding Native-American cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation who leaves his school to go to an all-white high school off the reservation. Although it’s a comedy, this quick, easy read also subtly touches on powerful themes of racism, alcoholism, poverty, friendship and more.



6. The Life of Pi (2001)
Life of Piby Yann Martel
At first glance, this story about an Indian boy who survives for 227 days in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger seems too far-fetched to be true. But therein lies the story’s magic: Which facts are real, and which are simply things that we believe? This deeply moving story explores themes of spirituality and believability and will stay in your mind for years after you read the final page.



Three Classics You’ll Still Love

7. The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)
The Handmaid's Taleby Margaret Atwood
If you haven’t finished watching the new series on Hulu inspired by this 1986 novel, grab this book and read it before tuning in. This gripping, harrowing tale is set in the near future, where a religious, totalitarian government has taken over the United States and stripped women of their rights, turning them into vessels for breeding. This powerful story asks us what we would do to maintain our individuality.



8. 1984 (1949)
1984by George Orwell
It’s been almost 70 years since George Orwell first published this ground-breaking novel, and yet many of the novel’s themes have become even more relevant over time, bringing such terms as “Big Brother,” “groupthink,” “Thought Police” and more into our modern vocabulary. The book is set in the future in a country where the government is controlled by the privileged elite and individualism is punished. In an era of “fake news,” this book may be more timely than ever.



9. Narcissus and Goldmund (1930)
Narcissus and Goldmundby Hermann Hesse
What is the meaning of life? It’s a big question, and one that this book about two monks living at a German monastery in the middle ages tries to answer. One, Narcissus, leaves the monastery to have several love affairs, become an artist and travel aimlessly. The other, Goldmund, stays at the monastery leaving a stable life and eventually becoming an abbot. Philosophical and fable-like, this book is rich with complex themes like the conflict between flesh and spirit, masculine and feminine, stability and freedom.