George Lucas Educational Foundation

Resolution Ritual: The Pausing that Leads to Productivity

Resolution Ritual: The Pausing that Leads to Productivity

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Young student reading

As the new year begins, it is important to evaluate the little things that will make our classroom and our lives better. When I consult with the families I work with, I often discuss the importance of "rituals" or the ceremonial pause when it comes to increasing productivity in the academic sphere. So I know you must be asking what the heck does ritual have to do with my classroom or my life? What if I told you the creation and maintenance of a ritual could improve test scores and classroom satisfaction in one fell swoop? 

Many of the educators on this site talk about the importance of establishing ritual without using ritual. Some greet the students with a handshake or end class with an exit ticket. Some use a bell or chime to get attention. The key to the ritual is to shift attention from whatever the previous activity was to the new task at hand. This will increase the focus of the students and cut out distractions. Their attention shifts from the conversations they had between classes to what you are ready to teach them, increasing comprehension and retention. I would humbly suggest adding a bit of mindfulness and ritual time into your new year classroom however small and encourage students to take a bit of ritual into their homework.  

Too often I see students struggling to separate computer screen time and work time, and I have been looking towards rituals to center and begin homework and leave gaming or social media time. Some things I suggest on an individual level:

  • Push-ups, running in place, jumping jacks, etc.
  • Using a centering essential oil
  • Ringing a bell or setting an alarm on the phone 
  • Fixing a warm tea 
  • Meditating (using an app like calm) for two minutes 
  • Journaling 
  • Listening to a get-psyched song 
  • Read a poem, a mantra, or saying to get focused

Although these rituals differ, a student’s own ritual can serve to ground them, create a calming space around work and focus their mind and attention on homework time. Use of rituals can be seen routinely in professional sports to help focus athletes attention. Professional musicians often have a warm up ritual. Airline pilots have a pre-flight checklist that the go through that helps them not only check the aircraft, but ensures they are mentally ready for takeoff. Although seemingly small, creating a ritual and encouraging your students to embrace ritual in their own life can and will allow for more productivity and ease procrastination and stress. What is ritual but an enforced and carved out pause that can begin in your class and extend through your students' lives.

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Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Hmmm..., you've got me thinking, Katie. I have to admit that I haven't created any rituals like these, except to offer "anyone need a bookmark?" as we transition from silent reading to "time to start class." But I don't have a lot of time with my students -- I see them for 90 minutes every other day, so our time is limited. Are you suggesting rituals like these every time I see them? Yes, a little ring of a bell works. Is that enough? I certainly don't have time to make tea. ;-)

Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA's picture
Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA
Advocate, Lawyer, Teacher and Founder of Beyond Tutoring

How about something about s fun fact or a favorite quote/poem to center the class? Just a little something to start off class. You can also read something or illustrate something a student did that made you grateful or inspired?

Christina N. Smith's picture
Christina N. Smith
Literary catalyst inspiring a love for reading in children as a means to promote their self-growth & emotional intelligence

Love, Love, Love this post! This is such a good idea because kids are challenged when it comes to moving from outdoors to let's sit down and focus now. Or coming from using a computer to then moving into listening to the teacher talk. It truly does take a "moment" to shift. Really grateful that you put this out "there" Katie! I would like to know what type of "centering" essential oil you recommend...Thanks!

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