Brain Breaks were a bit of a tad a decade or so ago. I recall being encouraged by my SLT at the time to pause learning and get m students to stand up and run their heads and stomachs and other such nonsense. Of course, this was ridiculous, but away from the silliness, there is a lot of research that suggests that brain breaks are an effective part of the learning process.
According to research, brain breaks can be an important component of the learning process because they provide an opportunity for students to take a break from focused attention, which can help improve focus, reduce fatigue, and increase productivity (Pavlas et al., 2018). In a study of elementary school students, taking breaks was found to be associated with improved test scores and better overall academic performance (Smith et al., 2020).
Brain breaks can also be beneficial for students who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other learning challenges. A review of the literature found that brain breaks can be an effective strategy for reducing off-task behaviours and improving on-task performance in students with ADHD (Gagne et al., 2016).
It is important to note that the timing and duration of brain breaks will vary depending on the needs of the students and the demands of the task at hand. A meta-analysis of the effects of breaks on learning found that shorter breaks were more effective than longer breaks and that breaks that were taken at regular intervals were more beneficial than those that were taken randomly (Kühn et al., 2014). Therefore, teachers should consider the age and ability of their students, as well as the type of work they are doing, when determining the appropriate timing and duration of brain breaks.
It is clear that research supports the argument that brain breaks can be an important part of the learning process, with benefits for focus, fatigue, and academic performance. Teachers should consider the timing and duration of brain breaks, as well as the needs of their students when incorporating them into their lesson plans.
Moreover, a new study, by Leonardo Cohen, published in the journal Cell, suggests that breaks during the learning process are important for skill development. Using magnetoencephalography, a highly sensitive brain-scanning technique, researchers observed the neural activity of young adults learning how to type with their non-dominant hand. The study found that after a practice session, the brain was replaying the practice session over and over at a high speed, helping to consolidate the material and optimize storage and recall. The study suggests that incorporating breaks into learning “plays just as important a role as practice in learning a new skill.” In the classroom, brain breaks should be incorporated before fatigue, boredom, distraction, or inattention set in, and can take the form of physical activity, mindfulness exercises, or other activities that engage the brain in a different way.
I now encourage my students to take a break during the learning process and recharge their batteries. This doesn’t involve playing any silly games but gives their brains a chance to absorb new information and develop as learners.