Movement Breaks - What and Why?

All of us have probably heard of movement breaks or brain breaks at one point or another during our time in education. However - not everyone has been able to put them into practice or even knows where to start with them.

So, today's blog post is all about movement breaks, what they are and why they are useful and beneficial for you to put into place in your classroom.

Although my blog is generally about 'Autism' this does not mean that movement breaks/brain breaks are just for students diagnosed with autism - it can be used for any student in any classroom! You can put your own spin on them and use them as and when you want to.

Before we start this post, picture yourself at a full day course. You are sat at the same desk, you get up twice - once for coffee break which is 15 minutes and once for lunch which is 30 minutes. Apart from that, you don't move from your chair. At first it's ok, you're engaged, taking notes, enjoying the course, but soon, you start to get fed up, your concentration is going, your zoning out and that's it, the attention has gone. You need a movement break.

As always, the views in this blog post are my own - they have not been medically researched etc, they are just what I have come to learn over the years. 

So, first up, what are movement breaks?

Well, it's quite literally in the name - movement breaks. Get up, get active and get moving! 

How long would you say your students are sat in one position? Especially if completing work at their desk? Then they start to get ratty, right? They want to start fiddling with stuff, banging their pencil on the table, tapping their feet, drumming their fingers on the table, huffing and puffing, right?

Yep, it's overload, they need a break! And what's the best way to snap them out of this? To get active and start moving around a bit!

But, as we know, not all children like to 'move' or 'be active' so we have to make it fun. There are LOADS of great things on youtube - Shake Your Sillies Out is our kiddos absolute favourite! We tend to do this song just before we're about to sit down for some work, it helps get the children active, engaged and feeling fresh and full of fun!

But some of the favourite movement breaks are the most random ones. It's important to practice the movement breaks first with your students, then you can decide on how many minutes into tasks you jump up and do a movement break - shout out a movement break, call a student to choose a movement break - you decide how you introduce it. The crazier and more fun the better to engage your students.

But, what are the benefits? I hear you ask. Well, to be honest, there are so many benefits to these that I don't know where to start! So, I put together 10 parts which I feel are the main reasons we use movement breaks in class. 

1) So, there has been a lot of research into movement in children in the classroom by all sorts of crazy-clever people up high in the job world. They all agree on the one fact that movement definitely helps to improve students concentration levels, it helps them to gain some, or all control over their behaviour. 

2) It's not just for children!! Movement breaks are said to have benefits for adults and children alike! It helps to get you back in that zone, improves your concentration and attention levels and helps you to continue with the learning process.

3) Energy. Let's face it, our kiddos are just B U R S T I N G with energy - and that is no exaggeration! I mean, seriously, where do they get it from? Now, imagine your kiddos as a bottle of pop. All that energy is bubbling up inside of them, but the lid is kept on firmly tight, but soon, the bubbling just grows to a point where they're going to explode! You need to help them be able to take control over their energy and ensure they are releasing enough throughout the day so they don't 'explode' when they get to playtime/recess.

4) If a child is sitting for a long periods of time throughout a day, then this is just going to continue to happen over the years, before long, you have an adult who likes to sit for long periods of time, shying away from physical activity. It has become a learned behaviour.

5) It has been said that it helps children to digest and keep hold of more information. Try it yourself and see what you think. I know it works for me! My current professional development reading is a guided reading booking, it's very big and it's very full on, there's a lot of information to take in, i've tried two separate approaches. The first time I read 30 minutes in one go - didn't move. The second time I read 10 minutes, had 5 minute move around - walking around, getting a drink, went back and read a further 10 minutes, had 5 minute move around again then went back and read a further 10 minutes and then went off for a 5 minute move around. Being totally honest, I digested far more information the second time, I didn't get distracted as easily and I didn't find myself reaching for my phone all the time to see how long I had left. For sure, there were benefits.

6) It doesn't have to be a break from learning! Incorporate the topic into your movement breaks. For example, you're topic is Halloween, the movement break you have chosen is 'jump 5 times', put your teacher cap on, how would you link this to Halloween? Easy! 'Jump 5 times over the spiders!' 'Jump up high 5 times to reach the bats!' You see, it's so easy to link it in! Plus, you're already including numeracy/math by counting with them! 

7) It's fun. Sometimes, we are so full up of this, that and the other that children have to learn, that we forget they are still just children. They still want fun, they want to bond with you. Nobody wants to have a teacher who sits behind their desk looking stern all day. But a teacher who's doing star jumps at the front of the class with them? That's a teacher who's going to stick in their mind and someone that they are going to feel confident and comfortable with - building relationships is so important for learning, don't forget!

8) Gross & fine motor skills. Do you know how many children (especially in spec ed) struggle with their gross and fine motor skills? Movement breaks can totally support this! Just incorporate different things into your sessions! How about, 5 jumping jacks then pick up something small off the floor? 

9) You can personalise them to suit your class needs, or you can even make it a huge class task to think up new movement breaks - what do the children like doing? Can you give them funny names?!

10) It can be done anywhere, anytime. You don't need a huge classroom or a large room to do this, you don't need to put everyone into their pe kits, you don't need to be outside, the weather doesn't need to be a certain temperature, you don't have to have set times. You can completely leave it how you want to. This means it suits you and your class!

If you're stuck as to resources or breaks to use then check out these movement breaks here.

As shown they come in 2 styles - circular or rectangular. The rectangular ones are great for flash cards, but the circular ones are great to have on display somewhere. Print and laminate (they come in colour or black and white option) and stick them on the top of lollipop sticks/pencils etc. and keep in a pot on your desk. They're great and sure to get your students moving - do as many or as few as you want throughout the day. The more often you do them, the more you will come to realise and recognise when your students are in need of a movement break! I'm sure you will also see the benefits of them, for sure!

Thanks for reading about my take on movement breaks! Do you use movement breaks in your class? How do you find them?  I'd love to hear from you!


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