WHAT ARE BRAIN BREAKS?
A brain break is a short 2-3 minute break from formal instructional teaching in the classroom. It may incorporate body movements such as dance, stretching, strength and coordination. The purpose is to get the attention of the class as a whole and activate their bodies ready for learning. Brain breaks may be used to help alert kids; wake them up from sluggish behaviour or lack of concentration. Brain breaks may also be used to calm kids down when necessary; relax them from over-excitement.
WHAT IS THE "THINKING" BEHIND BRAIN BREAKS?
The term "brain breaks" is derived from "brain-based" education. You may have heard of terms such as "using both sides of the brain" or "engaging the brain" in learning. Jensen (2008) talks about brain based teaching as ESP - the active ENGAGEMENT (E) of purposeful STRATEGIES (S) based on PRINCIPLES (P) derived from neuroscience. He challenges teachers to consider how brains learn best.
The "Whole Brain Teaching Method" is also becoming increasingly popular in classrooms as teachers promote learning through visual, auditory, kineasthetic and cooperative learning techniques Fishel (2011).
Occupational therapists have used sensory integration principles in assisting children in the classroom who have difficulty paying attention and concentrating. We recommend movement breaks or "vestibular activities" to help organise the nervous system. Depending on the activities vestibular sensation can help the nervous system to stay organized and balanced; alerting with quick head movements or calming with slow head movements (Yack, Aquilla and Sutton, 2015) . We also look at a child's proprioceptive system; the unconconscious awareness of body position located in muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Activities that require muscles to stretch and work hard can provide proprioceptive sensations that can also help the brain to regulate arousal states (Yack, Aquilla and Sutton, 2015).
Brain breaks are strategies that combine these neuroscientific principles, engaging children in the classroom so that they are ready to learn! Brain breaks are suitable for average developing children in a mainstream classroom as well as for children with special needs. They are also suitable for kids of all ages (and even adult learners)!
BRAIN BREAKS - What teachers "think"!
In speaking with different teachers, they love having a variety of brain breaks and movement break suggestions in their repertoire. Kids love them in the classroom.
A teacher (thanks Chauntal!) I spoke to in researching this article said "Sometimes I find they need to get rid of energy so we dance or do kinaesthetic learning games such as star jumps while we spell or clapping games while we count in patterns. If we are concentrating on a writing task we might do strength core exercise such as planks, chair dips or yoga poses. When we need to calm down we do brain gym - like rolling shoulders in different directions or different coordination games".
BRAIN BREAKS FOR THE CLASSROOM!
Teachers who have access to smartboards, love using these boards to help incorporate movement into the classroom. There are many options available on You Tube.
Do you use brain breaks to help kids to concentrate in the classroom? What are your favourite brain breaks?
This post is part of “Functional Skills for Kids: 12 month series by Paediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists”. You can read all of the childhood functions HERE. Read all Your Kids OT’s monthly posts HERE.
Find more information about “School Day Functions”, stop by to see what other Occupational and Physical Therapists participating in the “Functional Skills for Kids series” have written:
Fine Motor Skills Needed at School and Classroom Activities | Sugar Aunts
How Do Gross Motor Skills Affect Academics? | Your Therapy Source
65 Helpful Strategies for Students with Sensory Challenges | Mama OT
Brain Breaks to Help Concentration in the Classroom | Your Kids OT
Things You can do at Home to Help Your Child in School | Therapy Fun Zone
Tips for Following Directions in the Classroom and Home | Growing Hands-On Kids
Positioning In The Classroom |Miss Jaime OT
10 Transition Strategies for Kids: Preventing Tantrums | The Inspired Treehouse
The Case for More Play in the School Setting | Kids Play Space
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
Disclaimer: The information on this site is general in nature and should be used for educational and entertainment purposes. The activities are safe for most children, however, you should consult an Occupational Therapist or health professional to address specific movement, sensory or other medical conditions. This blog does not replace formal therapeutic professional advice given by a health professional or medical practitioner. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand. Content, advertising space or posts will be clearly identified if paid, affiliated or sponsored. Your Kids OT undertakes to meet the requirements of the "Social Media Policy" as published by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further information about this policy can be found here.
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