Every High School student at ASL has experienced the strenuous 80 minute class period. It is not only painfully long, but can also be counter-productive. At times, staying focused in class is more challenging than understanding the material on the board.
Up to four times a day, teachers challenge a student’s mind for 80 consecutive minutes, consistently expecting their best work. This expectation is more than challenging; it is unrealistic. But, with a simple schedule change — introducing a five minute break into ASL’s normal 80-minute class periods — students’ concentration and productivity would undeniably improve.
Some teachers at ASL already use a five minute break in their classes. “I try to remain sensitive to students’ needs, so if they have had an assembly during conference time, I take this into consideration and will probably give a break. In other words, when I sense there is a general need, I call a break,” English Teacher Kimbalena Zeineddine said. “The break is to make people more comfortable and able to concentrate in class, which is good for everyone.”
Skeptics might say that this policy takes five minutes away from class without yielding any clear advantages. However, a five minute break increases a student’s’ productivity during the other 75 minutes of class.
Some students agree that a five minute break increases their efficiency in class. Surely teachers would sacrifice six percent of class time for the other 94 percent to be more constructive.
It’s not as if students are sitting through the whole 80 minutes without a break under the current schedule. Students can already take a break from class by asking to go to the bathroom; it is common for students to ask to use the bathroom as a break from concentration. They often take longer than strictly necessary to return.
When students leave in the middle of class, they miss part of the lesson. A planned five minute break would provide a set time for students to use the toilet or stretch their legs, meaning that no one would miss material.
Teachers might fear that students would abuse this freedom by confusing it with a right to dictate the class schedule.“If students returned on time and genuinely used the time to get a quick bite or go to the loo, then the break was productive,” Zeineddine said. “If students took more than five minutes or used the time to check their phones or had trouble settling back into the lesson, then the break was an obstacle to class progressing. Or, if students saw the break as a ‘right’ and watched the clock so that they got their five minutes, it became a problem.”
A five minute break should always be the teacher’s decision, and as long as this is made clear, there should not be any complications. If the teacher sets a time for students to be back and sets a consequence for failing to meet it — say removing the five minute break from the next class — students will be incentivized to come back on time and truly learn.
With careful implementation, five minute breaks during ASL’s 80 minute classes would increase students’ learning by making them more focused — students would definitely benefit if more teachers incorporated five minute breaks into their classes.