A couple of years ago there was a new phrase added to the educational buzzword collection. The idea of brain breaks isn’t new. But with the heavy push for academic achievement at an ever accelerated pace, it’s a good time for a reminder that some sort of regular rest period is important.
What is a brain break? It’s a pause after a learning session when the student (and the teacher) take a short break to let their brains rest. The idea of recess in a school setting attempts to meet the same goal. But one or two breaks for recess in a school day isn’t really enough. Students will benefit from breaks that are much more frequent. Some experts say that a young child actually needs a break every 10-20 minutes. Older students and adults need a break about every half hour. That seems like a lot of time away from learning.
When your brain takes a break from the task you’ve been focusing on, it really doesn’t just quit thinking. When you change activities for even a brief time it allows your brain to continue to process the information you were just learning in a less intense way. Your brain is still working on the task but using a different method. Some research suggests that while you are taking your short break your brain is moving the information into your memory banks so you can use that information later. The idea is that if you take in too much at a time your brain doesn’t have time to process all of the information before you lose it. So regular breaks are when your brain catches up and becomes ready for the next upload of information.
So what do you do during a brain break? There are many resources available that are full of ideas. Many suggest that the activity be physical in nature. This also helps the students who get restless when they have to sit still for extended periods of time. Something simple like doing ten jumping jacks or some sort of simple contest such as seeing who can hold their breath the longest are possibilities. Anything that allows for a few moments to breathe and even laugh together creates great moments of refreshment that help get everyone ready to go back to their lessons. These breaks don’t have to be for extended periods of time. A break that lasts one to five minutes or so is usually sufficient.
Here are some resources to help you find brain breaks that work for you and your students.