Brain breaks help students stay energized and focused for learning. They provide a chance to reset the brain and increase oxygen flow, and are best used before kids start to lose focus or act out.
Try having them roll a die or draw a slip from a box to choose their break. Or, have them take a dance break to Go Noodle or learn to jump jacks with action songs that give precise instructions for every move.
Getting students to relax is a great way to make them feel at ease and ready to learn. For example, a simple breathing exercise can improve a student’s self-efficiency, short-term memory, and concentration.
Another way to relax kids during a brain break is through movement. Exercise-based breaks are ideal because they increase blood flow to the brain and allow learners to activate their minds more. This can be as easy as a dance party or playing trivia with class material.
Physical brain breaks can also help with wiggles and fidgeting, which is often caused by frustration during long lessons. Simply handing out exercise balls for kids to sit on and bounce can be a quick way to get rid of excess energy. Adding in skill-building challenges such as a minute to win it game can add more variety to the experience.
Movement is a great way to help students reset. It is a long-held understanding in special needs classrooms and occupational therapy offices that movement breaks are very valuable to students with sensory processing disorders or who struggle to stay focused and quiet in the classroom.
Incorporating movement into a brain break is not only fun, but it increases students heart rates which activates their minds and improves attention span. Adding content-based activities like playing trivia with class material, jumping jacks for every correct answer, or marching in place can also increase engagement.
These movement breaks can be done individually or in a group, as part of a sensory diet or in addition to the normal classroom day. They can be incorporated as a transition, between activities, for indoor recess or even for just a couple of minutes to recharge.
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.” This simple adage is at the heart of visualization. It is not simply daydreaming, but a practice used by elite athletes like Muhammed Ali, Michael Phelps, and Katie Ledecky, entrepreneurs, and even stroke survivors to reach their goals.
To perform a visualizing exercise, find a quiet place where you can relax and focus. Close your eyes and picture the outcome or object that you want in your life. Make it clear, with all of the details that you can think of, and feel how you would experience it if you had achieved your goal.
To increase the effectiveness of your visualization, Tara Swart, neuroscientist and author of The Source, suggests activating your senses during this practice. For example, envision what it will smell like and how it will feel in your body.
The hippocampus can only process so much information at once, and it’s important for children to reset their attention between learning sessions. Music brain breaks help get kids up and moving while encouraging creativity and socialization.
Try out action songs, which give kids specific instructions to follow. They can perform jumping jacks, star jumps, sit ups and other physical activities to the rhythm of a song until it stops playing. This is a great way to get the heart pumping and improve balance, coordination, and flexibility.
Try using Go Noodle, a free resource that has a huge selection of activity songs and dances including the Electric Slide, The Cha-Cha Slide and even The Macarena! These music and movement brain breaks improve attentiveness, concentration and focus and also accelerate learning.
Kids have a lot of expendable energy that can often present itself at inopportune times. Brain breaks allow them to refocus their attention, calm down and get some physical activity that stimulates their sense of well being and focus.
When using brain break activities, ensure that they are developmentally appropriate for your students. Be enthusiastic about them so that the students buy into their value and importance.
Also, choose different types of brain break activities depending on the time of day and energy level of your classroom. For example, if the class is feeling tired, an energizing brain break activity would be more appropriate than a calming one. In addition, if some students are uncomfortable participating in group brain breaks, create a nonverbal signal that they can use to let you know that they do not wish to participate.