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Coach Students to Build in Regularly Scheduled Breaks


Study Skills & Tools Social-Emotional Learning/Growth Mindset Middle/High School Strategy


Anxiety Self-regulation Working Memory Attention Processing Speed

Coach Students to Build in Regularly Scheduled Breaks

There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.
— Alan Cohen

Help students recognize when they need a break, and how to build in regular movement or stretching breaks into their homework and school routines.

How To Apply It!

  1. During homework, a good rule for students with weaker attention is to get up and stretch after every 20-25 minutes of focused work. For other students it will vary by age but probably not more than an hour without a break.
  2. Have students build in stretching breaks during homework, such as walk around the house, 10 jumping jacks, or stretches. The length of the break relative to the amount of homework time should vary depending on age and attention span. Younger students might have 20 minutes of homework and a 10 minute break, and older students might have a 5 minute break.
  3. Students can set a timer to remind them to take their break.
  4. Students should include the break on their homework schedule so they don't go too often or too infrequently.
  5. Discuss with students how to listen to their bodies and build awareness of when they need a break, regardless of what the clock says: If you are stuck on a math problem or begin to lose focus on a writing assignment, a brief break will help you return to the task with fresh eyes. Conversely, if you are in a good flow, keep working.
  6. Discuss in-class options with your students to recognize good times to stretch, get a drink, or use the bathroom. It is important to talk this through ahead of time so students do not miss important information or interrupt a lesson.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Moving around for short breaks gets the blood flowing, refreshes, and increases a student's ability to focus. Research shows that movement enhances our ability to think and leads to improved behavior regulation, attention and retention. Also, breaks often help us see a problem from a different perspective, which can be especially beneficial for students with weaker flexible thinking. Overall, taking those quick breaks will actually save time because students will be far more focused when they work.