Break time means a lot of different things in my classroom depending on the student. Most of my students have one 15 minute break in their morning and one in the afternoon. Some of my students are in more of a work-break routine, where they need to work and then get a short break after every 1 or 2 activities. While some guys could play iPad all day long…others really struggle with this unstructured "down time."
Students can take their break in a few different places around the room. Some enjoy the "break area," while others prefer to sit at a desk/table, or sit in the computer area. I allow them to sit wherever they choose, as long as another activity isn't going on there at that moment. Also, they must be able to stay in the area for the entire break time. Usually 2 students at a time are taking breaks. "Break" is one of the stations during our morning/afternoon rotations. During this time, the other adults are occupied running stations for other students, so whatever the child chooses to do, needs to be independent.
Our "break area" isn't incredibly exciting. It has a few different types of chairs (rockers, ball chairs) and large therapy balls that help some kids get the sensory input they need. It also has a few toys (legos, floor puzzles, stuffed animals, and some other miscellaneous toys). I have one heavy duty computer that has educational games on it in this area as well.
I label the toy bins as well as the shelves to allow for easy, independent clean up by the kids.
In another area of my room, I have a few different sensory bins filled with things like play-doh feathers, beans, and moon sand. Some kids are able to play with these independently, but most require supervision. Since, for the most part, break time is an "unsupervised" time (mostly meaning an adult is not sitting directly with the kids), we save a lot of these activities for times where an adult is available.
We also have some iPads and a computer area that students can utilize during break time. I have headphones for both so that they are not disruptive to the rest of the class.
For my students who can read, or at least look through books appropriately, I also use "quiet reading" as a structured break time. During this time, kids can look through books and/or complete a puzzle.
In the past, I had a student who really struggled with his "breaks." I actually made him his own bin of break materials. I put in a binder of coloring worksheets, puzzles, etc.). Once he had this bin (which gave his break a bit more structure), he was totally fine. I currently have a little guy who will take a normal break in the morning, but in the afternoon, most of his breaks involve helping adults clean up the room for the next day. He really enjoys helping clean up morning binders, erasing the boards, and setting up the next day's schedules. So, that is his afternoon break.
I think the key to break time is to be flexible, figure out what your kids like to do, and run with it. My only requirements are that 1) the kid can do it independently, 2) they can stay in the general area for the length of the break, and 3) they are not being disruptive to other students in the classroom.
Do you have any other good ideas for break time that work in your classroom?