How to Use Brain Breaks to Increase Student Productivity

Do you ever get so involved in an activity that you forget to take a break? I know that I always feel better and more productive if I step away from my tasks for a bit every hour or so. Taking breaks can be helpful for students, too. A couple years ago a colleague of mine shared how she gives her students “Brain Breaks” by showing YouTube videos. I loved that idea and would love to share about it, plus 4 more ways to give your students a break.




Show Short YouTube Videos
Go to YouTube and search videos related to the topic you’re teaching. If you create an account, you can save the videos and organize them. If you don’t already have a Pinterest account, get one! Pinterest is my favorite place to find art related videos. I have an “Art Videos” board and I also pin videos onto specific boards. Students love when you incorporate technology, especially videos. You can also use TeacherTube as a resource for videos. Like anything on the internet, previewing content is a must. You don’t want to find yourself in hot water for showing a video with inappropriate content.

Discuss Current Events Relating to Art
The website BuzzFeed is filled with a variety of hot topics and information. According to the website, “BuzzFeed has the hottest, most social content on the web. We feature breaking buzz and the kinds of things you’d want to pass along to your friends.” Or in this case, pass along to your students. There is a search feature at the top of the website. You can search specific topics or simply search “art.” Again, be sure you preview content.

Body Weight Exercises
I’m a big fan of body weight exercises and movement. Now mind you, I teach middle school, so sometimes they look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them we’re going to move, but having them move really helps. You could have them do 20 jumping jacks, 10 lunges, 3 laps around the room, etc. So next time your students’ eyes start to glaze over, stop teaching, and have them get up and move.

Gallery Walks
Gallery walks are fantastic! During a gallery walk, students get up and walk around the room to look at their peers’ artwork. The walks can be casual or structured. You can ask students to look for something specific. For example, you can say, “During this gallery walk I want you to look at how your peers have used value in their paintings.” You can have the entire class participate in the gallery walk together or have half the students walk around while the other students at their tables with their artwork. This allows students to ask questions to their peers. Gallery walks can also be used as formative assessments.

Ask Students A Question 
I suggest you write it on the board. The question should focus on Higher Order Thinking. Give students a couple minutes to think of their answers. Then have them pair with a peer and share their answers. This activity can work in multiple ways. You can have them choose their partners, find a partner with the same color hair, color of shirt, same birthday month, etc. Questions can be about the concept you’re teaching or about an image you put on the board.

Do you give your students breaks in your classroom? Does it help them refocus? 

What are some other ideas you have to give your students breaks while getting them moving and talking about art?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Cassidy Reinken

Cassidy Reinken, an art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She enjoys helping students solve problems and reach their potential.

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