"Brain breaks" is a term used commonly by piano teachers. We appreciate that not every student can focus for the full 30 minutes (or maybe even longer!) Brain breaks are scheduled in to ensure students don't drift off.
My go-to brain break activity? Music game! (of course!)
why do we need brain breaks?
Do you have those times when you're so in the zone and you can work hard for ages? You're so focused an alien could fly by the window and you wouldn't even notice.
But then there are other times when everything is a distraction.
You sit down to work, but then find yourself asking, "Was that a leaf that flew past the window? I wonder which tree it came from. Let me Google leaves and see if I can work it out. Wait, is that a smudge on my computer screen? I better get a wipe...This table would look better if it were by that wall. Let me just move it..."
Your students are the same!
Some are fantastic at focusing on the entire lesson. Others need little breaks to bring their attention back so the lesson can stay productive.
jake and terry, the easily distracted twins
Jake and Terry are six-year-old twins who share their piano lessons.
They're incredibly bubbly and love their lessons, but they can be quite easily distracted, so their lessons must be action-packed to retain their focus.
There was one particular lesson when we'd started a new piece in their book.
They took turns to play the first line and did a great job. We were looking through the second line, and I asked them how many beats the C in bar 8 was worth when their focus drifted.
"It's 10 beats! 100 beats! 1000 beats!"
"I'll play it! One, two, three, four.... This is gonna take forever! I'll start again!"
“But can you play while I'm tickling you?!”
“No fair! You play, and I'll poke you!"
“Let's have a game break!” I announced.
"Yay!” They chimed. I set out Creepin' and Crawlin', gave them their favourite Lego figures to use, and explained the game's rules.
I showed them the three different cards they could get, and they told me (remembering from a previous game we'd played) that an O note meant four spaces, an O with a stick meant two spaces, and a blob with a stick meant one space.
They raced around the board, seeing who could shout the number of beats the quickest (which turned into a game within the main game - each time I was going to hold up a new card, they'd both close their eyes, I'd count down from three and then they'd open their eyes and shout the correct answer)
Jake won, and before I could tell Terry that we'd play another game in a minute, they were back at the piano.
They'd had a game break, so it was piano time again.
"Before you play the piece, Jake, how many beats is that C in bar 8 worth?"
“Four," Jake said.
“Yeah, it's an O note, so it's four," agreed Terry.
By incorporating a game break, the students' focus is refreshed, ready to pay attention again.
Battling to get a fidgety student to carry out a specific task will only lead to frustration for both the teacher and the student.
It will inevitably lead to nothing (or very little) being achieved.
Game breaks help create bursts of successful learning, and the games themselves help reaffirm musical knowledge.
Next time you sense a student getting wiggly and drifting off, have a music game brain break to bring them back!