What Happens When I Introduce Mind Breaks in the Classroom After Lunch in Order to Improve Focus and Motivation?
Health and Wellbeing in a fundamental part of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and is the responsibility of all staff in the school to support and enhance learning (Scottish Government, 2014a). Together with literacy and numeracy, health and wellbeing sit at the centre of the learner’s experiences. Health and Wellbeing ensures that children and young people have the opportunity to develop knowledge, understanding and skills which are vital in their present and future lives such as mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing (PSHE Association, 2019). Therefore, it is imperative that all learners are relaxed within the classroom in order to learn successfully (Scottish Government, 2008). When facing low levels of disruption within the classroom, teachers are most likely to implement proactive strategies which result in improved classroom management and increased focus in pupils (Cremin and Arthur, 2014).
Pupils who experience levels of stress are less likely to maintain focus throughout the school day which can have a negative impact on their learning (Downey, 2020). It has been recognised that there is an increase of children who are dealing with anxiety and mental health issues. The Mental Health Foundation have reported that in a survey which was conducted in 2004, 1 in 10 children aged 5-15 had a mental health disorder which was either emotional, behavioural or hyperactive. They also reported that in a more recent survey carried out in 2017, that figure had risen to 1 in 9 children. The change was largely driven by an increase in emotional disorders, which included depression and anxiety (Mental Health Foundation, 2018). Although stress and anxiety can be a difficult term to define as it can have different implications depending on the individual, those who experience these symptoms are more likely to be unable to retain new information than those who do not have the symptoms (Hurley, 2004). When the body experiences frequent stress, it will become hyper-stimulated. This results in the brain experiencing problems with rationalising, remembering and recalling information (Folk, 2020). During a recent Stress and Anxiety workshop with an educational psychologist, it was highlighted that deep, mindful breathing can be effective for pupils who are experiencing stress or anxiety as the exercises are developed to counteract the chemical responses in the brain and create new neural connections to be made (Downey, 2020). The Mental Health Organisation also state that capitalising on opportunities to provide children with supportive environments at an early stage may be fundamental for ensuring good mental health for all children and young people (Mental Health Foundation, 2018).
It is anticipated that this practitioner enquiry will result in significant improvement to pupils’ mental health and wellbeing with the use of mindful strategies. It is also hoped that improvements in focus and engagement will result in a positive impact on children’s learning across all curriculum areas.
The aim of this enquiry was to assess the impact of using mind-breaks within the classroom to ease transitions into classroom after breaks. Through the use of mind-breaks it was hoped that this would help to settle learners back into the classroom and help to increase their level of focus, engagement and motivation particularly in the afternoon.