It’s no secret that kids struggle to maintain focus and concentration in the classroom. The repercussions of this can be felt by teachers instantly – not to mention the long-lasting effects this can have on a child’s education.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
In fact, there’s growing evidence to support that the use of a simple technique (known as brain breaks) can have a dramatic impact on a student’s ability to stay on task for longer.
Brain breaks have been shown to:
- Reduce stress.
- Increase productivity.
- Encourage the brain to enter ‘default mode’ (more on that in a minute).
- Reduce disruptive behavior.
- Increase student effort.
- Improve the ability to stay on task.
- Promote physical fitness and brain health.
- Increase brain activity and cognitive function.
Not bad for a simple technique that takes under five minutes to implement, right?
What are brain breaks?
Brain breaks are sporadic interruptions to lessons designed to increase productivity and mental focus.
A brain break can be something as simple as a two-minute stretch, a dance, or a quick jog on the spot. Movement-based brain breaks such as these increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, resulting in increased attention spans amongst students.
How long should brain breaks be?
Brain breaks should take roughly between one and three minutes to complete (no longer than five minutes), and they should be conducted at regular intervals during a lesson for best effect.
Quick tip: For best results, try to initiate brain breaks before students begin to lapse in concentration – not after.
Do brain breaks work?
Scientific tests have studied the impact of brain breaks on student learning, and the results are conclusive:
Brain breaks work, and in more ways than previously thought:
- They allow the brain to go into ‘default mode’.
- They reduce stress amongst students and teachers.
- Brain breaks have been shown to improve student behavior in the classroom.
- Students maintain concentration and stay on-task for longer.
- They help promote physical fitness and boost health.
Before we take a closer look at some brain break ideas (twelve to be exact), let’s examine what ‘default mode’ means and why it’s important.
What is default mode?
Default mode or Default Mode Network (DNM) “is a network of interacting brain regions that is active when a person is not focused on the outside world.”
In this state, the brain is still highly active carrying out future planning, reflecting on memories, and consolidating ideas.
This is exactly what happens during brain breaks as a student’s focus is allowed to shift.
For more information on DNM, check out Mary Helen Immordino-Yang’s famous paper: Rest Is Not Idleness: Implications of the Brain’s Default Mode for Human Development and Education here.
12 digital brain break ideas to help your class focus
There are plenty of non-digital brain break activities that are easy to implement quickly in the classroom: stretching, star jumps, burpees, etc.
However, the focus of this article is digital brain break ideas that offer a unique twist to their non-digital counterparts to showcase how technology is being used in classrooms across Australia:
Brain breaks for kids
1. Freeze dance
Kids love to dance, and dancing is a great way to get the blood pumping around the body and increase the heart rate quickly.
Freeze dance is a fun game where students must stop dancing and freeze when the music is paused and begin dancing once again once the music is restarted.
This game is even better when kids are following along to choreography in dance videos.
Resource ideas: Kidz Bop Dance Videos
2. Simon says
Simon Says is a simple game that kids love to play, with some surprising benefits:
- Helps to develop body awareness and motor skills.
- Develops sportsmanship.
- Aids the development of sequencing skills.
It’s a fun, easy game that young kids can easily interact with.
Resources ideas: Youtube
3. Go Noodle
Go Noodle is a free resource packed full of great brain break ideas for kids. It’s used worldwide by millions of young students to get them up and moving during their learning sessions and help them become more mindful as a result.
Developed by child development experts, Go Noodle is a leader in the digital brain break space.
Resource ideas: Go Noodle
4. Yoga for kids
Yoga is a great activity for kids to de-stress and re-center, and there’s plenty of digital yoga resources for kids available.
A quick five-minute yoga session in the classroom will help your students relax and refocus for the rest of the class.
Resource ideas: Cosmic Kids Yoga
Zumba is a fitness program that combines Latin and international music with dance moves. Zumba routines incorporate interval training – alternating fast and slow rhythms – to help improve cardiovascular fitness.
It’s a great full-body exercise to get your students’ heart rates up and get both sides of the brain working.
Resource ideas: Zumba with Dovydas
6. Kid-friendly video workouts
Brain breaks are extra effective when incorporated alongside exercise. And a quick kid-friendly two-minute routine can work wonders.
In fact, with physical education fighting for breathing space in most modern curriculums, these mini classroom workouts are a much-welcomed addition.
Resources: Popsugar Fitness
7. Memory tests
Children love a challenge, and memory tests are great for just that.
Playing a quick memory test game will help fire up the neurons and re-engage students back into the classroom.
Resource ideas: WikiFun & Learn
8. Calming music
A moment of calm in amongst an action-packed day of learning goes a long way. What’s more, there’s growing evidence that supports numerous health benefits – alongside benefits to helping students in the classroom:
- Lowering of the heart rate.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Quietening of the nervous system.
- Reduced muscle tension.
- Reduced stress and anxiety.
- Triggering the release of serotonin and oxytocin.
Resource ideas: Calm.com | Mindful Kids
Brain breaks for teens
Meditation is the process of freeing your mind from thought to arrive at a more clear, calm emotional state. And the popularity of meditation is increasing as more studies reveal the many benefits:
- Reduced stress
- Controls anxiety
- Promotes emotional health
- Lengthens attention span
- Decrease blood pressure
It’s a quick and effective practice that fits well as a great brain break, helping students to maintain a healthy growth mindset.
Resource ideas: Headspace
10. Deep breathing
Deep breathing allows your body to fully exchange incoming oxygen with outgoing carbon dioxide.
It has also been shown to slow the heartbeat, lower or stabilize blood pressure, lower stress, improve concentration and mental well-being, and much more.
Resource ideas: VeryWell Mind’s deep breathing exercises
11. Self-guided acupressure massage
Acupressure massage has been proven to help with fatigue, anxiety, stress, and tension. All of which can build up in a classroom environment.
Following a simple guided acupressure massage routine online is a great way to keep your students focused and at their best.
Resource ideas: Youth to the people
12. Laughter Yoga
Laughter yoga (Hasyayoga) is a modern exercise involving prolonged voluntary laughter. This type of yoga is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides similar physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter.
Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
Follow along to a simple instructional video, and your students will love it.
Resources: Laugh Active
With conclusive data showing the importance of brain breaks in the classroom, it may now be time to rethink our teaching approach.
To bring these digital brain breaks to life, why not get the whole classroom involved using our purpose built interactive displays? Designed by teachers, for teachers.
Interested in learning more? Request a FREE virtual demo from one of our experts today!