It’s 11:10 in the morning, half way between brunch and lunch. I check my watch to try to keep myself focused on the amount of time I have left, but all I want to do is get up out of my seat—even for 30 seconds—and stretch. Looking around the classroom, I know I’m not the only one trying to keep my eyes open or thinking about the food I get to eat to satisfy my orchestra of a growling stomach.
But it is not just in the middle period of the day. I find this true in almost every class—by the end, I’m just done. If there is that mid-class lull where you are not doing anything stimulating, the minutes seem like hours.
The answer to this problem is not complicated. By simply taking ten minute breaks after 40 to 50 minute blocks of studying, one allows their brain to rest and body to wake up again.
As the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Academic Excellence suggests, “Shorter periods can be fine for studying notes and memorizing materials, but longer periods are needed for problem-solving tasks, [problem sets], and writing papers.”
This means that mid way through a block period even a two minute stretch break can improve students ability to focus in class. A small break is not as ideal as a ten minute break, but I understand that every minute in class counts, so we can’t afford to take them.
In a study conducted by professor Alejandro Lleras of the University of Illinois, it was found that “[t]he brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time.” The brain then focuses on new and abrupt sensations, which is why I think if someone in front of you starts playing with their hair during a lecture, your eyes are immediately drawn to them.
As an athlete, I get antsy really easily, and I cherish any moment I can get to get up, stretch my legs and get the blood flowing. Sometimes I just have to get up to “blow my nose” or throw something away, so I can enjoy a few seconds of freedom away from my desk. But you know you are out of luck when the teacher is lecturing.
This is not only disruptive to other people because I am that moving object that diverts their focus, but also I’m losing my focus trying to find ways to get up and stretch rather than paying attention.
Getting up not only allows people to stretch but to be exposed to new stimuli. I know that teachers might be a little hesitant to let students break, especially with a rowdy class, because it might be hard to get the class started back up again. When just the teacher is talking, it can be beneficial to allow students to talk to each other. This is due to the fact that it is a new type of stimulus.
If we can have breaks between sections of the PSAT, then we should definitely be allowed to have at least one break during a class period. We still need to have the same amount of focus doing class work, and especially if we are having a test.
Please teachers, please let us have at least a two minute break to get up, stretch and refocus.