In a previous blog, I suggested that teachers give students the autonomy to decide when they need a break and to allow them to take one, as long as they are engaging within parameters set. When you believe you have established appropriate levels of behavior management with your students, use these 4 pointers for giving students the option to self-start movement breaks.
Determine What You Are Willing to Allow Students to Do
If lots of movement (aka chaos) creates anxiety for you, limit the number of students you allow to self-start at one time. Perhaps you only want to allow two students to be moving on their own at once. Post two “check out” passes that students must pull if they are choosing to do a movement break. No others are allowed to do a movement break until a pass is available. These can double as bathroom passes if you like, as walking to the bathroom and back could be considered a movement break.
Other factors to consider: space, time, noise level, learning environment. Be clear on the space students are allowed to use for their break. Are there specific areas of the classroom they must use? Can they go in the hallway or open pod area? Indicate times in which students are allowed to self-select breaks. Should they only go when the lights are off or if music is playing? Is there a sign showing when students can take a break? Are there times listed on the board when they can move? Is there a timer set indicating movement time? Regarding the learning environment as a consideration, if a student taking movement breaks distracts others from learning, how will this be handled? Are time limits appropriate for their breaks? Perhaps they need to limit their movement to 4 or 5 minutes.
Show Students Examples of How to Self-Start or Self-Select Movement Breaks
This sounds silly, but some children simply don’t know how to take a movement break or how to be polite about it. Take a few minutes sometime to demonstrate what appropriate vs. inappropriate movement breaks look like. Then, let the students know that self-starting movement breaks is a privilege that can ultimately be taken away if they abuse it.
Give Students Specific Parameters if They Choose to Engage
When, where, how, what. Some of this information falls under the first point, but it is good to have this information posted so students will always have a reference. When are they allowed to self-start movement breaks? Where can they perform their activity? How can they access the pass to take their break? How do they know if they are allowed? What are they allowed to do? Can they dance or walk the halls? Are they able to do mindfulness activity with earbuds in from the corner of the room? Can they journal at the writing table?
Use Familiar Strategies
While this may seem overwhelming, my guess is that you already have routines and expectations established for other activities the students complete. When they go to their centers or work in small groups, they probably know the exact steps they are to take. No need to reinvent the wheel. Use similar strategies for their movement breaks.
There may be hiccups at first, but once the students catch on, I think this will be a win-win for everyone. Let me know how this works in your classroom!
Heather is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion at the University of Kentucky. She is a former physical education teacher, and co-author of Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Children, 8ed. Heather was also the recipient of the NASPE Curriculum and Instruction Young Scholar Award and a AAHPERD Research Consortium Fellow.