Movement as a Brain-Break to Increase Attention Span

Keeping the brain both relaxed and engaged is one way to help students learn. My previous post discussed breathing breaks as classroom brain breaks. However, as can happen in a classroom setting, or in any other learning environment, monotony, reduced stimulation and repetitive nature of information can lull the student’s brain and cause a lack of motivation to learn. How to solve this? In essence, the brain needs to be awakened as well as kept calm.

Movement exercises are also brain breaks to help students learn

Classroom movement breaks can wake up the brain to learn.
Classroom movement breaks can wake up the brain to learn (photo courtesy of

While breathing breaks help students calm their brains to process information and retain it more effectively, movement can wake up the brain from lethargy, increase attention span and help decision-making capabilities.

Here are three examples of using movement as a brain-break.

Sometimes students may think it is ridiculous to do these, so it may take some real motivational skills to help them experiment with body movement.

Hook-ups – While sitting or standing, cross your legs, extend arms out, put one arm over the other and interlock your fingers, then bring your interlocked fingers to your chest.  Hold this position for a minute or so. Then, untwist hands and feet, and bring your hands in toward your chest. Hold this position for a minute.  During both parts of this exercise take slow deep breaths, pressing your tongue against the top of your mouth just behind your teeth when inhaling, and relaxing.  This helps you to relax and retrieve information stored in long-term memory.

Neck Rolls – When sitting or standing with good posture, drop your head down so your chin is barely touching your chest. Roll your neck slowly from ear to ear while taking long slow breaths. Only roll with neck down. This improves memory and thought.

Lazy 8’s – Draw a sideways eight in front of your face with your thumbs.  Your thumb should be about a foot from your eyes.  Don’t move your hand but follow your thumb.  Do it multiple times with each hand then bring your hands together and do it several more times. This can improve reading and writing skills.

It feels a bit strange to do some of these movements, but they can be very effective as another way to take a brain break. They can help the brain engage in a classroom setting and maximize learning, decision-making and retention. It seems like a minimal effort to help students expand their brain capacity and function more effectively in the classroom.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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