I was reading through some blog posts this week, and I stumbled upon a post by Dr. Lori Desautels entitled, “Energy and Calm: Brain Breaks and Focused-Attention Practices. In her post (found here ), Dr. Desautels discussed how to implement certain strategies to calm students and regain control of the classroom when students become bored and restless. I found this post particularly interesting, because I feel that classroom management is something that daunts me as I prepare for a career in the classroom, and I feel that many current teachers battle with this daily struggle of classroom management . Therefore, I will go over a few of my favorite techniques in this post that will hopefully benefit upcoming or current teachers in their own classrooms.
To begin, Dr. Desautels focused her attention on what she calls “brain breaks”. Dr. Desautels defined brain breaks as short periods of time “when we change up the dull routine of incoming information that arrives via predictable, tedious, well-worn roadways.” According to her, “our brains are wired for novelty”, and these small breaks throughout the day allow us to refresh our thinking. During this time, “the brain moves away from learning, memorizing, and problem solving” and focuses on more creative and free experiential learning. Some strategies she suggested that she has used personally are:
(1) The Junk Bag: This particular strategy was one of my favorites. For this activity, the teacher carries around a bag of random household objects (such as markers, scrap paper, shoelaces, etc. ) and allows each student to pick one object out of the bag. The teacher then asks the students to come up with two ways in which their object could be used differently, allowing them to either draw or write out their responses. Once they are finished brain storming, the students walk around the room sharing and comparing for about one minute. This simple activity invokes creativity, innovation, and collaboration, and it is one that I feel students would be really excited about.
(2) Opposite Sides: This activity is great for getting students up and moving. In this activity, the teacher has students stand and blink with one eye while snapping their fingers on the opposite hand. Then, they repeat it with the opposite eye and hand. Dr. Desautels also suggests having students face each other and tap the right foot once, left foot twice, right three times, and continue building up as they alternate with their partner. I think this simple activity is a great way to allow students to be a little silly with each other while also getting away from their desk for a few minutes.
(3) Other Languages: This activity is as simple as it sounds. During a free period, teachers can teach children sign language or make up a spoken language, and have children take turns speaking and interpreting the new language with a partner. I think this would actually be a great, informal way to include second languages, such as Spanish, in the general classroom as long as teachers keep it fun.
(4) Story Starters: Another fun way to invoke creativity and a little bit of silliness in students is to have a teacher begin a story for about a minute, and then, either individually or with a partner, have students complete the story with a silly ending. This is a simple yet really effective strategy to use with children of a variety of ages.
Although there were many more brain break strategies in her article, these were just a few of my favorites. Next, I will go over some of my favorites strategies for focused-attention. Although most of them revolved around some sort of deep-breathing technique, there were two in particular that I thought were innovative and kid-friendly.
(1) Colors: The first kid-friendly, deep-breathing activity that I really liked was having children visualize colors while inhaling deeply and focusing on their breathing. For example, Dr. Desautels gave the example of inhaling “deep green” and exhaling “smoky gray”. She also stated that if a particular student is in an angry moment, having them visualize and exhale the color red is a great way to de-escalate from this angry moment.
(2) Movement: As we all know, getting up and moving around is particularly important for younger children, as they are little balls of energy. So, what better way to increase focused-attention than by getting them up and moving around the classroom? In this activity, students stand, lift an arm or leg as they inhale and wiggle it, and then take it back to its original position through exhaling.This is a simple, yet effective strategy particularly for younger children.
Overall, I think Dr. Desautels provided some great, yet for the most part, simple strategies for regathering students in a classroom. If you are teaching younger children, these techniques will be particularly useful, because younger children tend to be less focused and more energetic. However, what makes these strategies so great is they can be reinvented and reproduced in older grades as well. I will definitely put some of these strategies to use when I begin teaching on my own.