Brain Breaks: Important Play Builds Bonds

When is the last time you were asked to sit in the same room, in the same seat fully focused and contributing significantly for an hour and a half? It may be a likely scenario, but were you the most attentive audience member?

I can barely sit still in my own desk as I support my learners on any given day. I have to stand up and shuffle about in order to keep the circulation going. But for some reason, we expect our young learners to do so willingly, without complaint, and learning at optimal levels.

Any educator will tell you if we attended a meeting or a professional development session where we were expected to stay seated and quiet for an hour and a half, there would be the silent yet very judgey rumblings of “Has this person never been taught how people learn?” or “Are they seriously trying to train me on how to be more engaging, yet they have done nothing but lecture for the past hour?”

Interaction is essential. Pausing not only helps to transition from one significant idea to another, but it also gives the brain time to process and rebound from cognitive tasks. Enter: brain breaks.

I always get so many inspiring ideas from the Twittersphere. One late evening where I should have been fast asleep, I was instead getting lost in the enthusiastic Tweets of auspicious beginning of the year rituals. [Squirrel side note: Seriously, if you ever want to know what happening in today’s public schools, check out Twitter. Brave educators everywhere are sharing the work of their students like proud parents. It’s pretty powerful stuff.] This particular evening, I came across the game Bear, Salmon, Mosquito.

The element that really appealed to me was the idea of cheering on your previous opponent and building a team. The concept of remaining competitive yet being able to switch gears and support your peers is an essential skill, especially in a collaborative environment.

Everyone is engaged. Everyone is up and moving. And as the game continues, larger teams are building to support one another.

The feedback from the game was overwhelmingly positive. You could recognize a more determined look in the learners’ faces as their team support developed. You could hear the excitement about being able to cheer a new person on vs. remaining opponents or enemies.

Many lessons were learned from this short game. We plan to revisit Bear, Salmon, Mosquito throughout the year to provide much needed respite from rigorous academic tasks, transitioning, and most importantly being supportive of one another.

If you have some spare moments, try out this brain break. It will bring the notion of play to your classroom while having profound and positive impact on individual learners and the group as a whole.



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