Mandatory Breaks In Schools "Once I incorporated these short recesses into our timetable, I no longer saw feet-dragging, zombie-like kids in my classroom."

The average school day for a student in Indiana contains 6.77 hours. 4.5 hours out of the 6.77 are spent sitting in class. In an interview with Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist says, "Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”

Percentage of Kids with ADHD

The percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD has experienced a jump from 7% in 2008 to 11% in 2016. Children with ADHD have trouble sitting in class, and because of this are told their behavior is unacceptable, lowering their self esteem. Many schools have been shortening recess time, if they have any, due to higher educational demands. This is taking away the time children are given to move, therefore leaving them spending too much time sitting. Fidgeting is an indicator that children are not getting enough movement throughout the day. We can fix this issue by extending recess times and giving the kids breaks throughout the school day.

"In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move." -Angela Hanscom
"Like a zombie, Sami—one of my fifth graders—lumbered over to me and hissed, “I think I’m going to explode! I’m not used to this schedule.” And I believed him. An angry red rash was starting to form on his forehead."

An American teacher, teaching his first year in Helsinki, Finland taught two 45 minute lessons, then gave his students a 30 minute break. However, they were used to sitting for 40 minutes, then getting a 15 minute break. Just the slight 45 minute change sparked troubling reactions from his students.

"My students in the States had always seemed to drag their feet after about 45 minutes in the classroom. But they’d never thought of revolting like this shrimpy Finnish fifth grader, who was digging in his heels on the third day of school."

So, he decided to try the Finnish way, teaching 45 minute lessons, then giving his students a 15 minute brain break. "Once I incorporated these short recesses into our timetable, I no longer saw feet dragging, zombie like kids in my classroom. Throughout the school year, my Finnish students would -without fail- enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps after a 15- minute break. And most importantly, they were more focused during lessons."

This teacher isn't the only one to notice the difference of his student's behavior, however. Anthony Pellegrini, an emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota observed the primary schools in Asia where students are given 10 minute breaks after every 40 minutes of instruction. After coming in from a short break, the students were more focused and participated more in class. Pellegrini decided to experiment at a public elementary school where he concluded that students were more attentive in class after breaks than before.

"It’s free-play that gives students the opportunity to develop social competence. During these times, they not only rest and recharge—they also learn to cooperate, communicate, and compromise, all skills they need to succeed academically as well as in life."-Anthony Pellegrini

Adding a few brain breaks throughout the school day would be beneficial in multiple ways. Children would be getting the movement they need, "turning on their brain" allowing themselves to learn better. Breaks lasting only 5 minutes to walk around can even increase the attentiveness in a child. Research has shown that Brain Breaks increase students’ on-task behavior and the amount of physical activity they get every day. We should really consider making brain breaks a priority for children in schools.

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