In the high school setting, we are seeing more of a need for brain breaks for high school kids than ever before. In this article we are covering brain break activities for high school as a way to incorporate movement within the high school setting. You’ll also want to refer to our resource on middle school brain breaks for more resources on brain-break ideas for teens and older kids.
Activity breaks in the high school setting supports so many areas of social emotional development, self-regulation, cognitive learning, stress, relaxation strategies, and overall well-being of the high school student. Having the tools to support these needs is essential.
Brain breaks for high school
Brain breaks are a way to incorporate movement into every day tasks. This can include heavy work that offers, calming and organizing sensory input. It can also include a break within a repetitive task, such as learning in the classroom.
Brain breaks might also incorporate a shift in cognitive thought processes, including puzzles or a mental brain break where the student is offered a chance to regroup, recharge, and refocus on a different topic. This is a tool for organization, focus, and sustained learning.
For high school students especially, we are seeing more challenges with mental and emotional health and as well as increased screen time during a pivotal time for executive functioning development.
Shifts from technology and screen used to movement-based learning is a asset to the high school student. In this way, brain breaks for high school are not only a benefit. It’s actually essential to cognitive learning and cognitive development for highschoolers.
How to incorporate brain breaks into the high school setting
Brain breaks for high school are kind of a challenge because typically you think of brain breaks as yoga or a movement break during learning.
This is really easy for primary school students or younger learners because you can include silly wiggle songs, kinesthetic learning tasks where the young learner is moving in the classroom.
However, for highschoolers, it’s a little bit of a challenge because of the age of the students and the curriculum of the high school expectations.
However, this is not to say that brain breaks in high school are not impossible.
Brain breaks in the high school setting actually can become a learning strategy that supports the learner even after high school, and in college and beyond.
For example, all of us adults included have strategies for brain breaks that we use with throughout our day.
Think about a time when you are doing a task repetitively. Sometimes we stretch we roll our shoulders. Maybe we crack or gum we change positions in our chair. All of these are brain breaks that are natural to us. We do these things through our day without even thinking about it.
This is the concept of interoception and the awareness of our sensor, movement, and subconscious needs and knowing that we need that shift in movement in order to complete the task at hand.
Most of us do this naturally however, when something like a stressor is involved, or we are overly focused we are under deadline or we have social emotional stressors on top of our normal tasks.
This is when we see anxiety, we see raise heart rate we see stress, and this is typical of responding to the stressors. At this this point, as an adult, we might know that we need to take a break. We need to go outside for a walk. We need to take some deep breaths get a drink of water.
All of these things are things that are natural and for our students in high school, this is an opportunity during a pivotal time of their development that we can help them to gain these strategies so that they can incorporate them naturally using is interoceptive awareness, and just a knowledge of the tools that are available for them.
Multisensory learning- One tool in our toolbox is multi sensory learning as a teaching approach in the high school. Multi sensory learning offers input through various senses like the visual sensory system, auditory sensory system, kinesthetic sensory system, tactile sensory system, etc. Incorporating these strategies not only enhances learning and retention, but it also offers an opportunity for improved engagement.
Role-playing- One way to add meaningful brain breaks for the entire class is through role playing. that we can do this in the high school setting is through role-playing. A typical high school curriculum includes fast-pased learning, many different topics, sometimes for just a single semester. In these different courses, it’s possible to enhance learning through role-play.
Role-play education is also a way to add movement to the lessons. This gives the students an opportunity to get up out of their chair, move around and actually practice what they’re learning but at the same time they’re incorporating movement in their day.
The Use of Multimedia- Another tool to incorporate brain breaks in the high school setting is through multimedia. When we refer to multimedia in high school, it can include various tools for multi-sensory learning that includes various technology.
This might include things like videos, interactive activities, stem lessons and different sensory activities that teach the lesson, but also are age-appropriate for the high school student.
In most cases this multimedia offers a chance for movement obtaining materials that are needed for the activity arranging them working with other students standing at a desk or a table and just getting more movement that is a change from their typical sitting at a desk and taking notes.
Hands-on learning- Another strategy for brain breaks in the high school setting is through hands-on activities. This goes back to the multi-media example, but to take this a step further brain breaks for high schoolers can include using various sensory activities like experiments and incorporating the kinesthetic sense in order to make the learning more engaging and interactive.
When we incorporate that interactive component, you’re adding movement and switching up how the brain is working because you’re asking them to incorporate various senses into the learning situation.
