Brain Breaks

‘Tis the Season!  We think of the season as a merry time with fun and memory making but it can also bring tons of stress to our families.  December can be filled with worries of custody schedules, work schedules, money and balancing all the elements of life. January intensifies these worries with added stress of bills collected in December. Our students are the recipients of much of this stress because they are “in it” and have no control to fix or change the situation.


Food for thought coming back in January:  

Judy Willis M.D., Edutopia Article, stated the following, “For students to learn at their highest potential, their brains need to send signals efficiently from the sensory receptors (what they hear, see, touch, read, imagine, and experience) to memory storage regions of the brain. The most detrimental disruptions to traffic along these information pathways are stress and overload.”  Providing our students with “Brain Breaks” often throughout a lesson can help students obtain optimal retention of information and attention.


Your brain contains 100 billion neurons or brain cells.  These cells have the primary job of receiving information and signaling other neurons using electricity or chemicals to stimulate messages within the body. The hypothalamus is the regulation center of the brain.  It keeps your body at a constant; including temperature, heart rate, etc.  Learning happens when neurons are activated and a message is sent along the axon.  When repeatedly stimulated a process called synapse is created. Synapse is created when two neurons are connected from the end of the dendrite. The creation of dendrites is when the brain is relating information that is important within the brain and “filing it” for retention or when the brain makes a learning connection which puts it in our memory.



When the brain is exposed to stress the body begins to release cortisol which is the primary stress hormone. This chemical affects your heart, lungs, skin, immune system and circulation.  In addition, it stimulates the hypothalamus and when it reaches the neuron, it shuts off the impulses of the dendrites which halt learning.  This is a temporary response and the dendrites will grow back UNLESS there is a long term period of stress.  When stress is repetitive the brain will respond by short circuiting that pathway which will stop impulses and result in the lack of input and messaging.  Many of our students are in a constant state of stress from instability at home, lack of confidence in a subject, poor self-esteem, and relationships with their peers, etc. This constant state of stress causes inability to stay on task, inattention, and lack of self-control.


Implementing a “Brain Break” is essential to keeping learning happening and can be a natural way for students to “sum up learning” or thinking.  No more than 20 minutes of any activity should be taking place in the elementary school without a change in thought or activity.  A person’s attention limit is approximately their age plus one –a second grader only has an attention span of about 8 to 9 minutes!  By rebooting the brain, you restart the learning process by restoring to a calm state and producing dopamine.


Three Ways to Implement a Brain Break!


  1. Use the summarizing throughout the lessons that was featured the last two weeks.


  • During teaching stop frequently and ask students to talk to a partner and summarize learning or their ideas. To change things up you can have students draw, write or act out their learning as well.


  1. Read Aloud for a few minutes after an activity or lesson to calm and relax students while provoking thought.


  • Read aloud and stop often to discuss or have students act out scenes, visualize through drawing or writing or to chat with a partner about an event or character.


  1. MOVE.  Have students move such as jumping jacks, walking in place, sing a song with movements or throw/catch a ball.  All of these activities help to produce dopamine and increase blood flow to the brain.



  • Just free movement for 3-5 minutes can get blood flowing and stop the production of cortisol in students.  Don’t forget a great site with videos to get them moving.


Enjoy your Christmas Break and think “January Brain Breaks.”




Last week in my update, I shared this quote:


Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.

— Albert Schweitzer


Authors refer to light and darkness when creating imagery within a text. These references are so powerful that when you hear the word “light” you immediately have a picture in your mind and the connotation stirs positive thoughts and images.  The power of evoking or igniting light into another person’s life is a true opportunity.  Educators are given the gift to do this every single day.


Taylorsville is filled with light in many forms including actions, thoughts, words and people.   Our building is not fancy and in places is worn and needs paint but the children that fill our building bring a joy. Their laughter and chatter surround this space with energy and remind me of their eagerness to learn. They come each day ready for us to guide and encourage.  It is our actions as educators that can bring light to their lives or darken their world.


You, as individuals and as a staff, have ignited my light.  My light had dwindled by the stress of deadlines, frustrated voices, and a plethora of tasks that have yet to be completed on time.


Here are the top 10 things about Taylorsville Elementary that has filled me with light!

10.  The laughter of students filling the hall and bright colored art work that covers the walls creates a warm glow throughout the school.

9.  Lessons created with care and thought and then executed with passion to connect learning for students and deepen understanding.

8.  Data discussions that pin point “Swiss Cheese Holes” and end with a plan to fill them.

7.  Colleagues who fill my desk with encouraging notes, smiling sticky notes and an occasional Slim Jim.

6.  My fellow teachers using words like prosody, text complexity, interventions, growth mindset and YET.

5.  Actions that show—PUSH!

4.  An extra kindness for a student with clean clothes, money for a fieldtrip, school supplies, hugs, etc.

3.  Walking through the building, seeing teachers and staff putting into action their own learning from professional development and PLC.

2.  Compassion, kindness and patience with our students who have big emotions and are struggling to channel them.



My ending thought for you!  Remember I value you as my colleague and I see you do amazing things each day. I am in continuous awe of your patience and compassion—do not lose sight of these characteristics with the stress of every day “teaching.”  You do make a difference and are appreciated!  Be the LIGHT for all to see—Taylorsville is LIGHT and I am proud to be a part of this staff.


L- eading our students to knowledge

I-  nspite of obstacles and setbacks

G- uiding them with words and actions

H- oping to inspire and ignite

T- hought—passion and character within!

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