I know you’re reluctant to take a break because you have too little time to get through all the material you need to cover. I’ve been there too.
However, all of the research (referenced below) points to the same conclusion — your group will actually retain more if you do take a break. So stop, give them a rest, and then get back to it.
In psychology, the Zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.
Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik first studied the phenomenon after her professor, Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin, noticed that a waiter had better recollections of still unpaid orders. The Zeigarnik effect suggests that students are likely to remember more if their learning process is interrupted by unrelated activities. (Zeigarnik, 1927; McKinney 1935).
*In case you were wondering, the term “learnus interruptus” was not coined by Bluma Zeigarnik. We just thought it would be easier to say than “Zeigarnik.”
The number of minutes a student can focus is equal to the student’s age plus two. Adults are not much different from children. They cannot focus for more than 15 to 20 minutes.
Ideally we should confine learning activities within those focus minutes and then allow for some movement to redirect the students’ attention so that processing can take place.”
Marilee Sprenger, Learning & Memory, The Brain in Action p. 26
First. Last. Middle.
During a learning episode, we remember best that which comes first, second best that which comes last, and least that which comes just past the middle. Gazzanniga et al., 2002; Terry, 2005; Reference also by David Sousa in How the Brain Learns, p. 89.