When students engage in high concentration tasks for long periods of time, their brains become tired and they become restless – banging pencils on the table, tapping their feet and fiddling with whatever may be at hand. This is where we introduce brain breaks. The term ‘brain break’ is as simple as that: a break for the brain. They are little activities that allow the brain to reset for optimal learning.
Brain breaks shift the type of activity that is occurring in the brain and allows time for the brain to restore some of its supplies. Brain breaks should be planned for every 15-30 minutes of work depending on the ages of kids, and can last anywhere from 1-5 minutes.
6 Awesome Brain Break Ideas Every Teacher Should Be Using:
Pencil jump: This is a quick and easy classroom activity to give the brain a break. When the room starts to get too loud or if the kids are starting to fall asleep – you know it’s time for a break! Simply get the students to place their pencil on the floor and jump over it 10 times. This will help organise their nervous system and make them available for learning again!
Popcorn seat: This is a fun activity that can be done without the kids even leaving their chair! Ask the kids to put their hands on their seat and push up so their bottom is in the air. Ask them to do 10 repetitions and then challenge them to see how long they can hold before they drop back down! This will give the kids heavy input through their muscles and joints and will get them in an optimal state for learning once again.
Wall push ups: This activity can be used as a transition as students move into the classroom – basically as a warm up for the brain! Have students line up along the outside wall and do 10 wall push ups keeping their feet flat on the floor and palms flat against the wall. Ask students to do their push ups slowly, focusing on their position and movements.
Dance: Dance is a wonderful way to get kids moving – and they love it because it’s so much fun! Movement increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain. It’s a ‘reset’ for the brain so that it can function more effectively. For heaps of awesome brain video activities, search Go Noodle on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/GoNoodleGames/).
Simon Says: This is an activity that can be altered to suit any age. You can keep it nice and simple for the littlies, but increase the difficultly for older students by incorporating activities that cross the midline such as right hand on left knee. To make the brain work even harder, ask the students to do things like pat their head and rub their tummy. Get creative and don’t be afraid of giving them a challenge!
Stretching or yoga moves and deep breathing exercises: These activities are meditative by nature, so they do have a calming and soothing effect. Slow and intentional movement based activities promote resetting the emotional state of the brain for learning. For some fun yoga videos for kids, search Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube (http://www.cosmickids.com/category/watch/).
The biggest take-home message is that brain breaks are super important to maximise your child’s learning. The more often your child does them, the more you will recognise the need for them when they’re learning, and I’m sure you’ll see the benefits as well!