5 Easy Ways to Use a Singing Bowl in Class
Sound is a powerful tool to use for mindfulness and relaxation moments in the classroom. Music has a very soothing effect on the students and can help re-center their attention. However, there is no need to be a musician to bring the benefits of sound to the class! One little singing bowl (aka Tibetan bowl) will be just perfect. Tibetan bowls can create a steady and harmonious rhythm that slows down the mind and allows us to relax.
the Singing bowl
is an ambassador of peace in the classroom
In his book Happy Teachers Change the World, Thich Nhat Hanh dedicated a whole chapter to singing bowls. He considers the singing bowl (or “bell”) not only as a really helpful tool, but also as “an ambassador of peace and happiness in our home or classroom”. The routine of “calling the bell”, as he likes to name it, is definitely a powerful creator of harmony in classrooms. They work like magic with students, who sure do love them. They are so easy to use, that you will love them too! Here are five easy ways to integrate a singing bowl in your class if you want to give it a try:
1) Make calling the bell a part of your routine every morning to start class. Simply ring the bell (by striking the rim of the bowl with the stick) three times, and ask the students to listen to the sound until the very end, with their eyes closed if possible. When they cannot hear anything or feel any of the vibrations anymore after the third strike, they just silently raise their hand and open their eyes.
This simple exercise will help bring more calm and focus, right before starting your regular schedule and activities. I like to do this in my class after taking attendance and before starting with the class routine (date, weather, schedule of the day, etc.). The kids like this routine so much, that if I occasionally forget or skip it, they remind me right away!
2) Use the bowl as a tool to do a meditative walk: ask the students to stand up. When you ring the bell, they start walking at a normal pace around the classroom, respecting each other’s space. Tell them that each time you ring the bell, they will slow down a notch. Do this several times until they walk so slow that they really decompose their movements, almost like a slow motion scene in a movie. You can walk as well to show them the example. Then, strike the bell again and each time the students start walking a bit faster. Repeat until they are back to their normal pace. After this activity, they can go back to their seats in silence and resume their regular activities. This short mindful walk works well as a transition between two assignments, for instance. It allows the students to move around a bit and reset, in a calm and mindful way.
3) Use the bowl to create a circle of positive vibrations. Have your students sit in a circle, on the floor if possible. Sit with them. You start by saying one positive word according to your inspiration on that specific day (for instance: “calm”, “happy”, “grateful”, “hope”, “friends”, “sun”…) Then ring the bell once. Everyone close their eyes (or soften their gaze down to the floor) until they cannot hear the sound or feel the vibration. Then, start passing the bowl around. Each student says one positive word of his choice, then rings the bell. They pass the bowl to the next student when they cannot feel any vibration anymore. Only the person holding the bowl is allowed to talk, the others are listeners until it is their turn to hold it. This activity usually works very well because the children love to “play” the bowl! With very young kids (preschool), you don’t need to ask them to say a word, you can just pass the bowl around and let them ring it once (but ask them to wait for their turn and listen to others when they ring it). With older students, you can ask them to express more than a word. They could say a few words or sentences about how they feel that day, for instance.
4) Use the singing bowl as an opportunity to take a short “mental break” anytime during the day. For instance, when one activity is over, call the bell before starting the next assignment. This way, you allow the students to pause for a short moment, breathe, and reset before going on with their work of the day. They will be more receptive and focused. You can ask the students to close their eyes or soften their gaze, listen to the sound, and silently raise their hand once they cannot hear anything anymore. Ring the bell three times.
5) Ask the students to focus on their breath while they listen to the bell. They will try to make each inhale and each exhale as deep as they can. Ask them to silently count their full breaths (1 inhale + 1 exhale) while you ring the bell. When the sound is over, they can raise their hand and show with their fingers the number of breaths they took. (It is not a competition though, so no need to start comparing with the class mates.) For that activity, you can make the bowl sing longer by rubbing the stick around the rim (constant circular motion with even pressure), instead of just striking it.
Try to keep the singing bowl associated with mindful moments and games. Avoid using it as a tool to just call for silence regularly during the day (like a regular bell would be used). Otherwise, it will lose its “magical” power! Most importantly: try to have fun and relax, just enjoying these special moments of peace and mindfulness with your students!
You can easily find different types of Tibetan bowls for sale on Amazon or online stores. There is a wide range of quality and prices, but for your class a small bowl will do just fine, and you can find one for a budget of about $25-$30. If you do not want to invest, you can also download an app on your smartphone, with recorded sounds of Tibetan bowls. Try this one.
Have Fun & Be Zen! :)