A Self-Help ToolBox For Teachers 

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Teaching children not to talk in class. Learning self-regulation with a Buddha Board.

As a teacher, have you ever encountered students that have difficulties staying quiet during lessons? This is obviously a rhetorical question. I am very aware that probably every teacher would answer in the affirmative. The real question I guess is, how do you get them to stop?

The solution lies in first asking the question, “why are you talking out of place”? Many children will understand the concept of the teacher needing to lead the lesson, they may be very aware that they are causing disruptions, and yet they will continue. So if they know that it is a problem, then why do they do it?

In order to not talk out of place during a lesson, children need to be able to self-regulate. They need to analyze the situation they are in and come to the conclusion that whatever they have to say can wait (unless it is urgent and cannot). Often you will find that if you hold a conversation with a student after they have caused a disruption, they will be capable of coming to the conclusion that the content of your lesson was more important. So an understanding exists, but how do we get the child to reach this conclusion in real time, prior to talking during a lesson?

One way of looking at it is that the students need to delay immediate emotional and behavioral reactions by taking a moment to think.

If the teacher said something that you think was insulting or unfair, take a moment to think about it and approach the teacher after the lesson.

If you have a question, raise your hand and accept that the teacher may decide not to let you ask a question at that moment.

If someone pushed you, stay calm and do not react.

If you want to talk about a personal interest, stop to think if it is the right time to mention it.

If you are angry or anxious, take a moment to calm down and try to focus on the lesson.

These are all examples of highly complex sets of actions that underlie the ability to delay immediate responses. The child needs to analyze the environment, recognize thoughts and feelings, decide to delay gratification, remember what they wanted to say so that gratification can be had at a later stage (if relevant), and refocus on the teacher/lesson.

Using a Buddha Board is a simple and innovative way to practice this skill set of delaying responses. You as the teacher can facilitate this activity one on one or as a group.

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The Buddha Board is an elegant device utilized for momentary artistic expression. You paint on a blank canvas with a brush dipped in water, your creation slowly appearing and then disappearing as the water evaporates. It is an excellent way to express fleeting thoughts and feelings. Doing so you can be mindful of yourself. It is the perfect tool for practicing the ability to delay responses.

Give a student a Buddha Board and ask them to draw an emoji of his/her feelings (e.g. a frown). Then ask him/her to watch the expression evaporate.

Now ask the student to write a thought down (e.g. my chair is uncomfortable). Then ask him/her to watch the thought disappear.

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A large element of Mindfulness is that we do not ignore our thoughts and feelings. Rather we note them and let them be nudged aside, if they are not relevant to what we are focusing on at the time (e.g. breathing). The Buddha Board can be utilized to practice this skill.

After a few practice sessions, try and teach a short lesson, asking the student to use the board once in a while, if they feel the need to talk. Remind them that the purpose is to let the thoughts and feelings that are not relevant to the lesson evaporate. That way he/she can focus on the lesson. Initially the student may use the tool frequently but with time, this should go down. Of course, check in from time to time to see that the student is not misusing the tool for entertainment. On a side note, I would not use a Buddha Board in all lessons but rather once in a while for the purpose of practicing the skill of delaying responses.

I have described here a simplified example for the use of this tool. The Buddha Board has infinite potential in assisting students in personal growth. Imagine, for example, utilizing this tool in pairs. You could teach two students the various elements of sharing.

The beauty of the Buddha Board is that it is just a board, a clean slate, “Tabula Rasa”. Thoughts and feelings are fleeting, momentary, and so are any creations on the canvas. Psychology and education is so often governed by the definitions we utilize to describe behavior but a simple expression on the Buddha Board in many ways transcends this constraint. Your creation is personal and self defined. Not only that, let it evaporate and express yourself again, in any way you want.


If you are a teacher encountering behavior problems in school then do take a look at my recent first book, available at all major outlets.

(Just click on the image.)

Ami Braverman