Mindful Literacy

A blind man taught me that sometimes we see best with our internal perceptions.

At a mindfulness retreat, we were guided to close our eyes while he recited a poem from memory. In the stillness of the forest, the words bathed me in a feeling of safety and love. As an English teacher introducing mindfulness to my students, I immediately felt the desire to share such a pure experience of poetry with my students, and use it as a jumping off place for their own creative writing. 

This was the spark that ignited Mindful Literacy.

  • Two-thirds of students who participated in the Mindful Literacy program showed an increase in self-compassion.
  • 40% advanced to next ELD level midyear, compared to 20% the previous year.

Following the emotional arc of the school year

The Mindful Literacy curriculum follows the emotional arc of the school year from the honeymoon phase in September through the disenchanting slog in the depths of November to the renewed commitment in January and the love and appreciation of post-SBAC testing in May.

We teachers only see the tip of the iceberg.

There’s so much about our students we don’t know–their home life, how they rank in the fierce social order of their peers. The Mindful Literacy curriculum helps us connect more authentically with our students and provides them with a creative outlet. Writing and sharing poems and stories about challenging thoughts and emotions fortifies their inner reserves and connections to others and inspires them to build their writing skills.

The Mindful Literacy curriculum follows the emotional arc of the school year from the excitement in September through the depths of November to the renewed intentions in January and the celebrations of post-SBAC testing in May.

Mindful Writing Workshop (8 sessions, meets twice a week once a month)

This workshop draws from lessons from my forthcoming book entitled Mindful Literacy: A Primer for Cultivating Compassion, Connection, and Creativity Throughout the School Year. Each lesson introduces a new mindfulness concept and guided awareness practice paired with a poem that reinforces the theme. Listening activities and extensive scaffolding support students to appreciate the artistry of the works and create their own poem or story. Teachers can select activities depending on the level of students. Regardless of whether they are newcomers who would benefit from having a Spanish translation of the poem, or native speakers in their senior year of high school, these evocative works will speak to their heart and encourage their creative output.


  • Develop self-awareness, focus, and compassion
  • Understand and appreciate poetry as a literary art form
  • Recognize that their experiences and perceptions have value
  • Broaden their vocabulary
  • Develop their critical thinking skills
  • Enhance their creativity and writing skills

Description: This workshop will include guided mindfulness practice, reading and discussion of a mindful poem, and writing activities related to themes such as self-compassion, generosity, loving-kindness and empathy. Students’ own works may be revised and edited for a school anthology and public reading.

TIME FRAME: Two or three class meetings per poem

Lesson 1 Self-Care “Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

Mindfulness invites us to pause periodically throughout our day and turn our attention inward. By paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and sensations, we tame our minds and learn to practice true self-care. This practice makes us more present to the wonder of the world around us. Mary Oliver’s poem “Summer Day” reminds us to take this time for ourselves, that life is not only about doing, but also about being.