Brain breaks improve learning

Many would benefit from being given small breaks during class for a mental reset.


Macy Moore

Anthony Herrera takes a break from class to play a quick game of chess. Students often find peace during their hectic day in the school’s library.

Gazing longingly at the clock, counting the seconds that tick idly by, yearning for the bell to ring–whether it’s a class before lunch or after, every student has been there at some point; where the teacher’s voice continues to drone on and it takes every bit of strength to keep from letting one’s eyelids fall. 

That universal moment: when students reach the point where they cannot absorb any more information. Sometimes all they need is a way to reset and refocus. The solution is a break. 

For many students, it is almost impossible to remain engaged in the subject of the day for the entirety of class.

 Some find themselves daydreaming while the teacher is lecturing–or even giving up and walking the halls. Regardless, it is clear that after a while most students simply become mentally checked out.

Whether it is the pandemic has affected students’ attention spans, or simply because humans are just “that way,” it is clear that students can only focus for so long before they have become entirely mentally checked out. 

However, much of the academic community believes that if teachers were to give students a small break during classes, it would be easier for them to both absorb more information, and be able to be more engaged in active learning.

Sameera Yatham, senior, is one of many students who understands the difficulty of focusing for 60 to 90 minutes straight during classes. “For me, I have a really short attention span, so my max is about thirty minutes. I tend to, like, zone out or just lose my train of thought when I work on either an assignment or listen to a lecture for too long.” 

Yatham went on to explain how having a teacher in the past who gave their classes short breaks on long block days positively affected her ability to remain engaged. 

“I personally found the breaks really helpful just because you are given a chance to rest from whatever it is you are working on. Normally in this class, the teacher would put a pause on whatever we were talking about so that we had a chance to either use the bathroom or just go on our phones for 5-10 minutes.” 

Yatham continued to say, “After the breaks, I just felt like I was more refreshed and able to approach whatever we were doing with a fresh perspective.” 

“Take a lap and come back. It really helps to reset.”

— Julie Arsenault

Yatham’s standpoint on whether or not having little breaks during class would be beneficial to students demonstrates that many students would indeed take advantage of having an opportunity to take a break if given the chance.  

Not only do many students believe that it would be beneficial to their mental health and attention span to take short breaks during class, but many teachers are also of the same opinion.

Julie Arsenault is one of the many para-educators that work within Wilsonville High School. As a teacher that is constantly working with students with many different attention spans and learning abilities, she understands just how important it is for both students and teachers to have a chance to step away from their work and take a break.

  “I feel that even as an adult, after a certain period of time, I need a brain break. Or even more, to stand up and stretch just to give myself a chance to absorb and refocus.” 

  Arsenault expanded further upon the importance that movement throughout the day has on student’s ability to be focused.

“For a task where it is more executive and students are stuck at their desks reading and analyzing, I think that it is important to make time to take a break.” 

  Arsenault’s perspective sheds light onto the issues that students face when they are expected to sit and focus on one task for too long at a time. 

Even with passing periods and a lunch break, many students find themselves glancing at the clock every few minutes, counting down the time until the bell rings. Students become disengaged from the lecture their teacher is sharing and eventually begin to tune out their teacher’s voice.

However, if both students and teachers were able to take a short break sometime during the period in order to take a breath and reset  both their energy levels and ability to absorb information, the benefits it would bring would surely outweigh the five minutes taken from their class.