Helping students find stillness and focus can be one of the more challenging aspects of teaching -- especially if your students are 4 to 14 years old. However, there are many tips and tricks that can get even the most distracted and energetic children to concentrate. One of these methods is a game. A very simple, easy to play, game. We call it The Bell Game. Here's how you play:
Have students sit in a circle in Sukhasana (criss cross apple sauce) with their hands in Giyan Mudra (thumb and pointer finger together). Encourage them to sit up nice and tall with their eyes closed. Remind them to continue their long slow breaths and to imagine that they are inside a "yoga bubble" where nothing and no one can distract or bother them.
Once students are quiet and calm begin to wander inside the circle ringing the bell as slowly or quickly as you like. Explain that you are trying to distract the students and get them to come out of their bubbles. Their goal is to remain focused and quiet. The student who looks the most calm, quiet, and who is breathing and sitting tall with their eyes closed will be the next to ring the bell.
When you find this student, gently tap them on the shoulder and hand them the bell. Encourage them to walk around the circle as you did, ringing the bell however they wish (they may not touch other students or get in their personal space). Often the instruction, "Choose someone who looks as calm as you felt" works well as it gets students to acknowledge their senses and be aware of others.
This student will pick the next bell ringer and return to their seat to rejoin the game. The bell is passed between students for several rounds or until you feel the class has maintained a long enough period of quiet and focus. Ideally, students will not know who is ringing the bell or who has been chosen as their eyes will be closed. Remind them not to peek or fidget. Also, feel free to point out (silently) to the bell ringer any students who have been doing a very good job but have not been chosen.
This is a great exercise for the beginning of a rowdy class or to introduce during the middle or end of a class that is struggling to settle down.
Note: The Bell Games is adapted by Cecilia Ussher from the "Bell Game" in Yoga for Children by Mary Stewart.