A brain break is a specific technique commonly used to keep students engaged in a classroom. Brain breaks are used in combination with other classroom practices. They should be incorporated into the design and structure of the classroom. It can be done in various ways, such as a simple flipped classroom, an iterative, guided practice, a looped exercise, a spaced repetition, an active process, or in online teaching classes. Brain breaks should be individualised to the student. Brain breaks can help increase engagement in a classroom by helping students stay focused longer and avoid distractions.
A good rule of thumb is to have a few minutes to get your hands on your brain and not hesitate to use it for ten seconds to do some exercises. Thus, below are 5 brain break strategies to keep your students engaged.
- Inform the students about your actions: Tell them you are thinking of brain breaks and why. They might be interested and want to know why. When you set up the brain breaks, tell them what you are going to do, and what kind of brain break they can expect. Use your best judgement to set up an interesting brain break for each student and light some fire under them to engage with you and each other. As a teacher, you can be creative and vary your methods as well as your content. Take advantage of this flexibility to ensure that your lessons are always trying something new and different. Ask them questions and then answer them. Tell them what you’re doing, so they understand the importance of it. Be active in helping your students follow their curiosity. Students need to see that learning is relevant and enjoyable.
- Make plans based on your academic schedule:Use your calendar to insert a few brains breaks in your lesson plans to help keep your students focused on the lesson. If your class only has a regular schedule and some unstructured time, plan your brain breaks based on the schedule. This may mean planning a brain break for the beginning or end of the day, especially if you’re meeting at a specific time. Lesson plans that are too challenging for most students or that do not engage students are inappropriate for this strategy. If you are using this approach, consider using a different activity or lesson for the other 35-40 minutes of class time. As an alternative, consider having students engage in different group activities to focus on different learning objectives. Try to plan your breaks, so they coincide with your class schedule or with the natural transition points in your classroom due to the daily schedule. Brain breaks can be scheduled into a lesson at the start or the end.
- Use different ideas for all students:A brain break is a short diversion from what you are doing to engage different parts of the brain. Different parts of the brain are involved in specific tasks and behaviours. As we know, we are all different brains. So, try different breaks for different brains. Brain breaks are great for all students. They help activate different brain parts, especially when students are trying to concentrate. We do not want to reinforce the idea that students are columns of data and only they are worthy of attention and engagement. Instead, we want to get students to think more creatively and think about how they can use their brains to solve problems in the classroom. The best way to do this is to have students use their brains to accomplish tasks. This may mean they move around, or they sit still. Find different brain breaks for different tasks, like writing, listening to something, or watching something.
- Know the beginning and end of the brain break:This identifies when the brain break has started and ended, helping you plan the rest of your instruction accordingly. Brain breaks are either short bursts of physical activity or a more leisurely period of quiet time. A high intensity burst of activity can create a sense of urgency and hurry the student, whereas a slower pace of brain breaks can help the student relax into the task. Begin by asking a question that has been answered by the students. Follow with an activity that builds on the question. Continue with questions about the activity and provide follow-up questions to ensure that students are getting the most out of the break. Brain breaks should be clearly stated as well as when they’ll end so that students know when they can expect to return to their normal work.
- Don’t hesitate to explore new ideas: You might not change the outcome of what you’re doing, but it will help you see what works best in your classroom and help you to adapt your learning methods to achieve your goals. Keeping students engaged will massively improve your classroom. The brain has a great capacity for learning and is adept at picking up signals of mental stress. To motivate students, it’s crucial to incorporate positive experiences into the classroom. It’s important to allow students to have some fun and exercise their brains. If you can think of something that’s a good exercise for your students, then implement it. Avoid using too many of the same things and try to create something new. Once you have set a goal, you can experiment to see how far you can go, what experiments to run, and what experiments to avoid.
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Brain breaks are a great way to help students keep their attention focused on the material during class and between classes. If your students face challenges concentrating during a long teaching period, it gives them a chance to take a short break. Alternatively, if your students are having fewer challenges concentrating during class and between classes, then a long brain break might not be a good idea. Brain breaks are a powerful strategy for helping teachers with online classroom management and for students to use their working memory and focus better. We believe these strategies can help all learners learn better by helping them shift their focus to a bigger picture, allowing them to understand better how to learn.