Do you ever feel like you can’t take a break in the classroom? The truth is students work hard in class. As teachers, we have a lot to cover so we try to cram a lot into every day. But as learners, we all need breaks to take stuff in, reenergize, and refocus. That’s what brain breaks are all about. In addition, many brain breaks help kids develop social skills or add more activity into their day. These simple — and often brief — breaks can have big benefits!
When to use brain breaks
You can build brain breaks into your daily schedule at transition points. For example, have students walk in a particular way (like a penguin or a kangaroo) from the morning meeting to their table or desk. Have a post lunch dance party (choose one song for everyone to move to before you settle down to work). Lead students in stretches or share a Go Noodle video when you shift from math to phonics. There are so many options.
If you notice your class tends to lose focus or energy at a certain point during the day, that’s a great time to add in a brain break, whether planned or not planned. Sometimes a lesson is tougher than you expected or kids are distracted by other things going on in the world or at school. Sometimes testing makes it hard for kids to re-engage in learning. All of these situations might benefit from brain breaks so it’s great to have options up your sleeve.
3 easy brain breaks
Simple movements like the ones I mentioned above or games you can play in the classroom are great options. The goal is to get kids moving more (and maybe thinking less or at least using a different part of their brain than they were using or will use for lessons).
Here are 3 brain breaks I’ve used in my classroom.
1. Copy me
You don’t need any special materials for this game of copycat. Students need to copy what the teacher says/does. The teacher uses a combination of clapping and sounds to make a pattern. Start with a simple pattern, say 2–3 claps, and other sounds (example clap, desk tap, “ha”). Extend the pattern to add challenge (example, clap, desk tap, “ha”, clap, snap, stomp). Then pick up the pace and see how many students can remember all the parts and keep up.
A variation on this game is Hear Me / Copy Me. You play the same way, but students close their eyes. They have to copy the pattern just from listening.
You’ll need a few hoops (or tape off a few circles or squares on the floor). Place hoops on the ground to create several “islands.” Students must jog (or hop or skip or do another motion you identify) around the islands without touching them. When you call the signal, “Islands,” the students must get onto an island before you count to 5. (Instead of calling “Islands” you could ring a chime or you could play music while students move and turn off the music when they are to get into a hoop.) Students need to share their island with others. Set a goal of getting everyone onto an island.
You can find Islands and 10 other games that make great brain breaks in Classroom Games Cheat Sheets.
3. Hide in Plain Sight
You’ll need one small object that cannot be found elsewhere in the room for this game. All players but the hider sit in their seats and put their heads down and eyes closed. The hider hides the object somewhere in the room. It needs to be visible without anything being moved (for example, it could be next to books on a shelf, but not behind them).
Once the hider places the object, they continue walking around to avoid drawing attention to the hidden object’s location. The hider says, “Start looking.” The rest of the students get up and look for the object. When they locate the object, they return to their seats by a round about way to avoid giving away the hiding place. Once in their seat, the finder says “I spy”. When all students have returned to their seats, the hider reveals where the object was and the first person that said, “I spy” hides the object for the next round. You can also set a time limit and have the hider reveal the object even if some students have not found it.
You can find other indoor games that make good brain breaks as part of the Physical Education lesson plans.
More brain breaks — and a break for teachers
If you want some ready to go ideas for brain breaks, the physical education lesson plans and classroom games cheat sheets are a good start, but I also have a set of new brain break cards designed to help kids get back on track and ready to learn. Want to stay on top of new and featured products PLUS other ideas and inspiration for teachers? Join me on Facebook.
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