Brain breaks are designed to enhance positive relationships and generate positive emotions.
In addition to our popular brain breaks pocketbooks, we have developed a range of new brain break resources that are exclusively available for our PEEC Community.
If you’d like to know more about the science behind brain breaks, scroll down to read more about the research and benefits.
A number of our popular ‘solo’ brain breaks are now available as a set of printable posters. Display these in your classroom to enhance the autonomy of your students by supporting their engagement in quiet, discreet brain breaks that help them self-regulate.
Our animated brain breaks are a great way to introduce, demonstrate or run one of these activities in your classroom. Featuring institute-favourite ‘Nic the Stick’, these videos are bound to become a favourite with your students too!
The Benefits of Brain Breaks
Studies over the last 20 years have shown promising results, suggesting brain breaks have multiple benefits for student learning. These benefits include improved cognitive functioning, increased motivation and ability to sustain focus for academic work.
By providing students with a social and fun break in a lesson, there is an increased opportunity and a new context for strengthening student-student and teacher-student relationships. Brain breaks alter the classroom climate by introducing a new collective action. Such activities have been shown to increase students’ positive emotions and enjoyment within the classroom.
For all their many benefits, brain breaks only take up small amount of lesson time yet the benefits are immediately apparent. We’ve summarised the science behind some of these benefits below.
The Benefits of Movement
There are many benefits related to the physical aspects involved in some of our brain breaks. Research shows that periodical physical activity breaks can enhance student learning and behaviour. Energiser activities can also increase blood flow and epinephrine levels among drowsy learners, and reduce student restlessness.
Movement can be an effective cognitive strategy that reinforces learning, enhances memory and retrieval, and improves students’ motivation and morale (Jensen, 2005). When we exercise, we’re causing the brain to fire signals along the same network of cells involved in cognitive functions, which solidifies their connections.
Building Rapport and Co-Regulation
Teachers play a pivotal role in establishing a positive classroom environment that contributes to students’ social, emotional and academic growth.
As teachers, we are acutely aware of the importance of developing constructive student-teacher relationships. Studies have shown that forming strong and supportive relationships with students has a positive impact on their feelings of safety and security at school, and results in increased feelings of competence, positive connections with peers, and greater academic gains. However, teacher-student conflict in younger years can have a negative impact on student achievement up to seven years later.
Research shows that there are positive reciprocal links between teachers’ and students’ enjoyment, and that these links are mediated by teachers’ and students’ observations of each other’s classroom behaviours. Therefore, taking part in shared positive experiences, such as our escalating and positively priming brain breaks, can enhance positive connections between teachers and students.
Teachers also have an important role to play in co-regulating the class. Responsive brain breaks build upon relational interactions. Engaging students in short activities that develop teamwork, empathy and interaction also
support classroom behaviour systems. As leaders, teachers are constantly demonstrating how to handle stress and adversity. Responding to off-task cues by introducing brain breaks is an act of co-regulation that builds a classroom climate for learning.
Students feel they belong in school when teachers express involvement and warmth (Martin & Dowson, 2009) and using humour can be an effective way to facilitate this.
A number of our brain breaks utilise affiliative humour, which involves joking around and laughing with others or telling amusing stories in an effort to enhance relationships. This form of humour is positively correlated with high self-esteem, cheerfulness and psychological wellbeing, and negatively correlated with anxiety and depression.
Using humour in the classroom is an important way to produce a healthy classroom climate and to help teachers to connect with their students, which is essential for student learning and enjoyment. As such, the use of humour in educational settings can also be an effective classroom management tool, fostering student engagement, improving motivation, and encouraging on-task behaviours and academic success.
Our ability to think is highly dependent on our emotional state. This means eliciting positive emotions through enjoyable activities, games and humour can have a positive impact on student learning (Jensen, 2008). In addition, humour also helps teachers to deal with the inherent stressors of the profession.
Research in the field of psychology suggests that, for many adolescents, humour can serve as a coping style or a defence strategy to ease psychological distress and improve wellbeing. Therefore, using humour in the classroom as a coping mechanism may help students to handle feelings of stress. In addition, humour has been shown to have a measurable positive impact on one’s physical health.
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