Brain Breaks to Keep Students Engaged

by Marjorie Nolan, Reading Coach, First Coast High School

Brain Breaks are a quick and effective way of changing or focusing the physical and mental state of the learners in your group. They are also a useful tool for students to use to help activate, energize and stimulate their brains. Research indicates that brain breaks also improve students’ concentration and relieve stress.

Some brain breaks focus on discussion or some specific verbal task. Others help students to clear their minds or meditate. The most effective brain breaks incorporate some level of physical movement in order to stimulate neurological pathways and help both hemispheres of the brain work together.

Students should have a kinesthetic brain break every 25-30 minutes. Brain break activities do take about 1-3 minutes of class time to complete; however, the efficiency of our students goes up when brain breaks are incorporated. Brain breaks are refreshing for both students and teachers. You should participate too!

Before implementing brain breaks in your classroom, be certain that you explain their purpose to students. Make certain that students understand that brain breaks are research-based and their efficacy has been scientifically proven. It will also be vitally important that you set behavior expectations before you begin. For example, remind students that everyone must participate and must give their best effort. Set a timer for the activity so that it doesn’t exceed set time limits. If possible, project the written directions, explain them, and demonstrate the task. Finally, develop a technique for getting students to resume work immediately. You might have a 10-second count-down cue or play a short 10-scond musical clip cue (like the Jeopardy song).

Any new instructional technique takes a few tries before it works effectively. Don’t get discouraged or give up!

Click here for a list of Brain Break ideas.