How to Include Structured Breaks as Part of Your Daily Routine - Stanfield


How to Include Structured Breaks as Part of Your Daily Routine

You probably already know how important it is to provide your students with academic instruction that is both engaging and effective. But what about their physical and emotional well-being? 

As a teacher, you have the power to help your students thrive by incorporating structured breaks into their daily routines. 

But how can you do this in a way that is effective and enjoyable for all involved? Here are some tips and tricks to get you started – and a primer on why these breaks are so important in the first place. 

What Are Structured Breaks?

structured breaks

Structured breaks are brief pauses throughout the day that allow students to engage in physical activity, take a deep breath, or even practice mindfulness. 

Research has shown that these short intervals can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, improve classroom behavior, and increase academic performance. They can improve energy levels, along with a child’s ability to focus. 

Many educators may feel that structured breaks are a waste of valuable instructional time. However, research has shown that taking short, structured breaks can actually help to increase academic performance and productivity. 

Not only that, but structured breaks can help to promote creativity, imagination, and critical thinking skills among students.

The Benefits of Adding Structured Breaks to a Daily Routine

structured breaks

Students who take structured breaks after learning can better retain information and improve their performance on academic tasks. Short structured breaks are helpful because they give the brain time to rest and recharge, making it easier for students to shift focus and return to tasks with renewed energy and focus.

Plus, when students take regular breaks, they are more likely to avoid burnout, which can lead to a dip in academic performance. By taking structured breaks, students can re-energize and increase their overall motivation to complete tasks. When students can maintain their motivation to work, productivity increases, as they are more likely to complete work in a timely fashion and to a high standard.

Students tend to learn better and more quickly after exercise. In one study, students were able to learn vocabulary words 20% faster after a bout of exercise – that’s so significant. 

Structured breaks also help students develop self-regulation skills. Self-regulation is the ability to manage one’s emotions and impulses in order to achieve long-term goals. By taking structured breaks, students learn to regulate their energy levels and avoid burnout. They also develop an awareness of their emotional state and learn to make adjustments to improve their performance on academic tasks.

They can even promote inclusion in the classroom. Providing students with a structured break program ensures that all students, regardless of physical abilities, can participate and feel included. Structured breaks can also be tailored to meet individual students’ needs, making them a more effective tool for promoting inclusion in the classroom.

Finally, structured breaks can have a significant impact on students’ mental health. Mental health is critical to students’ academic success, and structured breaks can help reduce stress levels, improve mood, and increase overall feelings of well-being. Improving mental health can lead to better academic performance and success in life.

How Do You Incorporate Brain Breaks?

structured breaks

As you now know, the importance of incorporating brain breaks into daily classroom activities cannot be overstated.  

Here are some tips for adding them into your daily routine. 

1. Choose the Right Time

The most important aspect to consider when incorporating brain breaks is timing. It’s essential to pick the right time to take a break, ensuring students do not lose focus or get distracted. For grade school students, it is typically best to offer brain breaks after ten to fifteen minutes of work. 

However, for older students, breaks can be extended to thirty minutes. Incorporating brain breaks at this limited interval ensures that students have a refresher, disengaging them from the monotony of the task at hand.

2. Consider the Type of Break You Want to Take

The type of brain break you choose depends on the learning environment, teaching style, and available resources. Some examples of quiet brain breaks include deep breathing, guided meditation, drawing, or listening to calming music. 

Other breaks may be more physical, incorporating movements such as stretching, snow angels, or jumps. Oral motor activities or tactile activities such as having a crunchy snack or using sensory putty can stimulate the senses, keeping the brain alert and the body relaxed. 

Take note of students who may experience sensory overload or discomfort and provide breaks that suit their needs.

3. Try Timed Interval Breaks  

The timed interval system helps students stay focused for a given period, and research has shown that this system is effective in both students and adults. The timed interval system works on a basis of 25 minutes of work with a five-minute break. 

