First and foremost, if you are not incorporating break time within your lessons, start doing it NOW! Structured breaks provide students (and teachers) the opportunity to alleviate mental and/or physical fatigue, re-focus and re-gain attention, and improves overall achievement.
Imagine working in an office in which you were unable to get up for water, go to the bathroom as you please, and only got a 30-minute lunch break in which you could not talk freely or as loud as you would like? That is the adult version of grade school for our students.
Homeschool your child? Think about how frequently, or infrequently, you ask him or her to attend to a task for 30 or more minutes before they begin exhibiting problematic behaviors.
By designating a stopping point or specific time for your students to take a break, you are agreeing that for 3 or 5-minutes, work will stop and “play” will begin. Personally, we like to use trial and error to gauge how long or short of a task our students have before a break. It is also helpful to give your students a choice of how many minutes they get. Simply ask “would you like 3 or 4 minutes?”, and let them have the illusion of choice.
For example, one of my students with autism might be having a rockin’ day and complete 5 tasks within a 45-minute time frame. However, on other days, he can barely make it through 3 tasks before he begins to melt down (yes, there are big crocodile tears). After working with him for so long, I am able to gauge when that is about to happen. When I notice things starting to get tense, we re-adjust our scheduled break time to get back on track.
I’ll say “I can tell you are feeling frustrated because your face is getting red. Remember I am right here to help you. Let’s finish this one task and take a break. Do you want to play with putty or build with blocks? Would you like 3 minutes or 4 minutes?”
At this point, we have established a foreseeable and achievable stopping point, allowing him to ambitiously complete his task and earn his break with a preferred item for a time amount that he chooses. This is especially crucial for children with special needs and students identified or not labeled with ADD/ADHD, learning disability, etc. because, they perform better when adequately motivated and provided an opportunity to control portions of their day.
What does a break look like?
Excellent question! A break looks different in every setting. My students absolutely love Orb Slimy Braini Putty, specifically Galaxium, which you can find at Michael’s. Not only do children (and some parents) love the texture, they also love the ability to create dragon eggs, snakes, and their own handprints.
Not interested in buying additional resources? No problem. There are several movement break options. Our favorite is Cosmic Kids Yoga. Cosmic kids is yoga geared toward a younger audience and offers a variety of activities. Sometimes we even like starting our time with yoga to help increase blood flow and “get the wiggles out.”
Another student favorite is GoNoodle. This free streaming platform provides countless videos that instruct the students to get up and move around. Whether it’s teaching them to dance or about the water cycle, GoNoodle definitely provides an outlet for our energy filled kids.
Hesitant to introduce new technology-driven activities your child can find on their iPad? We feel you!
If you are looking for a more low-tech option, we recommend filling a plastic bag or decorated jar with exercise, writing, drawing, or crafting options. Depending on your child’s ability, you can write things down like “complete 15 push-ups in 2 minutes and 15 sit-ups in another 2 minutes” or “draw a butterfly coming out of its cocoon in 3 minutes.”
Honestly, the options are endless and the way to implement breaks can be molded to fit your classroom and household to the best of your ability. There is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it’s being done!
Do you incorporate break time into your lessons? Let us know in the comments below!
Still have questions about breaks or would like some guidance on how to work in breaks effectively? Send us a PM or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jasmine Habeeb is a certified special education teacher who graduated from The University of Texas - Austin with a degree in special education. She enjoys sharing her opinions, recommendations, and current events on all things education.