If you’ve ever been in the middle school classroom you will know that being a middle school teacher is not work for the faint of heart. There is a wide range of students who sit before you, hormones are flying, and you may or may not have a weird smell issue. But in this time of turmoil for the students, it’s important that we make sure that we are meeting their needs as best as we possibly can in the classroom. Brain Breaks for Middle School are incredibly important, and here’s why…
The science behind the middle school brain
During this time in their life, young adolescents go through a monstrous amount of brain growth and development. Coupled with everything else that we know about the importance of brain breaks, it’s absolutely pivotal that we make sure we are doing everything we can for middle schoolers, as their brains are going through rapid amounts of changes.
Brain breaks for middle school may actually be more important than any other grade level we are teaching.
At this time in their developmental age, adolescents are going from extremely concrete thinking to having the ability to think abstractly. They’re learning how to reason, problem-solve, and are developing the ability to have high order thinking. It is when they start learning impulse control (though I’m sure many of us who have interacted with middle schoolers can debate that one).
According to an article published by the NEA, “This period of brain growth marks the beginning of a person’s ability to do problem-solving, think critically, plan, and control impulses. This brain development cycle also impacts short-term memory. A middle school student can generally retain from 5 to 7 bits of information at one time…The more engaged and “rich” the new information, the more likely it is that the new information will be retained. “
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Given this information, it is now possible for the student to be able to focus deeper on the material, but not for longer periods of time. If they are very engaged and interested in what they are learning, this process will go better.
Trying to have them sit still and process this is where the trouble will lie. Given all this information, it is so obvious that brain break for middle schoolers are absolutely vital to their learning success.
The teachers need for brain breaks
We know middle school students are trying to “find themselves” in every way possible, thus the struggles of adolescence beginning. The first way we openly see them doing this? Finding their voices.
Good grief…transitions are HARD in the middle school classroom. The second they find an opportunity, they are chatting up a storm. Seat friends away from one another? No problem…they’ll just talk louder so they can hear one another (I see you nodding…).
This isn’t just a social thing, though. This is a way for their physiological need to move manifesting in a way that is easy for them. They are also at that in between where they want to play, but also want to be cool. Talking is the easiest way for their brains to find a middle ground that is acceptable to their peers.
I’m sorry to say, in those middle school years what their peers think is often more important than what you think.
If we are meant to help our students navigate this thing called life, wouldn’t it make sense to start teaching them ways that they can self-regulate their need to move? If we give them the tools to learn appropriate ways to take their movement needs into consideration, we are giving them tools to last them a lifetime.
Brain break ideas that work
Middle school is a slippery slope with what the students will buy into. You have some that will be all in for whatever game you throw at them, and yet others who act as if they are too cool for anything. Just as in any other grade, you must know your students to know what is going to work for them.
Our list of 5 brain break ideas is perfect for middle school as there are some options that are a little “older” and some that are still on the “younger” end. Again, you can adapt ANY of the options to what works for your particular classroom of students.
In middle school you can certainly get away with having a spontaneous dance party, taking a walk around the school, or playing quick games like “I Spy” or “charades”.
Our list is not the end-all-be-all of brain breaks by far, but you can at least start out with some ideas and find out what works, and what doesn’t, for your particular class. From there, you can add new ideas. The possibilities are endless.
There are also a plethora of books that you can look at they give you a ton of different ideas. One of our favorites is called “Refocus and Recharge! 50 Brain Breaks for Middle Schoolers” (ad). All of these ideas can be amended to the students in your classroom. If you have students that are a little bit more on the immature side, you can craft your brain race to meet their needs.
If you have ones on the opposite side of the spectrum who are very mature for their age or at least think they are you can certainly tweak to appeal to their needs as well.
The number one factor when crafting brain breaks for middle schoolers…
As always, the key with whatever brain breaks for middle school you choose is to be certain it gets your students moving in some fashion. You want to make sure their blood is pumping and oxygen is circulating. The purpose of a brain break is to either energize or relax the student by doing just this.
As mentioned before, our students today are physically unlike students in the past. With the ever-increasing number of screens at their disposal, the basic core strength that most other generations had as children is gone.
They PHYSICALLY don’t have the ability to focus for long periods of time. Their muscles aren’t strong enough for it. We need to perpetually keep this in mind and give them opportunities to move and stretch to compensate for what we cannot control.
When a brain break is successful you’ll notice that your students are more focused and more able to complete their work appropriately. You’ll notice that there’s less daydreaming and they’re more apt to finish the assignment at hand.
In Middle School when all of these have a tendency to be an issue, Brain Breaks or just a small thing that we can do in the classroom to help our students excel.
We all became teachers because we want to see our students become the best versions of themselves, so if we can just take a few minutes here and there throughout the day to implement something as easy as a brain break, it’s the absolute least that we can do to help a point are students in the right direction.
Middle School is such a pivotal time for our students and we need to do everything that we can to make sure that we are helping them become the best versions of themselves. Brain breaks for middle school help reduce stress and provide opportunities for improvement and also teaches the students how to police themselves to know when they do in fact need a moment to collect themselves.
As time progresses, you can certainly have individualized brain break opportunities where the students can police themselves whenever they realize that they need a few minutes to get themselves together.
All-in-all brain breaks for middle school are heavily important and all teachers need to be making sure they are implementing them into their classroom. This is how our current generation is going to excel and we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help them do so.