This method allows students to regain focus and stay engaged in the task, making sure that brain breaks don’t interfere with the overall productivity of classroom activities.

4. Use Ratio Breaks

Ratio breaks are a simple and effective way to incorporate structured breaks into your students’ daily routine. 

For example, you can assign a certain number of math problems or reading passages to your students and then schedule a ten-minute break after they complete the task. 

This not only ensures that your students are taking breaks, but it also motivates them to stay focused and productive during the work period.

5. Consider Using Homework Contracts to Plan for Brain Breaks 

Homework contracts are a great way to incorporate structured breaks into your students’ at-home learning experience. 

By creating a simple contract that outlines the tasks and break schedule, you can empower your students to take control of their own learning while still ensuring that they are taking breaks. This not only teaches responsibility and accountability, but it also helps students build healthy study habits to carry with them throughout their academic careers.

6. Create a List of Potential Break Ideas  

One of the most important aspects of incorporating structured breaks is making sure they are engaging and enjoyable for your students. Rather than dictating what your students must do during their breaks, provide them with a list of potential break activities to choose from. 

This can include anything from drawing, to stretching, to playing a quick game. 

By allowing your students to choose their preferred activity, it enables them to truly relax and recharge during their break time.

7. Know How to Read the Room 

Being able to read the room is essential to figuring out when it’s time to pause and take a break. Pay attention to signs of restlessness or boredom, such as fidgeting, yawning, or lack of participation. These are often indicators that it’s time for a structured break. 

If you’re noticing that your students are having trouble focusing or staying on task, it might be time to incorporate a break into your routine.

8. Have a Clear Plan in Place for How You Will End the Breaks  

Once you’ve figured out when to take a break, it’s important to have a clear plan in place for how you will end it. 

Giving your students a defined endpoint for the break can help them come back to their work with renewed energy and focus. Communicate the amount of time they will have for the break, and set an alarm or timer so they know precisely when it will be over. 

Consider incorporating a transition activity to help your students ease back into lesson mode.

9. Get Student Insight and Input 

Student input is crucial to creating a successful break routine. Ask your students what kinds of activities they enjoy doing during breaks, and take their suggestions into consideration when planning your routine. 

Consider incorporating different types of structured breaks into your schedule. For example, some students might enjoy doing physical activities during a break, while others might prefer something more calming, such as reading or drawing.

10. Connect Break Routines at School and Home 

When students are accustomed to structured breaks at school, it is essential to encourage parents to keep this practice going at home. Doing so will benefit your students in many ways, including improving their overall academic performance and concentration. Include it in your communication plan to parents, and go over it during parent-teacher conferences.

11. Set Up “Break Stations” 

Creating “Break Stations” in your class can create a peaceful atmosphere among your students. It is an opportunity to give them time to relax and take a breather when they need to. 

Try providing your students with a variety of items such as timers, stuffed animals, silly putty, stress balls, fidget spinners, or whatever works best for your classroom. It will also give your students a feeling of security and comfort while in class. In many cases, it can give students a chance to burn off some sensory seeking behaviors.

12. Model Breaks for Students 

Lead the way by taking breaks yourself, ideally at the same time as your students. It will help them see that breaks are necessary and show that you value your mental and physical well-being. You can plan out a few minutes for each break at the start of the day and make sure to follow the schedule throughout the week to give them a routine.

13. Use Breaks for Mental Check-Ins 

Sometimes, students need breaks for reasons that go beyond just needing rest. Breaks can be helpful to give your students an opportunity to do some mental check-ins. 

Sometimes your students will struggle with personal matters in their homes that could affect them in their daily life, so these breaks could be a perfect time to offer a listening ear.

The Takeaway

structured breaks

Incorporating structured breaks into your students’ daily routines can seem like a daunting task, but by understanding their benefits and doing your best to sprinkle them in throughout the day, you can help your students thrive both academically and emotionally.

So don’t be afraid to take time to slow down and unwind for a minute – your students will thank you for it!


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Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.

Stanfield Special Education Curriculum

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