Brain Breaks Help Avoid Student Frustration
Students are feeling the pressure. Most have missed a lot of in-person school time and are very aware of being behind and needing to catch up. Parents, teachers, news media, social media, and other kids have been talking about “Covid learning loss” and how students’ test scores and grades have suffered. As a result, many students are feeling anxious and worried.
But has anxiety ever made anything better?
It’s important to remember that, though they may have ground to make up, kids also need a break. We as parents may be a little too focused on pushing our kids without allowing for the mental and physical fatigue that can result.
Taking Breaks Results in Better Performance
In “The Science of Taking a Break” researchers in various studies looked at the effectiveness of prolonged work or study periods without a break. One study had students perform the same repetitive, computerized task for 50 minutes. Not surprisingly, students who took breaks and had diversions from their studying actually fared better than students who didn’t take breaks.
Another study on “overlearning” showed that students who studied for a vocabulary test were divided into two groups. One group read the list five times. The other group read the list ten times. Students were given study breaks from five minutes to one month. Initially, students who took a one-day break had the best scores after 10 days. But after six months, the students who took a one-month study break performed best on the vocabulary test. And students who read the vocabulary list five times had the same results after six months as the ones who read the list ten times.
eLearning Inside presents four great reasons to take study breaks:
- To improve attention
- To improve productivity
- To retain information
- To reduce stress
The Right Way to Take Breaks
Whether it’s homework, online school, reading, or studying, it’s important for kids to take a break before frustration sets in. For grade-schoolers that is typically after 10 to 15 minutes of work. Middle schoolers and high schoolers can work for longer, 20 to 30 minutes without a break. This doesn’t mean it’s time to start playing and quit for the day.
- A few minutes of stretching and deep breathing can help reset the brain and get students back on focus. Sometimes having kids listen to music or take a “dance break” is just the right reset button.
- After longer periods of study, longer breaks are helpful. Given a choice, most students would spend their breaks on social media, or texting friends. And while it might be enjoyable, a recent survey by Huffington Post found that these activities can actually increase stress. And some really fun distractions online (like googling cat memes) end with kids being sidetracked for way too long and finding that study time has been wasted. Setting an alarm might be a good way to remind the student to get back to studying.
- Exercising the body a bit during a break is a great alternative to getting (or staying) online. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation is another way to lower anxiety and boost personal health. And many students (not just the kindergarteners) can benefit from a 10- or 20-minute nap.
- Having a healthy snack break is also a great way to improve concentration and help enhance brainpower. Fruits, nuts, lean proteins and other healthy options are better than soda, chips, and junk food which can actually cause a crash.
- Even picking up a physical book or magazine or newspaper can provide a helpful break that not only refreshes the mind, but also give eyes a rest from staring at an electronic screen.
Every student is different, and the type and duration of break time depends on the student’s age and individual needs. But incorporating breaks is an important part of studying for all students.