Why Student Breaks Are Essential to Learning

As some schools have cut back on recess, and many kids in elementary school sit in the same classroom all day, students must go extended times without a break. Schools concerned about test scores and ratings may eliminate break time to accommodate more teaching or test prep, but studies show that breaks and exercise may actually improve grades and test scores for students.

Here are five benefits students will enjoy when given the chance to take a break:

1. Improve Attentiveness

The longer the lesson goes, the harder it is for a student to remain on task. According to a 2014 study published on Science Direct, longer instruction times lead to fewer students paying attention. Researchers found that “on-task behavior declined as instructional duration increased from 10 to 30 minutes.”

When students get a short break or an opportunity to go to recess, their brains get a much-needed rest. When they come back, their attention span resets and they’re ready to learn.

2. Boost Learning Productivity

Students who need a break tend to stop listening and get off-task. And those non-attentive students have an impact beyond their own learning productivity. If they exhibit distracting behavior, then they can make it difficult for other children to understand the concepts presented in the lesson.

Frequent breaks reduce the potential for disruptive behavior. Since students have the opportunity to burn off energy during a break, they are less likely to be distracted and disruptive when it’s time to learn.

3. Reduce Student Stress

Students can get overwhelmed when they’re expected to spend the entire day focused on classroom instruction. They have little time to enjoy play, think creatively, or reset their brains. This combination can lead to stress, which has short- and long-term impacts on their health and learning capabilities.

Once they have regularly scheduled breaks, they can take that time to de-stress and relax before it’s time to focus on learning again.

4. Foster Social Skills

It’s difficult to develop social skills if children don’t have time to be kids. Many schools have breaks at lunchtime and recess, which may be combined into one period. They may not have time to interact during that block, along with everything else they need to get done before they head back to class, so they won’t be able to develop social learning. Getting time for proper breaks may improve kids’ social skills.

5. Help Memory

It can take some time to digest new information and actually retain it for future use. If students don’t have that opportunity to file this information in their brains, then memory retention can suffer. A short break makes it possible to optimize memory, according to researchers at New York University who published a study on WorldHealth.net. “These results demonstrate the importance of post-experience resting brain correlations for memory for recent experiences,” the researchers conclude.

How to Incorporate Breaks into Learning

Parents of children in public schools can reach out to the individual teachers, as well as decision-makers in administration, to request that they add brain breaks throughout the day to improve the learning experience of the students. This approach is used in countries such as Finland, but less so in traditional classroom in the U.S.

Students learning from home via homeschool or virtual public schools have more flexibility. Parents can set timers for instruction times versus break times, based on what works best for their children. They can experiment with different break frequencies and lengths as some students may respond better to short, frequent breaks while others need extended breaks with fewer frequency.

Breaks can be an essential part of learning effectively, and they may even improve a students’ quality of life. If your student is not given the chance to take breaks during the school day, you may want to consider teaching your child at home via a virtual public school. Visit K12.com to learn more about the benefits of online learning.

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