Now, there are some teachers who have mastered the art of the brain break, while it causes others severe anxiety! No matter where on the spectrum you fall, the fact remains that they are EXTREMELY helpful during classroom instruction!
What is a brain break? I’m sure they are called by many names, but a brain break is just that, a short (2-5 minute) activity that provides a break from whatever activity on which the brain is currently working. This shift is quite helpful and useful for both you and your students. Brain breaks come in many forms; they can involve students solving riddles, students getting up and moving around the room, interviewing one another…. There are so many examples of brain breaks!
Below I have outlined for reasons that brain breaks are useful.
1. Reset and refresh. That’s right, sometimes we need to reset and refresh. In fact, we do this all of the time. After working on tasks for a long while, we often need to take breaks. We may stand and stretch, or take a short walk to get our blood pumping and the oxygen flowing. After which, we can revisit our tasks with renewed vigor. The same concept works for your students. After about 15 or 20 minutes of working on a task, take a short break. I often have students play a couple of rounds of Simon Says, which gets them up and moving, and helps them refocus on their tasks.
2. Transition. Brain breaks are great for transitioning from one task to another. For example, if students are transitioning from Reading to Math, add a 2-5 minute brain break in between tasks that requires them to solve a puzzle. This break will help your students reset and refresh, and prepare them for the new skill set that they will use during the next portion of class.
3. Re-engage. We’ve all seen the numbers. The average person’s attention span is not very long. The younger you are, the shorter the attention span. When your students are restless or having difficulty focusing, use a brain break to help them re-engage in the task. I find that when my students are restless, having them stand and stretch, or stand and play a “get to know you activity” helps them re-engage in their classwork.
4. Build community. Brain breaks are also a great tool for building community in your classroom. Use your brain breaks as opportunities for students to talk to one another and interact with students whom they normally do not interact. For example, I randomly pair the students and have them quickly interview one another. After which, they begin to get to know different aspects of their classmates’ lives which helps create a stronger sense of community in the class.