Mini Brain Breaks

I follow a great teaching blog by Heather Wolpert-Gawron an award winning middle school teacher, writer and teacher trainer. She looks a lot at teenage brains and how we can create classrooms that best suite our students. I recently read an interesting post about the topic which can be found here:

It is part of a three part series on the tween brain.

She talks about the importance of keeping the brain flush with oxygen and gives suggestions for what I like to think of as microbreaks. Some techniques are great and I have tried them on myself and find them very helpful such as:

Taking deep breaths

Yawning before a big task

Using music

Moving around in general.

She also offers some less traditional ideas such as having students get up and move chairs, or when the teacher says “stop, drop and write”, students drop to the floor and write down some notes. She also suggests adding random pictures between PPT slides not related to the presentation to catch students attention.

She offers some interesting ideas, I must admit I am hesitant to try some of the less traditional methods in fear of chaos and losing precious time. At the same time you don’t want to fall into the trap of always doing that. I wonder if anyone has tried any of the methods?? What do other people think? Should we try and introduce more microbreaks for our students?


8 thoughts on “Mini Brain Breaks

  1. In my experience microbreaks really do help students with learning. They help when students (and sometimes teachers) become restless and attention is waning. As I teach young children I use a limited number of activities and introduce a new every week or so, otherwise I would spend too much time teaching the activity.

  2. Stretching games, fast running on the spot (always causes mayhem but worth it), co-ordination activities such as patting your head while rubbing your stomach, throwing and catching an invisible ball, my little ones don’t really get deep breathing and it can cause problems if they can’t identify when it is too much.
    Somewhere in the archives of my teaching life (26 years and counting) I remember a really good resource full of these sort of things but at the moment I can’t remember what it is called. Will try and source it and send you a link.

  3. I agree it is a fine line we walk with keeping our middle schoolers engaged in the lessons without “causing meyhem.” Also tweens are so self-conscious and are reluctant to try things they think might make them look silly. I am sure I couldn’t get very many of my students to drop to the floor and write notes. They do like a short mental break – just like we all do. I use a lot of the Kagan Structures to help my students work together productively and stay engaged.

    • I have not heard of Kagan Structures before I will check them out. Thanks for sharing. I know what you mean about being reluctant to try new things, I have a very shy group of kids this year. I am willing to give anything a try to get them to be more active in class discussions.

  4. Here is a link to an article about Kagan structure basics. The best place to start is the book Cooperative Learning by Spencer Kagan. The structures offer protocols – specifics for students working together. They also offer a digital subscription to the structures, but it is kind of expensive. The other thing I am using this year with much success is Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to help Students Learn. It is a great Math Solutions book. First we established three goals for the math talk in our classroom – productive, fair, and respectful. Now I am introducing one talk tool each week and reinforcing the ones we have done. The book says K-6 on it, but I think it is great for any middle school classroom too.

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