Taking Breaks: A Surprising Technique to Enhance Online Learning
Having a productive school day takes concentration. Students have to be motivated and focused on each task they need to complete. They also need to learn how to look at the big picture, set priorities, meet deadlines, and achieve goals. Then there are the different lessons and activities to juggle—math, trumpet practice, science, lunch, robotics club, reading. It’s hard work keeping everything straight!
School can be challenging at times, so it’s normal for students to get tired, get distracted, and lose motivation. Successful students, however, need a way to avoid frustration and stay on track.
To stay focused on learning, there’s an unexpected technique students can try: taking breaks.
Refresh Your Brain
Your student probably already takes breaks during the day, reserving time to eat lunch or grab a snack. But if he or she gets distracted often, it might mean that your child needs to take more breaks.
“In problem-solving, when you get stuck, you’ve run out of ideas, distraction is really your best friend,” says Benedict Carey, the author of How We Learn. “You need to stand up, let it go … and that is really your best shot at loosening the gears a little bit and allowing yourself to take a different and more creative approach to the problem.” Getting distracted is really just a sign that your child’s brain needs a rest before moving to the next lesson.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that students should take breaks every time they get distracted. With some guidelines, your student can become a master of taking effective breaks. Below is a list of do’s and don’ts for taking breaks during school at home.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Taking Breaks During School
- Take breaks often. Some people suggest taking a break every hour, even if it means getting up for just a few minutes. Take 5-minute break every half hour, a 10-minute break every hour, a 30-minute break every hour and a half—any combination that works for your child.
- Plan ahead. Scheduling breaks throughout the day will help your child make time for them. They also remind children when to get back to their lessons. Through planning, your child can make breaks a part of his or her routine.
- Use a timer. A kitchen timer, hourglass, stopwatch, or online application can be used to help your child keep track of both breaks and study sessions. They can also push him or her to finish a task within a certain time period. Find a timer with an alert so your child doesn’t have to watch the clock.
- Switch gears. The best breaks shift the mind in a different direction, allowing the active part of the brain to rest. For example, if your child spends 45 minutes doing research online, he or she should try reading or drawing for ten minutes.
- Get up and move. Sitting in one spot for a long time can be tiring, so encourage your child to get up as much as possible. Schedule time for physical activities, as well, so your student can get some exercise or stimulate the mind with some sensory integration activities.
- Find a new setting. Your child can get refreshed just by going into another room or venturing outdoors. He or she can also find different places to work, a technique called workshifting.
- Relax. Finding ways to relax is important for dealing with stress. During a break, kids can try anything from lounging on the couch to meditating. Simply daydreaming can help your child process the day’s activities.
- Eat a snack. In the afternoon when kids start to get tired, a nutritious snack can give them a boost of energy. Instead of eating at his or her desk, your child can take a snack outdoors to enjoy the weather.
- Be social. Time flies when students get wrapped up in learning, so make sure your child has opportunities to socialize throughout the day. Have conversations with him or her, or suggest that your child chat with a friend.
- Express creativity. During lessons, children spend a lot of time following guidelines and concentrating on specific topics. Breaks give your child a chance to engage in creativity activities, whether he or she likes to paint, play an instrument, dance, or journal.
- Do the same thing every time. Aim for variety when taking breaks. Doing lots of different activities, especially trying new ones, helps children stay alert and takes their minds off of schoolwork.
- Make big changes right away. Don’t rework your child’s whole schedule if you want to add more breaks. Take small steps so you and your child can get used to the new format.
- Give in to distractions. Even with frequent breaks, kids can get distracted during lessons. The only problem is when distractions get your child off track. Help your child stay focused by reminding him or her that a break is coming soon.
- Take a break longer than planned. Sometimes it’s tempting to extend a break, but kids will quickly lose motivation if this happens. Help your child get used to sticking to a break schedule to strengthen his or her time management skills.
- Skip a lot of breaks. It’s okay for your child to skip or postpone a break if he or she doesn’t want to lose momentum on a task. But skipping all of the breaks can impair a child’s performance.
Adding breaks to your child’s school schedule is an easy way to improve online learning. It makes learning easier by relieving stress and boosting motivation. In the comments below, take a minute to tell us what your child does during breaks.