How often have you asked a child what they did that day, only to hear the answer, “I don’t know”? This is something I have often come across in teaching kids. After class, they run to put their shoes on and line up for a stamp or sticker. When I say, “Before I give you a stamp, please tell me one thing you like/remember that we did in class today.” Sometimes it goes well, other times kids are already thinking about what comes after yoga class, or what happened earlier that day.
Even when they don’t seem focused, helping kids recall what they did in class is a very important way to reinforce what they’ve learned. This works best when you set them up for success: at the beginning of class, let them know that you will be asking them to reflect on what they did so that when they line up, they have something to share. Here are some ways to help jog their memories more easily when the end of class comes:
● After each song, game, or activity, go around and ask each kid to say the name of a pose or activity they remember doing.
● Allow a few volunteers (or each child, if the class is small) to lead everyone in a round of Sun Salutations – I’ve seen even kids as young as 4-years-old do this! Even if they mix it up, you can congratulate them on their creativity.
● Play a game with yoga cards. Pair up the kids. They take turns drawing from a deck of yoga cards. They describe it to their partner without showing the card and the one listening tries to guess the pose. Allow for at least a few rounds, then let the pairs share with the class, either verbally or by teaching their peers.
● Give the students options for which poses to practice that day; they are more likely to remember what they did if they helped choose the focus of the class.
● For seasoned classes, you can ask them to share what they remember doing the previous week. This provides a chance for kids to request certain postures that they want to practice more. It also give you a chance to build upon what they already know.
The above are just a few ideas for what to do during the class. Sometimes when I get to the reflection phase at the end of class, the first kid will mention what they remember and each subsequent child will repeat what the first one said. Encourage kids to try to remember a few things so that they can mention something different than the person who spoke just before them. If they absolutely can’t think of something *or is too shy or reserved to say much at all), you can let them pass or ask others to help them remember something by giving clues (for example, “we did a standing pose on one leg”). In this way, there’s no pressure and the kids get used to helping one another.
Another way you can spice up the recall process at the end of class is to pass around a prop such as a tingsha, talking stick, or Hoberman sphere to focus the sharing a bit more. These props give kids a tangible way to learn to speak only when it is their turn, and reminds the rest of the class to listen to the speaker.
Reflection pushes kids to pay closer attention to their practice and cultivates self-sufficient yogis. If kids practice recalling what they did in each activity or class, they can go home and tell their families about it. Even better, they can build upon it in following weeks and enjoy their practice at home with friends and family or on their own. In contrast to the solitary nature of yoga classes for adults, kids yoga is a full-on social affair full of opportunities for building self-esteem, cognitive skills, and community. As kids gain a sense of confidence participating in class and teaching one another, they also practice building up their memory and ability to talk about poses and activities. This naturally motivates them to participate and remember what they’ve learned.