Attention can flag during the school day, whether in person or remote. Taking a break restores attention and relieves mental strain and fatigue. Brain breaks in the classroom benefit students – and their ability to learn. Here, we have gathered a few tips ideas on how to refocus and energize learning.
Studies have shown that time in nature helps all of us recover our attention resources – a real break with nature helps kids refocus. The International Arts and Minds Lab talks about the science behind this and offers suggestions. Even if kids lack access to nature out of doors, performance improves after looking at images of nature.
Bird song played from a video or audio clip has been shown to both calm the listener and focus the attention. Schools have experimented with a few moments of listening to the sounds of birds just after lunch when things start to feel drowsy and distracted and found positive benefits.
Nature you can see, even out of your windows, can be a great way to have an indoor green break. Maybe there is brain benefit when we stare out the window.
Recess for all ages
Recess is unstructured playtime that is a great way for kids to take a real break.
Teachers have long known the value of recess. While kids enjoy recess, their brains are getting benefit for their cognitive attention, creativity, social connection, physical activity and more. While recess is typically for younger students, teens also need breaks.
Studies have shown that taking a break by scrolling through social media does not help with relaxation, so finding breaks that work for teens is important.
Parents and teachers can encourage study breaks during the school day. The Colorado Education Initiative has a great toolkit with many great ideas for secondary schools and students, including Easy Energizers.
Overload from online learning happens at all ages. Mindfulness can calm feelings of overwhelm by making a body-mind connection and there are many practices to try. Sometimes just a moment or two of quiet, with eyes closed, to take a deep breath or two, is enough. Mindful Schools has a back-to-school resource for teaching this fall, including podcasts for mindfulness and creating connection in hybrid and remote classrooms this year.
Teaching students how the brain learns
Another great way to energize learning is to teach your students how they can do it themselves. Helping students understand how the brain learns and what techniques they can use to make the best out of it without putting a strain on their mental health is definitely a way to go!
Check out this helpful article from ASCD on how you can help students take care of their own cognitive and emotional learning.
As a fun fact, remind your students that every experience they have changes their brain! You can find more about how our brains change as we learn here.
What techniques do you use to help your students feel refreshed and learn smart?