Deep breathing lessons- One strategy that is extremely effective for stress, reduction, relaxation and overall overall well-being and mental health is deep breathing exercises.
More than ever high school. Students should be taught deep, breathing strategies throughout their day because this is a tool that they can carry with them throughout their life.
When they transition after high school into the college, setting students will be presented with more stressful situations and more responsibilities that require them to learn and complete their every day tasks and brain breaks with deep breathing strategies can be such an asset. Because of the life skill application, teaching teens about brain breaks and the tools they have in their toolbox is an important part in transition services for post-high school, as well.
Highschool is the perfect time to discuss rhythm of breathing, relaxation breathing, breath control, interoception, the limbic system and how these things impact daily functioning.
Brain Break Games in high school
One way to really hone in on a lesson and engage the students in a motivating and meaningful activity is through game of vacation. But there’s another benefit as well.
Using games as a brain break offers an opportunity for movement in an age-appropriate activity. You can incorporate things like Jeopardy or Cahoots with movement involved where the student needs to get up and move to a smart board and touch an area on the board in order to enter their answer.
Students can work together with groups or individually, but just offering that chance to move in the classroom is an asset to the student as well as incorporating learning for the whole group of classmates.
All of these ideas are perfect for older students and offer the opportunity for a mental break, physical movement (increasing blood flow), and supports creativity in work and learning.
Other ideas for brain breaks for high school include:
- Elective classes
- Multi-media learning opportunities
- Exercise like
- yoga poses, jumping jacks, or push-ups, walking outside
- Use of a high school outdoor space such as a plaza, nature walk, or outdoor learning space
- Identify natural brain breaks that we all do naturally: twiddling our hair, bouncing a knee, doodling with a pencil, fidgeting, etc.
- Card games or card tricks
- Scheduled downtime
- Use of a therapy dog in the school (available for any student)
- A mental health room
- Meditation exercises
- Physical brain breaks like using a standing desk, taking a stretch break, or fun games
- Brain break Youtube videos on deep breathing or meditation
- Educate high school students on the benefits of brain breaks. This can support the learner as they move out of high school and onto either higher learning or the stressors of the real world.
- Deep breathing exercises
- Deep breathing posters hung in classrooms
- Hands-on learning
- Role-playing learning opportunities
High School Brain Breaks…elective classes?
In the high school setting we see course elective opportunities for learning that moves a student along a course selection based on their interests and future goals after high school. High school students are encouraged to try different electives as an opportunity to experience different things that they might want to try post-high school.
These electives are very vast and can include things like woodworking, jewelry making, pottery, aerobics, or even business and finance, among many other options. Best of all, elective classes have short breaks incorporated right into the class. Hands-on tasks require short periods of education or lecture followed by active learning and activity.
All of these movement-based learning opportunities are an option for students to not only advance in their post high school goals, but also to move during their school day.
In most cases, these elective classes, offer movement and use of materials and hands-on learning. This is a great meaningful and motivated break from sitting and taking notes or working at a tablet or laptop in their school day, particularly when the student has selected elective offerings that align with their personal interests and goals.
To make the most of alerting opportunities in battling fatigue through physical activities, consider schedules that prime the student for learning. Consider scheduling electives mixed within the day of the main core classes. This becomes a natural brain break for high school students and a way to promote spikes in mood and motivation naturally throughout the high school day.
Active High School Schedule, Active Brain!
Taking that a step further high school students are required to participate in physical education classes. However, physical education in high school is not the same as it used to be with the same gym class day after day moving through various sports and activities.
High school students have an opportunity to try different types of physical education, and these are all ways to Offer different movements and brain breaks throughout the school day. Physical education brain breaks might include classes like swimming, dance, yoga, Pilates, aerobic fitness, weight training or weightlifting training, kickboxing, and other activities.
All of these classes can support activity movement that prepares the teen for the next task of learning as they move through their daily schedule.
A final note on brain breaks for high school
Hopefully these ideas have given you some ideas some ways to incorporate movement into the high school, setting as a tool for self regulation, executive functioning development, focus, attention, relaxation and overall mental health awareness, as well as learning, and development.
The ideas listed here support teenagers and all the stressors of school, home, work, social situations, and more. Perhaps most importantly, the classroom management strategies used by teens in the high school setting can be carried over to adulthood!
For more information check out, our resource on middle school brain breaks for brain breaks in the classroom.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.