Brain Breaks

So back in September I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Judy Willis present about the science of learning, and I’ve been intrigued ever since. Her presentation has energized and inspired me over the past few months to look deeply into the workings of the adolescent brain, and how this incredibly interesting research pertains to student engagement and achievement. Even though she covered a number of different topics and research findings throughout that conference (such as mindfulness, mindsets, the power of the video game teaching model, the importance of constant and meaningful feedback, and so much more) the biggest take away for me was the notion of “Brain Breaks”……and I’d like to talk a little bit about that this week.

After combing through loads of websites, blogs, and research articles all about the importance of these “breaks” to enhance learning, it appears as though these opportunities to re-focus and re-energize your students should happen every 30 minutes or so. “Brain Breaks” are essentially a purposeful time out from instruction for your kids…strategically designed exercises or movements or activities that alter and refresh a students current state of mind. They should only be a couple of minutes long, and they don’t require much planning or preparation on the teachers part once you’ve familiarized yourself with the many simple and useful examples that are found in the resources below. This all stems from the current research that suggests that a young persons brain begins to lose focus, or gets temporarily maxed out, or becomes easily distracted or disengaged after approximately 25-35 minutes of focused instruction…so it is paramount to pause the instruction and give your kids a chance to take a break from the learning and re-focus.

The research that I’ve come across lately has many implications with regards to lesson planning, scheduling, and teacher instruction so I’m keen to dig even deeper over the next few months to see if we can (or need to) make any easy changes in our own approaches to help maximize the learning of our student body. At the very least it is incredibly interesting in my opinion, and certainly worth your time to go through the links and take a look for yourselves. I’ll present more on this topic at the next round of our School Improvement Program (SIPS) after the holiday break, so you have a bit of time to sift through the websites and articles over a cup of coffee or two. I know that a few of our current colleagues have already begun thinking about similar approaches to “brain breaks” with their interest in Yoga for classrooms (http://www.yoga4classrooms.com/) and student mindfulness (http://mindfulnessinschools.org/what-is-b/) thought provoking stuff indeed, and wonderful opportunities for professional dialogue and discourse in our upcoming curriculum team and grade level leader meetings.

Anyway, only two weeks to go until our much deserved holiday break so hang in there and finish strong. We’ll have an extended brain break shortly so please be your best for our kids over the next 9 and a half days of school. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week………
And still they gazed and still the wonder grew, that one small head could carry all he knew.
– Oliver Goldsmith

Brain Break Articles –
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=mental-downtime
http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/31/how-your-brain-tells-you-when-to-take-a-break/
http://www.backupcare.org/blog/18-blogs-explain-brain-breaks-and-why-they-are-important/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabrielle-bernstein/michael-eisen-youth-wellness-network_b_1076416.html?ref=healthy-living-spirit
http://www.bottomlinepublications.com/content/article/self-improvement/why-you-should-take-brain-breaks

Brain Break Websites –
http://brainbreaks.blogspot.com/
http://www.pinterest.com/jenbass/brain-breaks/
http://energizingbrainbreaks.com/
http://www.gonoodle.com/home
http://teachtrainlove.com/20-brain-break-clips-fight-the-fidgeting/
http://www.learningstationmusic.com/blog/2013/01/16/brain-breaks-regenerate-refresh-and-refocus/

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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