I little idea that's been brewing in my head:

 

Integrating coffee/snack breaks into the classroom:

 

When learning gets a bit too much, students are showing signs of fatigue, distraction and you generally know it's time for a break! But at the same time, you don't want to cut into your lesson time, especially if you're on a roll or really getting into some meaty discussions.

 

All colleges seem to operate a no eating/drinking in the classroom policy. But what if you could offer the break the students are craving without having to leave the classroom. Students whip out a naughty choccy bar or fizzy drink (or heaven forbid - the college may even provide some sort of something).

 

Students may carry on a discussion, or tangent into a new thread within the subject, that may not have happened if they left for 10 minutes, lost their train of thought and come back again.

 

Also, unlikely student bonds may occure which could enhance the classroom dynamic even more!!

 

What are people's thoughts???

 

Gina :-)

Tags: behaviour, classroom, exciting, food, inclusive, new

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Hi Gina, I think this could be successful if students are aware of the boundaries surrounding when they can/cannot eat and drink within a classroom. I think there should also be emphasis on healthy eating so potentially a fizzy drink and chocolate bar is not the right way to go.
Some may say also that having a break should include being able to get up, stretch your legs, and have a change of environment. This means that the learning environment does not get mixed with the place students go when 'unwinding' and keeps the learning space purposeful. This would be my concern about combining breaks within lesson times. What are your views on how to ensure students don't start thinking of their classroom in the same way as a canteen/recreational area?

This is an interesting point - and one that i've not considered fully.

 

My thought would be say, for instance, you've just had your lunch break and you go into a 2 hour class. Discussions are running in full flow but people are definately lagging a little. Some tutors would not even bother to call a break in situations like this, but perhaps a small "in-class" cool down could be useful here?

 

And yes I think the idea of promoting more healthy snacks is probably the better idea than chocolate! Maybe nuts, they are full of energy. BRAIN FOOD!!

 

I understand this idea is rather flawed, but if these kinks could be ironed, i think it could be a good idea.

 

Any other thoughts welcome!!

 

Gina :-)

I agree that 2 hours is a long time to keep concentration levels going and a short break is always useful and welcome, however going out of the class to get refreshments is time consuming especially if the canteen is busy. So why not offer some healthy snacks and drinks in class and encourage a suitable discussion to take place. Often mature students continue to discuss class related subjects, outside the classroom over their coffeebreak anyway. These discussions can be very purposeful and yes ...fruitful too!

Hi Gina, I agree with Ellie regarding students being aware of what their boundaries are within the classroom. In my area (Graphic Design) we spend a lot of time using computers, and so I'm not sure if the I.T department would approve of having drinks and food around the expensive computers.
In other circumstances it may work and I think it's a good idea because as you said it would allow students to carry on with debates and help them bond with each other.

Jo

Thinking about what both you and Ann are saying - it's a winner for the more mature students and, as Ann says, conversations may continue into the break and tangent off into something even more interesting. John Malloy says in the comment below that it's implemented at his elementary school and it seems to work. So what i'm taking from this is that the "in the middle students" (say aged 12-17 maybe) are the risk factor posed in this idea of mine.

My thought would be, in your situation and maybe in places like science labs and art departments, to have a small area in the classroom designated for refreshments. That way, disruption is at a minimum and conversations may still spark.

What do you think?

Gina :-) 

Potential issues need to be thought about, but I like the principle of the idea and think it could work. I'm at home working and I'm drinking tea and it helps me to keep hydrated. I drink a lot more working from home than when at college, as its not allowed in the classroom and I do lose concentration and my mind keeps wandering off thinking about tea, especially when teaching and I think that's more detrimental to students than if we allowed everyone to have a drink when needed. In some areas, using chemicals or near electronic equipment it won't be appropriate and that's where it would need to be clear, where you can and can not drink. If students clear up after themselves and are sensible with it, then I think it would be good to give it a go.

A quote from http://www.europeanhydrationinstitute.org/faq.html

"...By incorporating water or other drinks in the classroom, pupils are likely to be more attentive, and able to enjoy learning. In schools where drinks are provided throughout the day, there have been reported improvements in concentration levels, academic performance and pupil behaviour..."

Great idea Gina - fits in nicely with Maslow's hierarchy, as physiological needs are meet, and would add support to intellectual needs by not interrupting the flow of a discussion! I like it!
What about the learning environment - would that have to change to incorporate a more relaxed vibe generally? What if more classrooms were like the learning zone, with heaven forbid, different work sections, a computer and a sofa area for communal learning?!!!
When I worked at Tabor Science College, all students were encouraged to carry a bottle of water with them, but as Andrea says, in areas such as Science labs with the chemicals, drinks had to be stored in bags, but the students could go other to the side of the room away from the dangerous side (!) and have a crafty sip, without stopping the flow of the lesson. This was a clear boundary that worked and the concentration levels of the students improved dramatically.
Definitely food for thought.

Hi Gina. I like the idea of keeping students hydrated. Sometimes even offering a good snack helps their productivity. Our elementary school offers students snacks three times a week. Snacks include grapes, bananas, pears, oranges, or apples. Students enjoy the food and I seem to be able to squeeze a little extra writing out of them also. It's a win win.

Thanks for the input John!

 

Question though: How and where do you offer these snacks? And does it make the classroom seem more "relaxed" or pose any authority/misbehaviour issues?

 

It's something Ellie pointed out in the first reply as a potential issue and would like your take on it...

 

Gina :-)

Hi Gina,

I do think this is a really good idea, especially as I am one that cannot sit still for long :-)

'The average human attention span is 3 to 5 minutes in children and the maximum is 20 minutes in adults'(Christopher, 2013, online) so it is very likely if the teacher sets a 45 minute task that the students are going to be come restless and will need a break.

I agree with Ellie that a break should include a change of environment and the stretch of legs. However, if the teacher is on a role then yes this can be difficult. A break in the classroom would probably work and give them some space from the task for a while, but they still may not be able to focus as there has been no change in environment. Perhaps, the teacher/lecturer should create a specific space in the classroom for breaks that is totally different to the rest of the classroom. By doing this it will make the students feel like they've been somewhere else. However, this would depend on how big the classroom is. I also think that the break time should vary so the students don't get clock watching and think "ooh it's nearly break time".

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