Maria Messiano: Attention Span and Brain Breaks in the Classroom



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My name is Maria. I am currently a 1st grade teacher. I am looking to achieve my masters in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology through SUNY Albany. I already have a degree in Elementary Education and Special Education. As a student, I am always trying to further my knowledge in the field of education. I know that as a teacher, I will be in school for the rest of my life!

My Topic / Purpose

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of working with a variety of students from kindergarten through fifth grade. I have come to realize that no matter how old, there is a point where these students look done and defeated. Even if they are understanding a topic, they tend to shut off, let themselves become distracted, and even act out. Since then, I have been looking into ways to "beat the defeat." Brain Breaks have become the answer for me, as they allow students to take a "break" from learning and get themselves refocused and refreshed. Through this mini-course, I hope to share the success that I have found with Brain Breaks and how they have a positive impact in a teaching environment.

Needs Assessment


The Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education states that a child’s attention span is their chronological age + 1. This sum then equals the number of minutes in a child’s engaged attention span. Children often use their behaviors as a form of expression because their vocabulary is limited. (TSCFAILE) According to The Student Coalition’s formula for attention, an average 8 year old, typical third grader, can pay attention for approximately 9 minutes. In a school, a typical block time can be anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour and twenty minutes. This posses a problem for educators and for students. Their minds are not able to maintain focus for that amount of time, which leads to problems for the educator, as students "check out" or start to misbehave. Brain breaks are designed to help students get more out of the time they spend in a block, as they are given small breaks and the chance to refocus.

What is to be learned:

Participants in this mini-course will reflect upon their own attention span. An learn about the various ways they can give themselves and students a Brain Break from long tasks. The participant will also create their own brain break board to act as a "menu" when choosing brain breaks. Finally, the participant will devise a way to implement this practice in their teaching and collaborate with other educators on the use of Brain Breaks in the classroom.


The goal of this course is to help its participates maximize the time children spend maintaining focus on a task in order to to help students grow to the best of their ability.

Analysis of the Learner and Content

Learners will include anybody in the field of education that are servicing children in and outside of the classroom. This course can also be relevant to anybody that teaches children in any field, dance, sports, gymnastics (etc.).

Performance Objectives

  1. The learner will be able to recall the basics about attention spans
  2. The learner will be able to identify when children need a brain break
  3. The learner will be able to create their own "menu" for Brain Breaks
  4. The learner will be able to create their own plan for implementing brain breaks to fit their needs

Task Analysis

Participants should be have:

  1. some experience working with children
  2. access to Pinterest and Youtube

Curriculum Map

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Unit 1: Attention Span and Brain Breaks

Unit 2: Types of Brain Breaks

Unit 3: How to Implement


Behavior Management Important Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2015, from

Brain Breaks. (2015, January 5). Retrieved December 11, 2015, from