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Coach Students to Take Regularly Scheduled Breaks


Study Skills & Tools Social-Emotional Learning MS/HS/College Strategy


Self-regulation Working Memory Attention Processing Speed

Coach Students to Take Regularly Scheduled Breaks

If your middle/high school student easily loses focus, is inattentive or the learning requires a lot of effort

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Students will recognize when they need a break and will build regular movement/stretching breaks into their homework, reading, and school routines.
  2. Teacher Takeaways: Help students, especially those with weaker attention, understand the importance of taking movement breaks in order to maintain focus and work efficiently. Offer general guidelines to help them build awareness and plan for these breaks.
  3. At Home: For students with weaker attention getting up to stretch after every 20-25 minutes of focused work is important. For others, it will vary by age but not more than an hour without a break. 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.
  4. In Class: Discuss in-class options with your students to recognize good times to stretch, get a drink, or use the bathroom. Talk this through ahead of time so students do not miss important information or interrupt a lesson.
  5. Self-Awareness: Help students 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.

*students* Checklist: Take Breaks During Homework

  1. Plan to take breaks every 20-25 minutes, or at intervals that work for you.
  2. Breaks should include movement, such as stretching, walking around the house, or jumping jacks.
  3. Plan for and write down breaks on your homework schedule so you don't forget and so you don't go too often. Set a timer to remind you.
  4. Listen to your body. If you are losing focus, or are stuck on a problem, consider taking a break even if it is not the exact time you built into your schedule. It will be easier to focus when you get back.

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.

Best-suited for students with weaker: Attention, Cognitive Flexibility, Inhibition, Long-term Memory, Short-Term Memory, Working Memory (Source: Digital Promise Learner Variability Project)