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​4 Characteristics of Effective Brain Breaks

Brain Breaks

Want to start the year off with energized, focused students and keep it that way? Try brain breaks in your classroom.

What Are Brain Breaks?

Brain breaks are short periods of time—between one and five minutes—when students take a breather from instruction and get moving. By pausing learning you can actually increase it.

Brain breaks support natural cognitive function by increasing oxygen flow to the brain, supporting neuronal health, and improving memory. Studies show that physical activity in a person’s formative years can lead to long-term cognitive improvements.

Check out this list of essential characteristics as you plan for brain breaks in your classroom.

1) They’re physical

Movement is the key to effective brain breaks. Physical activity boosts energy, heightens concentration, reduces stress, improves mood, and promotes academic achievement. As an added bonus, you will burn calories with your students while bringing the joy factor to your classroom!

2) They’re short and timely

Take note of the times of day when your class seems sleepy or off task, like during morning meeting, transitions, before independent work, or right after lunch, and build in time during these moments for a quick energizer.

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3) They’re novel

Our brains thrive on new experiences that break up a routine, so make sure to add variety to your brain breaks. Keep your students on their toes and pique their interest with GoNoodle, a site that has short, animated videos that will get your students moving. Plus, it’s user friendly and free!

Don’t have access to a computer in your classroom? This article and printable offers simple, quick exercises and games that don’t require technology.

4) They build important skills

While students won’t be engaged in direct instruction, brain breaks are a great way to build self-regulation, collaborative skills, and communication skills. Encourage group play as seen here, or build communication and speaking skills by having students lead whole-class exercises.

Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Active Schools initiative works to ensure that all schools provide at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. You can help the cause with brain breaks by getting your class dancing! Try 20 Brain Break music videos or infuse yoga into your daily instruction by checking out our course, Stretching Bodies and Minds: Using Yoga to Enhance Student Focus and Motivation.