Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Brain Breaks: The Key to Mental Stamina and Retention

Kindergarten is not what it used to be. Kindergarten has certainly evolved since I was five. I'm showing my age, but I was a kindergartner in 1990. The time of The Letter People, Lisa Frank, "real recces", neon shoestring bows, slap bracelets, and a really cool splatter paint accessories. The most exciting things I can remember from kindergarten were my teacher's blue mood ring, ice cream Fridays and closing my eyes on the swing. Man, those were the cool ol' days.

Kindergarten in the 90s

Gone are the "good ol' days", our kids now have standardized tests, persuasive writing, and sight words ad nauseum. I constantly see news segments and articles about the loss of recess, the stress on our kids and the lack of social-emotional lessons in the classroom. It is OUR job as teachers to sneak these things back in our daily routine.

Teachers are under so much pressure...but I don't need to tell you that. There is no need to list out all our stressors. I know all my readers are well aware. We are SUPERHEROES! Since we were invisible capes, we can not only meet the academic, curricular and administrative needs, we can also meet the social-emotional needs of our students as well.  The good news is, with today's resources and technology, it's not as hard as you might think.

Let's start this journey with "brain breaks". Brain breaks are an easy and fun way to bring excitement back into your classroom. What are brain breaks? Brain breaks are short mental breaks that allow children to get out of the seats. Brain breaks are crucial not only for positive behavior in your classroom but also for academic performance. Let's be honest, I have taken several brain breaks while writing this posting!!

We all know that exercise is important, but did you know it also makes you smarter? Brain breaks not only cure the wiggles, but they also increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and increases the birth of new brain cells! Julie U. Adams from the Washington Post states:

"...children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active..."

Brain Break Time!

Now let's talk downtime. I long await the forty minutes when my kindergartners go to specials. I will just sit still for a couple of minutes and decompress. Some days, I don't have that time because there is SO much to do. On those days with zero downtime, I hurt mentally at the end of the day. Can you relate?! After a long day at work, I can't wait to get home, sit in front of the tv (with my dog Brantley and cat Poppins) and drink a nice hot cup of tea. We NEED that downtime!

Brantley and Poppins need downtime too. 
Well, guess what?!?! Kids need that downtime too! Hallie Smith, MA CCC-SLP from Scientific Learning explains:

"...brain researchers have discovered sets of scattered brain regions that fire in a synchronized way when people switch to a state of mental rest, such as daydreaming. These “resting-state networks” help us process our experience, consolidate memories, reinforce learning, regulate our attention and emotions, keep us productive and effective in our work and judgment, and more..."

I know, I know...but what about time. We never have enough time! Well, I have good only takes 2-5 minutes! Once you notice the benefits of break breaks, you will FIND TIME! I mean think about the time it takes to get your students on task. Just replace that wasted time with brain breaks!

There are lots of ideas and resources for brain breaks! The following are my suggestions:

1. GoNoodle
My favorite resource! You can create your own account here. Once you create an account you can earn points. Once you have 10 points your avatar (champs) grows stronger.
2. YouTube
You can also create a YouTube account and create playlists. There are so many resources on YouTube. You can check out my playlists to get you started. Why not learn while you dance?!

3. Turn and Talk- Don't most all students love to talk. I do a lot of "turn and talk" in my classroom. You can turn and talk about anything!

  • Morning Meeting: When all of your students have an "important" story to tell, but there isn't enough time. "Turn and tell your partner what you did this weekend."
  • Story Time: I will have my students turn and talk before a story to make a prediction, during a story to reflect, or after a story to discuss their favorite part. 
  • Lesson Review and Formative Assessment: I also have my students turn and talk after a lesson. "Turn and tell your partner about the difference between living and non-living animals."
  • Writing Workshop: Have students talk about writing is so important. "Turn and tell your partner what you are going to write about."

So are you going to use brain breaks in your classroom!??! Do you already use brain breaks in your classroom? Share your favorite ideas, resources and strategies below! I would love to hear from you! 

Washington Post:
Scientific Learning:
Brit + Co:
Abrams Learning Trends:
Ruby Bows:
GoNoodle: www.gonoodlecom

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