Akal Badi Ya Bhains?! (Hint: It’s not always Akal!)

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In my previous ‘Brain Breaks’ post, I’ve talked about how much of a detrimental impact sitting for long periods can have – especially when learning. And we’ve also seen what a phenomenal contribution movement and the body has to the learning process. With a few simple activities, we saw how Brain Breaks can be an interesting and conclusively helpful method to re-introduce activity and movement in classrooms thereby helping students learn better, faster and also make teaching more effective and less tedious.

Actually, some might say that the term ‘Brain Break’ is a misnomer. Brain Break activities actually require using the brain a great deal! It’s just that they require intelligence of a different kind – Kinesthetic Intelligence!

Kinesthetic Intelligence is the body’s innate intelligence which it uses in order to move about in space efficiently and safely. Ever tripped on your own foot while walking? Ever walked into a door while entering a room? Ever got confused about how to climb stairs? No? Well you have to thank your body’s kinesthetic intelligence for that! Every moment, your brain is making vital decisions and controlling your movements so that you can move about in different environments safely. The more you move, and the more differently you move – the better your kinesthetic intelligence becomes. Athletes typically have very high kinesthetic intelligence – but anyone can easily train and hone it. As you can see – Bhains (Brawn) is just as important as Akal (Brains)!

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You’d be surprised at how many mental processes have to synchronise perfectly in order to do this!

With kids, developing kinesthetic intelligence is very important because their bodies, like their minds are ‘kaccha’ – that is – raw. Developing kinesthetic intelligence helps them make sense of the world around them – and that’s exactly what Brain Breaks do!

What brain breaks do for students

  1. Break monotony: Ever sat through a 3-hour seminar? Remember how bored and how tired you felt after it? This can happen, even if the seminar was on your favourite topic. The problem is, the human body (and brain) are not meant to be sitting for long periods. Your students could be going through the exact same thing in class. Not an ideal scenario to learn at all!
  2. Help Refocus: Distraction is good! Ample studies have shown that taking breaks even if it’s just a few minutes – helps the brain refocus.
  3. Promote Blood Circulation: Remember the brain uses 80% of the body’s glucose and there’s a whole artery exclusively devoted to supplying it with blood. Sitting for long period makes circulation sluggish – if it’s not flowing elsewhere, it’s not going to the brain either.
  4. Increase Attention: Excitement = Attention. Being in a state of excitement puts the body and brain on alert mode. Nothing causes more excitement to children than a physical challenge!
  5. Develop Kinesthetic Intelligence. As mentioned above – Brain Breaks are vital to developing the body’s natural intelligence
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Far from being a distraction, brain breaks actually increase the desire to learn

What Brain Breaks Do For You

As a teacher, the primary benefit you get from managing brain breaks in your class is the renewed enthusiasm and attention of your students. Contrary to popular opinion, children are not averse to learning. They are, in fact, extremely eager to learn. However, since children primarily learn through movement, they need to be taught in the same manner. Hence, these activities are immensely enjoyable for them. This creates a positive emotional response in them, which facilitates both – their grasping & learning as well as their connection with you. As every teacher knows, students learn best when they are better connected with you.

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At Rhythmus Happyfeet, the Dance Academy I co-founded, this connection is our biggest asset & strength!

In the previous post, we focused on solo brain breaks – which we hope you tried with your class. If you’re teaching a slightly older class (5 years and up) and you’ve known them for a while, it’s definitely good to try some dual or partner-work brain breaks! These help students bond and connect with each other, and also help them develop social skills. It’s particularly beneficial for shy kids – giving them an opportunity to interact!

Mirror Drill / Echo

This activity requires each partner do be a ‘Leader’ and a ‘Follower’ in turn. Have partners face one another and hold up their right hand in front of their chest, palm facing the partner (A good time to explain ‘palm of the hand’ and ‘back of the hand’). The leader starts to move his hand (any way he likes but at a slow speed) and the follower has to mirror the movement. When you call out ‘Switch’, the leader switches his hand and the partner has to follow. After one session, leader and follower trade places. Ensure each session goes on for at least five minutes and hands are switched every minute.

Not all kids may be able to quickly think of and execute hand movements on-the-spot. This may cause some dullness or disinterest in this activity. To avoid this, in preparation of this activity, you can have the class do a variety of hand movements – up and down, in and out, flapping, flying, circling, waving. Ask children to come up with their own unique movements. This way, during the activity they have something to fall back on.

Shake It Up!

Ask your students to partner up and create a handshake that involves 8 counts. Each count must involve a different action. For instance, clapping, hi-fiving, tapping on the shoulder, spinning in place and so on. Actions can be as simple or as complicated as the partners want. To make things a bit more challenging, you can give students a time-limit. To give them an example, show them your own 8-count handshake. For inspiration, take a look at this video of how a teacher uses fun handshakes to motivate students to learn.

A unique handshake is almost a must in every friendship. You probably had a secret handshake or signal or even a code name for your group in school. They are not just cute or childish but also require quite some creativity. This type of Brain Break is easiest to execute since it does not require any preparation, only supervision. Most of the work is to be done by students in pairs and this gives them ample time to get as creative as they like.

Around the age of 5, children start developing their social personalities. They start interacting with their peers, make friends, form groups. This is also where they start navigating social situations and learning the rules of social conduct – a skill that proves extremely vital for thriving in the adult world. Partner brain breaks encourage interaction, communication and co-operation among students. While it may look like a simple activity, what partner brain breaks really teach is how to work with ANYONE to get a job done.

Do you think you’ll try these with your class? Let us know in the comments!

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