What are Brain Breaks?

By Ashley Sanchez
College of Education Alumna, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education

A teacher and students around a table

During my student teaching, it didn’t take long for me to realize that student engagement is not the same as keeping busy. If I didn’t include a time for my students to get up out of their seats, they would find time to do it on their own.

Of course, this caused many distractions in the classroom, and it only seemed to occur during the most inconvenient times; during silent reading, while giving instructions, in the middle of a lesson or while working with another student.

Although I knew my students, with a variety of special needs, needed “brain breaks” or time to refocus and move around, I wasn’t sure how to implement strategies effectively.

After much discussion with my cooperating teacher and several hours on Pinterest, I created a system that I would give a try.

The 10:1 Rule

I began to use a 10:1 rule which meant for every 10 minutes my students spent in their seats, they received a one-minute break. I usually had one student a class period who kept track of the time in case I forgot (oops!).

Some of the brain breaks I used for my middle school students included the Cupid Shuffle, “brain gym” (cross-crawl and figure eights) techniques, balancing challenges, jumping jacks, soft-toss, character charades and music mingle.

To keep track of our activities, I wrote the name of each brain break on a Popsicle stick and put them all in a jar, which my students used to draw from. In addition to implementing one-minute breaks, I worked on finding more ways to incorporate movement into my lessons and activities.

The Benefits of Brain Breaks

Utilizing brain beaks and adding more physical movement in each of my six class periods eliminated many challenging behaviors. I also noticed my students were not just keeping busy or in a passive compliance mode throughout the hour—they were actually more focused and more energized than before.

And let’s face it, teachers benefit from brain breaks, too!

Want to read more? Check out “The Brain and Learning: Partners in Crime.” For more information about the College of Education at GCU, visit our website.

More about Ashley:

Ashley is currently working at the GCU College of Education as the front desk office coordinator. Ashley will be teaching 4th and 5th grade special education in the Cartwright Elementary School District this upcoming school year. This past April, Ashley graduated magna cum laude from Grand Canyon University. The College of Education’s framework of Learning, Leading and Serving, greatly influenced her undergraduate experience. Ashley was able to serve as the membership coordinator of GCU’s Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education and the vice president and treasurer of GCU’s Future Educators Association (FEA). Ashley also received the College of Education’s Outstanding Senior Award in 2015. Outside of the GCU community, she volunteers and serves on Arizona’s committee for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and she is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). She also enjoys participating in the Run to Fight Children’s Cancer and spending all of her vacation time at Disneyland. In the near future, she plans on earning her master’s degree in behavioral psychology or educational administration.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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