Brain Break Ideas

How brain breaks can help develop self-control

Brain Breaks for Self-Control

Think about the last time you really needed to focus. Maybe it was when you were writing out a lesson plan, grading an assignment, or reading up on a topic you want to teach in class. How long were you able to truly devote your attention to that singular task before something distracted you? Your phone buzzing with a text, an intrusive thought about the next thing on your to-do list, or just a sudden pull to look out the window. Focusing is difficult and requires a degree of self-control. Even with just writing these two sentences, I’ve stopped to open up Spotify and switch the song that was playing, check my phone, and chat with my coworkers about a tech question. I’ve watched 10 minutes fly by. Typically, when I get distracted like this, I know it is time for a break – I get up, walk around, or grab a cup of coffee to refocus myself. Breaks, even quick ones, can boost productivity and increase motivation, according to PsychologyToday. 

Why should you bring brain breaks into your classroom?

As we try to maximize seat time and ensure that our students are learning all that they can, we may be neglecting the fact that their brains need a break or even several breaks throughout the day to properly process the information they’re encountering and practice self-controlled focus. Breaks are especially important for students who spend a significant amount of time in classes that require special focus. For older students, they may only get 5 minutes to process what they just learned in English as they walk through the halls and walk into algebra to start reviewing the quadratic formula. If you are noticing that your students are having difficulty focusing on the material and struggling with comprehension, brain breaks could be a quick and helpful exercise.

Who should practice brain breaks?

Everyone! We all need a break every once in a while. For this piece, we are going to focus specifically on brain breaks for middle school students, as they experience significant adjustments to their scheduled learning as they transition from elementary school. However, these ideas can be adapted for students of all ages.

What are some good brain break activities and when should I do them?

  • 3-minute meditation: Guide your students through a quick but calming breathing exercise. Meditation is believed to help boost cognitive function and focus, so this is an impactful way to keep your students focused. This is a great activity to do at the beginning of class to set a calm tone for learning. 
  • Stand and stretch: Students spend a lot of time sitting! A great brain break activity for middle school students is to have them all stand up, do some stretches, shake out their shoulders, and get some blood pumping. This is a good activity to do in the middle of class to break things up.
  • Doodle time: Do you have students who are constantly doodling on their pages? Give them time to do so! Toward the end of class, give your students five minutes to draw out something that they have learned in class. A lot of students are visual learners and this can be a great way to reinforce comprehension.

Where else can I incorporate the idea of brain breaks?

Encourage your coworkers to take brain breaks as well. Whether you are in a long curriculum meeting or just eating lunch, regard your time with intention and value. When you find yourself losing focus on your tasks, try practicing the brain break techniques above and see that there are benefits for both you and your students.

Incorporating brain breaks for middle school students or really any student can provide them with much needed processing time. Do you already have breaks written into your lesson plan? What are some of your favorite activities?

Be that teacher, the one with the lasting impact

Set up your EVERFI account to help empower your students to develop self-control in a modern digital world.


Caitlin Gayles