The Evidence Behind Brain Breaks
How can brain breaks benefit your classroom? See what the evidence has to say.
As a teacher, the summer months represent a time spent relaxing, recuperating, and maybe even forgetting, so that you can face the new school year, and the fresh faces of new students, with energy and optimism. But no matter how much recharging you accomplish, there is still no way for you to fully prepare for what your new students will bring to the classroom. In other words, you have no way of knowing what circumstances, environments, and experiences your future students come from when they start of the school year, nor can you know how these contexts will show up and affect learning.
The challenge then, is to help create a classroom environment that facilitates learning readiness for all students in spite of their personal circumstances, essentially leveling the playing field so that all students, regardless of how they show up to school, have a chance to succeed. The trick is accomplishing this without overloading yourself with even more impossible standards. One way to approach this challenge is quite simple, and not only serves as an asset for students, but for teachers as well.
With increased awareness surrounding the benefits of physical activity for the brain, and the learning process, more and more schools are finding ways to bring movement into the school day through brain breaks. Brain breaks , also known as “acute exercise,” allow classroom teachers to get students active in bite-sized increments — 1 to 10 minutes — that can help students release excess energy and get blood moving, often assisting teachers in facilitating classroom transitions or breaking up the monotony of testing.
According to the Active Play-Active Learning Project at the University of Texas School of Public Health, incorporating brain breaks into the classroom can improve concentration, performance on standardized tests, and a student’s time-on-task, particularly for those students who typically struggle to focus the most. Another study, published in 2009, found that brain breaks helped to improve cognitive control and academic achievement in students, highlighting that even short periods of movements can lead to positive, and immediate, benefits for the brain (Hillman et al).
Tools for Teachers
Yoga Ed.’s Tools for Teachers workshops empower educators to shift the mental and emotional states of their students to promote learning and academic achievement, all through chair yoga poses, breathing exercises, relaxation, and yoga games that are simple, efficient and fun. Even further, beyond providing opportunities for movement and relaxation, Tools for Teachers also helps students develop essential social and emotional skills, such as self-awareness and self-confidence.
The proof is in the students.
In 2014, researchers at California State University – Fullerton, investigated the effects of using Yoga Ed.’s Tools for Teachers program in classrooms at The Accelerated School (TAS), a charter school located in South Central Los Angeles. Students come to TAS from a diverse array of socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, and family situations, and “every student is treated as gifted and expected to succeed” (TAS, 2016). Teachers implemented 5 to 15 minutes of yoga brain breaks into the classrooms each day throughout the school year, and found that not only did the yoga instruction produce positive changes in the students’ concentration, but also in their social skills, emotional maturity, self-esteem, and self-care (Chen, 2014). Parents agreed, citing improvements in their children’s self-esteem and concentration, as well as their quality of sleep, enthusiasm, confidence, and even joy.
But what did the students think?
After their year of daily chair yoga, students reported even more positive changes than their parents or teachers had, with improvements across the board in their mental, emotional, physical and interpersonal growth. In particular, students found that daily doses of chair yoga improved their joy, self-esteem, enthusiasm, confidence, energy, and interpersonal relationships. And if that’s not enough, they also reported better quality of sleep, greater concentration, more knowledge of the human body, and improved posture.
Students that are healthier, happier, and more capable, and who can (literally) stand up taller and with more confidence, all from chair yoga in the classroom? This is what brings us JOY.
About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved June, 2016, from http://www.accelerated.org/about-us/
Chen, D.D., Pauwels, L. (2014). Perceived Benefits of Incorporating Yoga into Classroom Teaching: Assessment of the Effects of “Yoga Tools for Teachers.” Advances in Physical Education, 4, 138-148. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ape.2014.43018
Hillman, C. H., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L. B., Castelli, D. M., Hall, E. E., & Kramer, A. F. (2009). The Effect of Acute Treadmill Walking on Cognitive Control and Academic Achievement in Preadolescent Children. Neuroscience, 159(3), 1044–1054. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.01.057
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