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How to Utilize Energy Breaks for Your Daily Classroom Routines

by Meshia Casey, Senior Instructor, Model Teaching | March 8, 2024.

Do your Mondays look just like your Wednesdays? Are you looking for a strategy to get you and your students out of the everyday slump? Welcome to the world of energy breaks—a powerful tool that can breathe new life into your daily classroom routine! In this article, we’ll explore how incorporating energy breaks into your daily classroom routine reinvigorate student focus, foster collaboration, and create an atmosphere where learning thrives, and everyone (including you) is energized!

energy breaks for students

An energy break, also known as a type of brain break called a movement break, is a short pause in classroom instruction designed to rejuvenate your prek-12 students physically, mentally, and/or socio-emotional. These breaks are intended to provide students with opportunities for movement, relaxation, or cognitive stimulation- which helps enhance their focus, attention, and overall well-being. When implemented with intentionality and thoughtfulness, energy breaks serve as a valuable tool for educators to increase student engagement, improve classroom culture, and enhance the overall experience for teachers and students.

So, what are the specific benefits of ENERGY Breaks?

E – Enhanced Focus and Attention:

Short physical activities or stretches help students reset their focus and attention during a specific lesson or even throughout the day. These breaks can improve cognitive function by providing a brief pause from demanding tasks. For instance, a quick two-minute stretching session midway through a lesson can help students re-energize and refocus their minds, leading to improved concentration on academic tasks. A middle school History teacher may incorporate an activity where students stand up and perform simple stretching exercises while reviewing key concepts about the Civil War. This brief interlude helps students recharge and prepares them to tackle the next part of the lesson with a renewed focus.

N – Nurture Physical Health:

Energy Breaks often include physical movements. These movements may even help contribute to the recommended daily physical activity levels for younger children and adolescents, helping nurture pre-k-12 students’ physical well-being. Energy breaks may even help combat sedentary behaviors commonly present in students today. With the wave in tech use from the early years, students are not as active as they once were. Playing outside until the streetlights come on isn’t as commonplace as it was 25-30 years ago. So, energy breaks give students a chance to get up and get active! A 1st grade teacher may implement a series of interactive “Dance Breaks” throughout the day, where students groove to upbeat music and follow simple dance routines. Not only do these breaks add an element of fun to the classroom environment, but they also promote cardiovascular health and motor skill development in young children. The same holds true for older students as well- energy breaks help improve their physical health.

E – Energized Environment:

By infusing movement, you can create a livelier and more upbeat classroom atmosphere that keeps students engaged and motivated to learn. In a 10th-grade Biology class, the teacher notices students becoming restless and inattentive during a lesson on reproduction. Sensing the need for a break, the Biology teacher initiates a quick “So You Think You Can Dance Battle” activity. Students stand up from their desks and participate in a series of dance moves in three minutes. As the music plays, students laugh, move, groove, and feel invigorated. Upon returning to their seats, they now have a renewed focus and enthusiasm for the lesson on cellular functions. The energy break helps energize them!

R – Reduced Stress Levels:

Just like adults, prek-12 students also experience moments of stress. Physical movement and deep breathing exercises can help lower stress. These sorts of energy breaks are especially useful for students who may have difficulty with emotional self-regulation and can serve as a great calming technique as well. In an AP Literature class, students felt anxious and overwhelmed as they prepared for the upcoming exam. Sensing the need to alleviate their stress, their teacher took the students outside for a ten-minute break to engage in deep breathing exercises. The teacher guided them through calming breaths and encouraged them to release tension from their bodies as they listened to calming music. The students return to the classroom feeling more relaxed, less stressed, and ready to continue preparing for the upcoming AP exam.

G – Greater Collaboration:

Energy breaks give students an opportunity to interact with peers and their teachers. This is especially great for students with unique learner differences. These movement breaks provide a great opportunity for everyone to be able to participate in a shared activity. In other words, energy breaks can be a valuable tool for increasing accessibility and improving equity in the classroom. In all of her classes, a high school Art teacher incorporates “Mindful Minute” breaks at the beginning of each period, where students practice deep breathing exercises and share positive affirmations with their peers. This is a great chance for students to build stronger relationships with their peers and improve socio-emotional skills.

