Activity Breaks to Improve Attention in Class

26 August, 2020
Child health experts often recommend that a child should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to ensure proper development. Schools should provide at least 30 minutes of this physical activity during school hours each day.

A new technique that more and more schools are adopting on a daily basis is the technique of activity breaks – also called active breaks – to improve attention in class. This is being carried out in many schools in different countries around the world.

A study on this subject

Seeking to prove the effectiveness of this idea, Jordan A. Carlson (Children’s Mercy Hospital, University of Missouri-Kansas City) and other authors conducted a study that sought to promote the movement of students during school hours and draw some definite conclusions.

In 2014, it was reported that 70 percent of teachers in 24 elementary schools that participated in the study attempted to provide breaks for physical activity at least once a day. Forty-four percent said they tried to provide breaks for physical activity regularly.

Teachers who provided regular breaks for physical activity reported that they provided an average of 15 minutes per day. For starters, students who had active breaks for physical activity in the classroom were 75% more likely to meet the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity.

Activity Breaks to Improve Attention in Class

These students were less likely to show a lack of motivation and were more attentive during class time. By the looks of it, the use of evidence-based programs to provide physical activity in the classroom appears to be a great strategy.

Activity breaks can be an effective way to improve students’ behavior and attention in the classroom. Most teachers who provided breaks that included physical activity claim that they were beneficial.

Activity breaks in schools today

Many children are forced to sit in class for long periods of time without speaking. This is a real challenge for some, because there are some restless children who simply can’t sit still.

However, it’s possible to harness their energy in a positive way. It’s about finding new ways to improve learning. In many schools, the methodology used is that of activity breaks in the classroom, and the results are proving to be really positive.

Examples of activity breaks promoting physical activity at school

These activity breaks are essential. At school, the recommendation is to take them every 50 minutes with intervals of 3 to 5 minutes. During these minutes, the teachers invite the students to get up from their seats and move freely around the class.

Activity Breaks to Improve Attention in Class

The teacher will monitor and control these times. They ensure that the children don’t hurt themselves, and even give some guidelines about what the children can and can’t do during these times. For example:

  • Yes: walking around the classroom freely, talking to classmates.
  • No: getting up on tables or shouting.

When teachers have a break in their classes in this way, the children will be more focused afterwards. This will also help to prevent the sedentary lifestyle that we’re increasingly prone to in our modern-day society.

One idea for the breaks could be to put on music and dance for a few minutes. Another option could be to do some mime exercises led by the teacher.

Active breaks can be linked to the content of the classes, or they can be free in terms of the subject matter. It’s totally up to the teacher to choose how to focus these breaks.

The most important thing here is to always remember that this activity isn’t a gimmick – it’s actually beneficial. Teachers have seen that once the activity break is over, the students come back to work more willingly and with more enthusiasm.

All in all, having these active breaks doesn’t mean losing a few minutes of class. It actually makes the minutes that follow it far more profitable. It’s harmful to children to just remain seated all the time working. This is something we must really bear in mind and start to put into practice in our schools.

  • Jordan Carlson. Physical activity breaks improve student attention in the classroom. PACE. 2015.