In Finland (a country lauded for its excellent school system) kids in primary school are given breaks every hour. After 45 minutes of instruction, students ‘take 15’ and run around, socialize, or just do anything but sit still in a classroom.
Tim Walker, an American teacher in Helskini, tried to do away with these frequent breaks for his 5th grade class and was met with foot dragging, rebellion and mind wandering. So he reinstated the breaks. And whatdoyouknow? The children became happier and more focused:
“Once I incorporated these short recesses into our timetable, I no longer saw feet-dragging, zombie-like kids in my classroom. Throughout the school year, my Finnish students would—without fail—enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps after a 15-minute break. And most importantly, they were more focused during lessons,” Walker wrote in a post on his blog, Taught by Finland.
What’s more, researchers have consistently found that physical activity helps the brain function better and learn more readily. Charles Basch of Columbia’s Teachers College wrote in his report, Healthier Students are Better Learners, “current knowledge strongly indicates that physical activity can benefit aspects of cognition, thereby favorably affecting educational outcomes. Recent literature reviews on physical activity or physical fitness and cognition have all reached the same conclusion: physical activity (or aspects of physical fitness) favorably affects cognitive functioning.”
Wouldn’t it have been nice (and enlightened) if the Common Core State Standards had incorporated not just new Math and Science learning protocols, but new standards for daily breaks and exercise at school? In Finland, students take breaks every hour not just because teachers think this is a good idea, but because it’s the law.