The world of education over the past century has transformed and reformed itself significantly to adjust to current benchmarks of academic excellence and how educators engage students in accordance toward achieving that standard.
In the past, many educators were empowered with the ability to enforce hard discipline on students to the same entitlement as parents would have over their children, engaging them through the power of fear. On the contrary, some modern day education techniques believe in letting students do whatever they please in order to achieve that same academic outcome. Whether or not you agree with these frameworks of discipline or sit somewhere in the middle, one thing is certain in that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Throughout our teaching experience, we have tried and tested different techniques to help students increase their levels of productivity and have found one in particular to be effective: Brain breaks.
What are brain breaks?
Brain breaks are a critical part of the education process and nurturing good outcomes. They are small mental breaks designed to help students focus and practice the art of being present. Like an electronic device, which requires resets to optimally perform, brain breaks allow students a small reset in the class which helps enhance their energy and alleviate stress to be better focused.
The hippocampus (the centre in our brain responsible for retention of facts) can only process so much information at once before it starts to overload. Brain breaks allow for the memory centre to cool-down a little in order to be able to process more information later on. In our own experience, we’ve observed that brain breaks help reduce students’ stress and frustration, while increasing their overall ability to keep attentive and productive.
What are some examples of brain breaks?
In a traditional classroom, brain breaks are often activities like musical chairs, which require the students to move and react to stimuli defined by the teachers.
Our philosophy is that brain breaks don’t have to be entirely unproductive. Rather, we ask students to do a variety of fun activities and apply them to the concepts that they have learned throughout the course of the lesson. Some examples of the brain breaks we use in our lessons are:
Unjumble the words: using words related to the topic we are learning.
Building words: using a long word from the vocabulary of the week to build as many small words as possible
Scissors, paper, rock: multiplication game where students uses 1-5 fingers and they have to multiply the numbers as quickly as possible
Caption this: a photo without any context is shown and students discuss possible scenarios and come up with a suitable caption
Would you rather: would you rather questions to provoke discussion and creativity
By having brain breaks related to the concepts being taught, students are able to engage in fun yet relevant activities which further act as accelerators to encourage critical and creative thinking. In addition to this, our brain breaks help students to better understand and apply concepts in new settings while fostering the joy of learning in our students so that they may become lifelong learners.