How to use Brain Breaks to Boost Learning
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
What are brain breaks?
Whether you're a teacher looking for new classroom management ideas or a parent trying to make the most of homework time, brain breaks are a refreshing, effective strategy worth trying out. Brain breaks, also known as brain boosters, activity breaks, or movement breaks, are short exercises or activities incorporated between lessons to help students relax and refocus. They require little preparation but are great ways to get kids to release energy throughout the day while helping them learn better.
Brain breaks can be simple, such as jumping rope or stretching, or more complex, such as a game played by multiple students. The point is to get them moving, to circulate the blood in their bodies and activate chemical releases in their brains. Teachers at "Upper Elementary Snapshots" list 12 ideas to use in the classroom, like writing brain breaks on pieces of papers, crumbling each into a ball, and tossing them around until every student has a fun task assigned.
How to organize your brain breaks:
1. Write down ideas on Popsicle sticks, ping pong balls, flash cards, etc. This way, you can randomly select a brain break whenever you need one.
2. Pinterest has lots of ideas if you need help getting creative. The more variety - the better!
3. Decorate however you like to match your space. This is a fun addition to your classroom or home decor!
4. Place your items in a container of your choice and you're done! Pro tip: writing a time limit or number of sets can add structure and make activities even more fun.
When should you use brain breaks?
In the classroom, brain breaks are often used as transitions between subjects or assignments. Every teacher knows that students can get tired or distracted if they spend too much time sitting in one spot doing rigorous work for too long. Brain breaks help relieve tension by allowing students' brains to recover and give them more time to consolidate information.
Using brain breaks to start the day helps set a positive atmosphere in the classroom by energizing students. Silly or fun activities can make students laugh and engage with one another, creating a sense of community in the classroom. Taking a couple of minutes to do a brain break before a test is also beneficial because it prompts students to breathe and relax instead of focusing on feeling nervous or anxious.
When your child is at home, brain breaks are useful during homework time or while working on long projects. An easy way to motivate your student to finish their homework is to have a set amount of time for working, breaking it up into chunks, and doing a brain break during each transition. This makes a hard job seem much more manageable and enjoyable, for children and adults alike.
Age-specific brain break activities
Depending on your students' age, brain breaks can range from high intensity exercises to taking a few moments to meditate or listen to music. The younger the child, the more likely they are to enjoy physical activities, while older students may prefer time to sit and decompress before moving on to the next task.
For students aged 5-10, you may choose to jump rope, do a hop scotch, or play a quick game of "Simon Says." Older students may prefer a drawing activity, trying some yoga poses, or a game of "Minute to Win it." Explore a variety of ideas and see what works best for your students.
Don't forget, at any age, setting rules and expectations for how tasks will work is important in managing behavior. Brain breaks are a privilege and there will still be work to get done after the break is over. Good luck, and have fun!
Here are some links to activity ideas to help you get started: