As an educator, one of the smartest choices you can make is to get to know your students. That is likely not a surprise to most people, but my reason behind it may not be one that you have heard before, so stick with me.
When the first weeks of a school year come around, of course it’s good to learn favorite colors. By why stop there? Favorite foods, movies, tv shows, songs, sports, flavors of Faygo… kids still drink Faygo by the way. Learning all of that is great because kids love to share it and they’ll make connections with each other and you even learn what may be a good reward for them down the line. However, when I look up at them during class, 9 times out of 10, those factoids don’t help me.
When I talk about getting to know a student, I mean a depth of knowledge you can only gain from consistency and trust. Getting to know what will hook a classroom of 25 to be engaged for a 60 minute lesson. Learning what facial expressions mean “I’m zoned out” versus which expressions are actively listening. The real trick is figuring out when throughout a day or even a week a group of your hard working students have simply hit a theoretical wall or a temporary information intake overload. BRAIN BREAK!
Brain breaks are tailored to the class they are being used for and the vibe of the class they are needed to be used on. A sluggish elementary class may need a 3 minute dance video to get their blood pumping and therefore their minds cranking again. Whereas an off task middle school class may need a few minutes of meditation to reset their focus. Detroit Achievement Academy teachers consistently use brain breaks to maximize student potential through the ups and downs of the school year. A key part of the break is explaining why it is happening and making sure students understand that they aren’t transitioning out of their class, but rather resetting within it!
Relationships and understanding were the pillars, don’t forget. There must be purpose behind these strategic moments and if done successfully, they aren’t breaks from learning at all. If done perfectly, brain breaks are reminders that we are always learning if we open our minds to the subject matter.