We all need a quick break from work. You might be staring at a screen for hours reading news articles and checking projects. Or you could possibly be correcting test after test after test. Or you may just be part of an intense conversation that you just need to step away from for a moment.
At some point, our minds need a quick little break from the continuous work so that we can look back at our work with fresh eyes and a clear head.
I’ve been trying to incorporate more hyperdoc work within the classroom, and I noticed that as engaged as students are, they’re staring at screens and our atlases for quite some time. After a while, I began to notice the bouncing of the legs, the fidgeting, the lack of focus. I, as a result, started to become antsy and anxious. Are students able to fully comprehend and achieve the objective by engaging with the tasks on the computer? Why is it so quiet? What can I do to break the monotony?
Enter: Brain Breaks
We as educators are beginning to hear this phrase more and more, with the need for movement breaks so high in education (especially middle school). A Brain Break is “a short mental break that is taken during regular intervals during classroom instruction.” (ThoughtCo). It provides students an opportunity to add movement, step away from the task at hand for a moment, and to put their minds into cool down mode. Our minds work like a computer and can become overheated if not properly taken care of. Thus the need for a brain break.
Recently, I’ve been trying to incorporate more and more brain breaks into the classroom. Our ongoing game of Classcraft offers a brain break at the beginning of class with a Random Event. This offers a way for students to clear their minds from their last class and put their brains into cool down mode. But during the class is when I’m trying to switch it up.
Lately, I’ve only been going back and forth between two brain breaks (depending on time). The first one is a simple stretch. I ask all students to stand up and move to another table so that they’re away from their work. Then, we go through simple stretches as if they were preparing to run a race. We roll our shoulders, close our eyes, roll our heads back and forth and make sure that we’re ready to go for when we return to our work. I try to make this as quiet as possible so that it offers an opportunity of peace and clarity.
The other one is called “Entourage” and is a version of Rock Paper Scissor. Students partner up with someone beside them, play one round of Rock Paper Scissor and determine who the winner is. Whoever loses the round becomes part of the winner’s entourage, and cheers them on as they battle other winners. Eventually there are two larger “entourages” that end up battling it out with a final Rock Paper Scissor. I go ahead and add some Classcraft points to that as well. This game is silly, doesn’t relate to content, and provides movement. It also gives students an opportunity to clear their head of their work so that they can return to their work with fresh eyes.
As I continue my exploration with brain breaks, I am looking to incorporate some geography challenges. Most of them will include movement when some may be a:
The addicting music/beat creating game called Incredibox is an activity I’d like to incorporate with students. Possibly use a random student generator to have all students either add a beat, remove a beat, or to hit the “bonus” beat. Movement will include coming up to the SmartBoard to choose as well as dancing (of course!)
GoNoodle is another really popular movement break site that incorporates music, curriculum, and dance. These videos are on the shorter side, but I would say that GoNoodle is better made for younger students (correct me if I’m wrong).
This SlideShare presentation offers 6 great ideas for geography related brain breaks that can possibly incorporate movement. Example that I’m thinking of: Race to the globe and find me a country that is located in the Middle East. Race to the globe and find me a country in Asia that begins with the letter A. Etc.
Finally, this PDF file from the Pottsgrove School District in Pennsylvania highlights the importance of incorporating brain breaks in the classroom as well as provides some wonderful examples of physical activities you can accomplish as well as discussion points. My thoughts are to use those discussion questions as a 4 Corners activity so that students go to different parts of the room to express their answers. Ta-dah! Movement! (Bonus: Actually getting to know your students on a personal level rather than academic).
How do you incorporate brain breaks into your classroom? What are some activities that have worked for you?