Thursday, August 9, 2018

Brain Breaks

A brain break is exactly what the name implies: a break for your brain and a chance for it to reset. Years ago, I had heard of the concept but actually wrote it off as some trendy "touchy feely" kind of activity which had no merit. It was not until IFLT 2016 that I saw brain breaks in action as something which needs to be incorporated into one's classroom. At that particular IFLT, I had the opportunity to observe Annabelle Allen (whom I did not know at that time but now absolutely love) teach Spanish to elementary school-aged students and was absolutely blown away by her and what she does in her classroom. In addition to Annabelle's absolutely phenomenal teaching and her connection with her students, I saw how often she did brain breaks. This is where I finally understood the need for them in a classroom, especially since she was teaching elementary school-aged students. 

Some things I have learned about brain breaks:
  1. They do not have to be long - they can be less than a minute or as long as 3-4 minutes.
  2. They can be any type of activity (see list below).
  3. Brain breaks need to be done every minute for the average age of your class, e.g., my classes this year are mostly sophomores and juniors, so the average age is 15-17, meaning my students need a brain break every 15-17 minutes. 
  4. For classes later in the day, students need brain breaks more often, so I will do it every 12-14 minutes for my afternoon classes.
  5. According to science, the best brain breaks are those: 
    1. where one crosses the middle of one's body.
    2. which involve the use of one's non-dominant side, 
    3. or which involve trying to do two different actions simultaneously.
  6. They can be done in the target language. I will usually do them in English, because my brain needs a break too from speaking Latin in class.
There are a ton of resources out there regarding brain breaks, but here are some links of interest:

My list of brain breaks
Annabelle Allen's blog - search "brain breaks" - in my opinion, Annabelle is the queen of brain breaks
Annabelle Allen Teacher Pay Teachers Brain Breaks - this is a FREE resource about Brain Breaks on TPT - this was a professional development which Annabelle gave on Brain Breaks. It does require that you sign up for a free account before you can download the resource.
Cynthia Hitz's blog - search "brain breaks" - you can find lots of really good brain breaks here
Martina Bex - Brain Breaks for the Language Classroom
Martina Bex - Best Brain Breaks
Justin Slocum Bailey' - Image Imitation
Bryce Hedstrom - list of brain breaks
Mindful Brain Breaks

  1. Although students may not realize the importance of brain breaks, they really do need them. As the teacher, I can definitely notice a change in students following a brain break.
  2. Brain breaks are important for you too as the teacher!
  3. When I do brain breaks every 16-17 minutes in a 52-minute period, it really helps break up a class into short chunks of time. I am always amazed at how quickly a period goes by when I do 2-3 brain breaks in a class.
  4. It is important to be consistent with brain breaks. Consider assigning student job who will serve as the brain break countdown timer or who will shout out "We need a brain break!"
  5. Like anything, when it comes to brain breaks, the brain craves novelty (in the immortal words of Carol Gaab), so it is important to do different kinds of brain break activities.

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