Breaking through Words: Sarah Wordlaw
Tips and techniques to introduce brain breaks into your classroom
It’s 11:30 Monday morning. You’re enthusiastically teaching that maths lesson which you spent your weekend planning. You turn around and see a sea of tired faces, hunched over tables. What’s the solution? Brain breaks!
Studies show children can concentrate for around 10 minutes at a time and regular, short energising brain breaks are perfect to ignite their thinking brains again. A brain break is any short activity that gets children out of their seats, getting glucose and oxygen to their brains.
Embedding brain breaks into your day ensures productivity; children have the concentration to complete tasks to their full potential. A mental breather if you will.
There are different types of breaks for different moments in the day. Practising mindfulness gives the brain a mental break and allows students to refocus their minds. Starting the day and after break times are the perfect times for practising mindfulness.
Throughout history it has been proved to help people gain control of their emotions and become more aware of themselves. These skills can help children cope with academic stress and also can help them to deal with any of the day-to-day pressures of home life and growing up.
Mindfulness helps children to develop their emotional intelligence and research has shown that mindfulness education in schools increases optimism and happiness in classrooms, decreases bullying and aggression, increases compassion and empathy for others and helps students resolve conflicts.
Taking a moment to sit completely still and focus on one thing takes little out of your timetable and the gains are enormous. Here are three different ways to do this is:
Give children an object to such – like a feather or a stone. Ask them to close their eyes and describe what the object feels like to their partner.
- SMELL & TELL
Provide the children with something fragrant, such as lavender or orange peel, and ask them to breathe in the scent and focus only on the smell. Then describe it.
- SOUND CLOUD
Take a bell, ring it and ask children to remain silent and listen to the sound and see what they notice. Encourage children to talk about what the sound made them think of.
There are times in the day when more energising brain breaks are needed – such as in between lessons or when there is a general lull in the classroom. There are lots of fab ideas perfect for these times. A personal favourite of mine is the Bean Bag Race as it develops social skills, coordination and patience.
Here are four of my favourites to get you started:
- BEAN BAG RACE
Ask the whole class to stand behind their chairs. The bean bag gets thrown around the classroom, each child saying the name of the child they throw it to. When someone has received the bean bag, they duck down so each child gets it only once. Once it has been around the class, all children stand up and you time how long it takes to get around in the same order. This one is particularly good for upper KS2; it teaches the importance of eye contact, focus and working as a team in order to be successful.
- TOUCH & GO
This is a great memory game to refocus children. The first child gets up and touches an item in the classroom. The next child touches that item first, then one of their own and so on and so forth.
- MUSICAL STATUES
The old classic is a great three-minute brain break to get children up and moving around the room. If you have the odd child who doesn’t like to dance or move to music, put them in charge of stopping the music.
- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
This is a great two-minute break. Write the numbers 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, on the board. Ask children for movements or sounds and write one next to each number. For example, 5 – dabs, 4 – meows, 3 – star jumps, etc. Then when you say ‘go’ children are to complete the challenge and return to their seats.
You can find lots more on my blog swbrainbreaks.wordpress.com or tweet me with any ideas you’ve used in your classrooms (or staff room) @smwordlaw. Ultimately, we want children to be as productive as possible, and to be able to understand their actions and behaviour as much as possible.
Brain breaks are a great tool – for both children and adults – to refocus attentions or to take a moment of calm to prepare for both learning and life. Try it out, see if it