C.M. Corner: Offering Breaks

Travis Chapman

Sunshine.  Green grass.  Field trips.  We’ve officially hit the countdown to the end of the year.  As the month finishes, students become more distracted than normal and keeping them engaged is more difficult than ever.  With all this additional stimulus, students tend to daydream, zone-out and chat with their neighbors more.

Often, verbal redirection isn’t enough to snap them back to the desired attentive behavior.  One way to help break through this slump is to offer a break.  If you’ve worked in special education, you quickly understand the power and importance of offering breaks.  Today, we are going to look at some ways we can effectively implement breaks in regular education to help students re-focus.

One way we can help students regain focus is to play an age-appropriate class game or exercise.  For High School/Middle School students, maybe that’s a game of 20 questions, a round of “2 truths and a lie” or utilizing a quiz/game like Kahoot!.  With elementary students, perhaps we play “Simon says”, “Eye-spy” or use GoNoodle.  These small games/activities are something that can be done quickly to re-energize students and minimize the “boredom” behaviors.

If a break in the content isn’t possible, or it doesn’t seem appropriate for the situation, maybe you take a moment and review the content covered so-far with the students.  You could have students turn and share with a partner what they’ve learned or write down the most interesting thing they have learned in that unit so far.  Perhaps you begin creating a web diagram with the class, or a Venn diagram.

This way, you are still engaging the student in the content area but offering them a chance to mentally disengage from active learning to comprehension and application. The last method we’ll discuss is including physical activity and movement into the process of the class.  There have been several studies into how physical movement improves learning and focus.

This can be incorporated easily in a game or exercise.

You can include it in the process of review in having students stand and share with their partner.  If students need to turn in paperwork, consider having them go to a place to turn it in, rather than passing it forward.  Similar, instead of passing out an assignment, maybe have them physically stand to get it.  If we can help the students physically engage, their brain and focus will likely follow. Regardless of the type of classroom we are in, these are simple ways to offer students a “break” from the monotony of the day and the schedule.  As you connect with other school staff, ask them what they do to offer breaks or help students to refocus.  Focus seems to always be an issue, even more so at the end of the year. 

However, the more tools we have at our disposal, the easier it will be to re-engage students and prevent or address attention-based misbehavior.