These past few days of Mind Up were spent focusing in mindful listening. We started by introducing the students to a new part of their brain. You may have heard your first grader talking about their Reticular Activating System (RAS). Ok, typing that sentence just made me laugh, but ask your first grader about their RAS and see what they have to share!
A few weeks ago, we had the students focus as hard as they could on their sense of hearing for a short amount of time and then discussed all the things they were able to hear. We came up with a long list, but that was just our sense of hearing. All of our senses are busy picking up different sights, tastes, smells, feelings, and noises and sending them to our brains. Our RAS is the part of the brain that gathers all those messages and decides which messages are important enough to be passed on to the rest of the brain and which things can be ignored. We talked about how when they are trying to listen to instruction in the classroom, we need to train our own RAS to know how to ignore distractions like noises from other rooms, the hallway, outside, or friends sitting next to us and focus on the teaching.
To strengthen our ability to focus our RAS, we did some listening exercises and the kids had to work hard to focus on certain sounds and really ignore all other distractions. We took note of what our body does when we are focusing really hard and came up with the following list:
If you were to walk the halls around first grade, you will often hear us asking the kids to show us what mindful listening looks like or to focus their RAS…you can use that at home, as well!