I. What are brain breaks?
Just as the name suggests, brain breaks are short breaks from work or study that ameliorate mental strain and refurbish energy and motivation levels. Brain breaks could serve extremely useful on days of tedious tasks and elongated hours of focus. As a teacher, you must frequently have come across days when an important but boring subject had to be taught to the class. You would’ve observed that 15-20 minutes into the class, your class started to show signs of distraction, fatigue, disconnect and so on. Brain breaks are an effective method to get such a class back on track to focus on the crucial subject at hand.
II. The benefits of brain breaks
Although believed that brain breaks are used for younger students still undergoing the development of their attention spans, brain breaks can actually be utilised by all age groups, including adults. Studies have proven several advantages of fixing a certain duration for brain breaks in your daily schedule, such as alleviation from stress, anxiety and frustration; and improved productivity. Let us dive deeper into this:
Mood Booster: Certain brain break activities cue the production of happy hormones, i.e, Oxytocin, Dopamine, Serotonin and Endorphins in the body, which could improve your mood significantly.
Improves Motivation level: When the task to complete is too time-taking or energy consuming, you might lose motivation quickly. In such cases taking a brain break could instantly alleviate the situation by invigorating your mind again and making you motivated.
III. How to take brain breaks in school
When taking a brain break, the duration and point of start play a crucial role. As a teacher, you would know your class best. Try to select a time when the brain break activities would be the most effective for your students. You can select this efficient point of time in two ways. First, take the break right before reaching the stage of mental fatigue, distraction, or boredom. This might vary per subject as well as age group. You need not fixate the breaks to the same time daily; you might want to be observant of your students’ behaviour and select different timings daily. Second, you can use brain breaks as a reward system where students would be given a certain period as a break after they have completed an assigned number of tasks.
The rewards system can further be utilised in two ways: interval breaks and ratio breaks. Interval breaks involve allowing your students to take brain breaks after a specified duration of time. This could look like a 10-minute break after 30 minutes of study. It is vital to remember that different age groups require different durations and frequencies of breaks. If you are a teacher teaching several grades simultaneously, it is advised that you maintain a record of the varying brain break schedules for each class. The second kind, ratio break works as follows: for every 10 math questions that are completed, the student is allowed to partake in a 10-minute doodling session. This is an effective way to refurbish the motivation levels for the math assignment while improving your creativity as well.
Having looked at the perspective of a teacher, I wish to talk from the student’s side. If you’re a student reading this, you can start by assigning yourself a brain break routine self-dependently. Although the timetable of your class may not be in your hands, you can certainly mould your break timings to match your school’s timetable. After every class, ensure that you go for a walk to the bathroom and back, to improve the blood circulation to your brain, in turn refurbishing your ability to focus. If you feel drowsy in the middle of the class, you could drink water, eat a snack, close your eyes briefly or go out to wash your face after having taken your teacher’s permission.
IV. Ideas for brain break activities
Brain break activities are of two types: active and inactive.
1. Active brain breaks are movement-based breaks that involve physical exercise to increase blood circulation to your brain, revitalise the nervous system and in turn improve your concentration abilities. You can take active brain breaks in the following ways:
Short cardio session: sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, high knees
Stretching: Utkatasana (chair pose), Uttanasana (standing forward bend), Malasana (garland pose), Garudasana (eagle pose)
2. Inactive brain breaks are meant to give relaxation and calm as opposed to active brain breaks that focus on providing energy. Inactive brain breaks are also called quiet brain breaks and are usually done while sitting. Following are a few options:
It is your responsibility as a teacher to select the kind of brain breaks that would best suit your students. In some cases, students easily triggered by motion might find it harder to get back and focus on a boring subject; in such a case, it is advisable to use quiet brain breaks instead of asking them to participate in cardio exercises. Apart from this, students especially of high school might prefer to simply patch up with their friends and converse for a while; if you find a short conversation break better, then allow your students to do so. Do not hesitate to experiment and find the best-suited brain breaks for your students. You can use the help of your students in this too by clearly vocalising your intent and explaining to them the importance of brain breaks.