Do your students seem extra fidgety? Perhaps you are seeing a room full of blank stares or a student or two is seemingly frustrated with their work. Ding Ding Ding! Those are just a couple of indicators that it is time for a Brain Break! Quick brain breaks during or in between lessons are important for student learning, and can relieve students’ frustration, stress and anxiety.
Why are brain breaks important?
Taking breaks throughout the day encourages self-awareness and promotes students’ development of self-regulation skills—especially for those that struggle with executive functioning. They help students learn to recognize when they are getting to their frustration point and need to step away from the task for a moment. They encourage students to persevere when things get tough.
Breaks including physical activity increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which boosts neural connectivity and stimulates nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory. This physical activity during and after a lesson actually changes the structure of our brains—”it improves attention and memory, increases brain activity and cognitive function, enhances mood and the ability to cope with stress” (Terada, 2018).
Examples of brain breaks:
- Stretching (yoga)
- Jumping Jacks
- Running in place
- Cross Crawls (touch hand to opposite knee or foot)
- Walk laps in the classroom
- Turn on some music and dance for a minute or two
- Quick class walk to the water fountain or down the hallway and back
When should brain breaks be done?
Brain breaks can be done as a whole class, or individually per students’ needs. Some students may respond better when the break occurs if they are getting frustrated or distracted. Other students may find it more beneficial as a reward/break from staying on task for a certain period of time. Not all students benefit from an active break, though. Some students may get overstimulated by all the activity, so perhaps a calming break may be necessary, especially if the student or classroom is wound up after lunch, recess or an exciting lesson or activity. Examples of quiet breaks could be asking students to have two minutes of silence, to rest their heads on their desks while quiet, calming music is played in the background or a 5 minute quiet read or quiet coloring.
Terada, Y. (2018, March 9). Research-tested benefits of breaks. Edutopia. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/research-tested-benefits-breaks
Morin, Amanda. “Brain Breaks What You Need to Know.” Https://Www.understood.org/En/Articles/Brain-Breaks-What-You-Need-to-Know, Ellen Braaten.