Putting Education Reform To The Test

Why Taking More Breaks Can Help Students Get More Done

Set a goal. Work hard. Then, take a short break to recharge.

That’s the thinking behind the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method used by and deadline-driven professionals, including coders, developers and the organizers of the CodeNow camp we attended in Miami.

The Pomodoro Technique was created by programmer and consultant Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s to improve his study habits. It has since caught on with creative professionals, especially in the tech industry.

Pomodoro got its name from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used to mark time. Each 25-minute period is known as a Pomodoro.

The strategy is to break big tasks down into a series of smaller tasks. You work in a focused 25-minute burst until the task is done and then you take a short break. After the break, you start on another task and complete it in the next 25-minute period.

After several Pomodori, you take a longer break — 15 minutes or so — to recharge.

Proponents say the Pomordoro Technique improves productivity and can help improve attention spans.

The tomato-shaped timer that gives the Pomodoro Technique its name.

tbn97 / Flickr

The tomato-shaped timer that gives the Pomodoro Technique its name.

CodeNow founder and CEO Ryan Seashore said the technique was key to keeping kids on task at CodeNow camps. Many have never coded before, so the Pomodoro Technique serves two purposes.

First, it required organizers to break coding down into small digestible lessons. The goal of each Pomodoro was limited and achievable. The 25-minute segments also allowed students to recharge with Skittles or some snack mix on regular intervals.

Watching it in action for a few hours, the timer almost always ended the Pomodori before students’ attention started straying. Often, the CodeNow teachers had to remind students to get up, walk around and take a break.


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