|We've loved delving into the world of Pedagogical Documentation the past couple of newsletters, but this month we are taking a 'brain break' from the topic! As educators and carers of young children, let's consider one of the most important tools we have to get children's concentration humming again. The signs they might need one are often clear: Fidgety, squirmy, distracted, yawning kids! This doesn't tend to happen as much during play-based curriculum where children focus on one thing for only as long as they want to. However, when we expect children to sit with a task (be it reading, numeracy activities, or anything teacher or parent directed) well, we can't expect them to be able to sit with the task for as long adults can. In fact, studies have estimated that the typical time a child can engage with a task given to them (rather than a self chosen task) is their age + 2 minutes! So for a 6 year old, that is 8 minutes at a time! When we introduce variety into a task we can increase concentration, but most experts in learning and behaviour management agree that we should be allowing for several small intervals of learning breaks in our daily programs.
One key study
looked at the effect that 3 different types of 'brain breaks' had on children's focus and engagement with learning: 1. Relaxation and breathing brain breaks
: These activities were designed to change breathing patterns to facilitate oxygenation of the brain and calm students. 2. Highly physical brain breaks
: These activities were designed to get children up and moving vigorously to facilitate oxygenation of the brain and release tense muscles; and 3. Subject related activities
: Designed to promote a moderate level of physical activity and take the form of games that kept a subject (e.g. mathematics) as the focus. In this particular study, results showed that too many mindfulness/breathing activities were not appealing to children (they would yawn and stop listening if used too often or day after day!); highly vigorous activities were the most fun for children, but researchers noted it took much longer to re-focus afterwards, and subject based games were a happy medium! However all three types are seen important for different scenarios and energy levels! As usual, you as a teacher or parent have to use your intuition and understanding to choose the best type of brain break for the situation and time of day.