There are so many benefits of brain breaks, not just for young learners but for us as adults, too. Have you ever been sitting in the middle of a long professional development session, just waiting for your next chance to move around? You have been listening to the presenter for a while, and even though the information is valuable, you need a chance to stretch your legs or maybe talk to a colleague. Maybe you even start thinking you should step outside for a moment just to give your brain a little break and regain some focus. You would probably benefit from a brain break.
Our students likely feel the same way. After listening to us talk for a while, they begin getting fidgety, and you can see them getting restless in their seats. This is why brain breaks are so important for students. They help them regain focus and offer many more benefits in the classroom.
As mentioned before, students often lose focus when listening to a teacher talk for a while or when dedicating their brain power to independent work. Their minds begin to wonder. Just like in our professional development scenario before, they may start thinking about how they can give themselves a break. Maybe they will ask for an unneeded trip to the water fountain or bathroom. Maybe they will choose to disrupt a classmate who is still hard at work by talking. Either way, they are taking their brain power away from the task at hand and can possibly be causing disruptions to the students around them.
Brain Breaks can be a great way to combat this! Students can do a quick activity to get their bodies moving, and then get back to what they were working on.
As we have already discussed, students will find a way to give themselves a brain break if they truly need one. However, it is probably not going to be in the best manner. Many times, it may even result in negative consequences for the student when we have to redirect their behavior.
By using brain breaks, students still get the down time that their minds need to refocus but in a more structured way. One type of brain break that I like to use includes using animal actions to get students moving out of their seats. I call out actions like, “Fly like a bird,” or “Walk like a crab.” Keeping it structured in this way will keep students from getting too wild during the break, while still giving their brain a much-needed break.
One of the best pieces of classroom management advice I have ever received is to anticipate negative behaviors and try to avoid them. Brain breaks do just that. We can see when students begin fidgeting in their chairs. We can notice that they are not as focused on the tasks as they should be. That is when brain breaks are going to be most effective.
Essentially, they let students get their energy out in a productive way, before they choose to get it out in an unproductive way. Then later on, you can avoid stopping the learning time by having to correct behaviors like getting out of their chair without permission, talking loudly to a friend, and fidgeting with supplies that they don’t currently need.
Overall, there are many benefits of brain breaks with your students on a regular basis. They give students a structured break and a chance to refocus. They can also help students avoid disruptive behaviors by giving them a chance to release some energy in a more productive way.