Y – Yield Improved Performance:

Regular physical activity and movement breaks positively impact cognitive function and academic achievement. Energy Breaks can lead to improved academic and behavioral outcomes for students. During a math class, a teacher may incorporate a “Mathercise” activity where students solve math problems while engaging in physical movements such as jumping jacks or squats. This multisensory approach not only reinforces mathematical concepts but also promotes active learning and improves overall academic performance by making the math lesson more memorable!

Let’s look at a table with a few different examples of energy breaks.

Type of Brain Break Description Benefits Example
Energy (Movement) Breaks Short bursts of physical activity to get students moving
  • Increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, improving focus and alertness
  • Helps reduce restlessness and fidgeting, promoting better concentration
  • Provides a quick energy boost
The teacher leads students in a game of Simon Says, incorporating various movements such as jumping, clapping, and stretching
Mindful Movement Breaks Guided relaxation exercises focusing on deep breathing, stretching, and other movement-based mindfulness techniques
  • Helps reduce stress and anxiety
  • Improves self-regulation skills and emotional resilience
  • Enhances mental clarity and focus by calming the mind
The teacher leads students through a yoga session, prompting them to close their eyes and take deep breaths while stretching
Active Learning Stations Movement-based activities related to academic content
  • Reinforces learning through physical engagement and exploration
  • Encourages collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills
Students rotate through stations where they conduct experiments related to the scientific concepts being studied, such as creating chemical reactions or building simple machines
Creative Movement Breaks Dance or movement activities inspired by themes or concepts being taught in class
  • Promotes creativity, self-expression, and increase student confidence
  • Deepens understanding of content by connecting movement to key concepts
Students dance to music inspired by characters or themes from a book they are reading, incorporating movements that reflect the emotions and actions of the main characters

Take a look at this scenario with an energy break in action:

Mrs. Franklin, a 3rd-grade teacher, understands the importance of incorporating movement breaks into her daily classroom routine- especially since her students remain with her for all of their core content subjects. She starts her day by welcoming her 3rd-grade students with a high-energy “Good Morning” song, encouraging them to dance and stretch to wake up their bodies and minds before starting their English Language Arts lesson. Throughout the day, she continues to integrate short energy breaks to keep her students engaged and focused.

When she notices her students becoming restless during a math lesson, she initiates a quick movement break called a “Math Scavenger Hunt.” She hides math flashcards around the classroom, each with a different math problem or concept. Students are tasked with racing to find the cards, solving the problems together, and returning them to the designated area. This activity not only allows students to move around but also reinforces their math skills.

In the afternoon, after her students have returned from lunch and PE, Mrs. Franklin leads her class in a mindfulness movement break before their Social Studies lesson. She dims the lights, plays calming music, and guides her students through a series of gentle stretches and structured movements. This break helps students relax, refocus their attention, and reduce any feelings of stress or anxiety.

Mrs. Franklin has noticed significant benefits from incorporating movement breaks into her classroom routine. Her students are more focused, have fewer behavioral disruptions, and have greater levels of engagement.

Overcoming Challenges and Maximizing Effectiveness

While energy breaks provide a wealth of opportunities to enhance the classroom experience, challenges may arise during implementation. As with anything new, it’s natural to encounter challenges. However, it’s important to remember that these hurdles can be overcome with the right mindset and approach. One powerful strategy for tackling obstacles is to embrace a positive attitude towards energy breaks. Rather than viewing them as disruptions, see them as valuable opportunities for rejuvenation and connection. By planning ahead and preparing activities tailored to your student’s interests, you can ensure that energy breaks integrate into the flow of your lessons more smoothly. Remember, with flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to embrace new approaches to teaching, you can overcome common hurdles

Incorporating energy breaks into the daily classroom is a great strategy for every pre-k-12 classroom. Through strategic planning, energy breaks can transform the classroom experience! By incorporating energy breaks into your daily classroom routines, you can create an environment prioritizing student well-being, engagement, and academic success. These breaks contribute to a positive classroom culture where students feel supported, motivated, and eager to learn!

TRY THIS

Think about an upcoming lesson you will be teaching. Consider an energy break you can incorporate into your classroom, and try to purposefully build it into your lesson planning.

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