There are still some people who believe that these silly little brain breaks are simply a waste of time. You can lay out a list of the best brain break ideas, and they still will turn their nose. Theory is one thing, but science is something different. Below is an MRI image of a brain that has been sitting versus one that was actively moving before taking a test. The differences are staggering (click the picture to read the accompanying article):
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You can see the areas of the brain that are activated after movement that are not when one is sitting quietly. As we’ve been mentioning throughout this brain break series, brain breaks allow for the blood to pump and oxygen flow to the brain to increase. This leads to higher levels of concentration and productivity in our students. It is important as the grown-ups in the room to remember this and encourage our students to partake in short bursts of activity that help them learn how to do this on their own.
When it comes to buy-in for brain breaks you really have to know your students to know what is going to work for them. A group of elementary students is much more likely to buy in quickly to the idea of a quick game in the classroom more so than a group of high school students. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it just means you need to know what is going to work best for your students. Below you will find a generalized list with five of the best brain break ideas to try in your classroom. Again this is not an all-encompassing list and there are plenty of other brain break ideas out there. this hopefully will be just a good jumping-off point for you as you start actively using brain breaks in your classroom.
Best Brain Break Ideas
Brain Break Bingo: This particular activity is something that we designed at Student-Centered World to really help have students in the elementary and middle school levels buy into the concept of brain break activities. As they need a brain break, someone will pull a bingo piece from a jar and attach it to the bingo board where it corresponds. Each piece is associated with different brain break activities that they will then complete. When they complete bingo, they can pick from a larger activity that still constitutes as a brain break, such as a longer recess, a yoga session in the classroom, a dance party. or whatever else they choose to work towards. This is a fun way to keep track of what is happening in your classroom and something for them to look forward to regularly.
Coloring Bulletin Boards: These are great for any grade level. You will ultimately make copies of a page of an adult coloring book and cover your bulletin board in that photograph. The students will have the option to go up and color for a few moments when they need to to help regroup and focus. I was hesitant when I personally first tried this out in the high school classroom, but my students did not disappoint. They policed themselves and would go up to the board for just a few minutes, color in a spot, and would sit back down and get back to work. Some students did this when they came into class to prepare themselves, others while class was going on, and yet others at the end of their time in class in preparation for the next place that they had to go. I never once had to reprimand a student for coloring for too long.
Heads Up: This is another fantastic game that you can play in lightning rounds and keep score over time, which adds a competitive element to it. The students can be broken up into teams which can be consistent if you’re keeping score or just groups that they put together. You can also play whole group; it really depends on the students in your classroom. A student will hold up a card to his or her forehead that has a term on it and the rest of the students have to try to explain to them what is on that card without using the words that are given. If they’re able to guess what the other students are trying to tell them before the time runs out, then they receive a point. You can certainly amend this to however it works in your classroom, but it certainly gets the kids up moving and often very loud which helps rejuvenate them when they need to be “jumpstarted”.
GoNoodle: If you teach elementary and haven’t experienced GoNoodle, you’re missing out. GoNoodle is a fantastic option for younger students. You can play a variety of songs and dances and games that take just a few minutes to get through. The kids absolutely love it. There are also ways that you can incorporate curriculum when it comes to math reading and other such activities, which helps reinforce what you’re doing in the classroom and give them the opportunity to move around. I haven’t yet met one teacher that uses GoNoodle that has anything negative to say about it
Pictionary: This twist on a classic game is a great way to quickly review material and also get the students up and moving. A student will receive a term from their studies and then they have to try to draw it up on the board with the other students tried to guess what it is that they’re drawing. This can also be broken up into smaller teams depending on the size of your classroom and points can be kept over long periods of time. It incorporates multiple things including the curriculum and the concept of the brain break which helps with all aspects of student well-being. You can also just use the traditional form of Pictionary if you’re just looking for a way to take a moment away from the curriculum.
Whisper Down the Lane/Telephone: If you are looking for a calm down brain break, Whisper Down the Lane is always a fantastic option at any grade level. Students stand in line and the teacher (preferably) will think of a phrase that they will whisper to the first student who then has to whisper it to the person next to them and so on and so forth. Nine out of ten times by the time it gets all the way to the end, the phrase is nowhere close to what the original phrase was; however, it gets the students calm and focused, but they’re having fun at the same time. It also brings forward a great lesson about how words could be misconstrued and changed depending on how many times a story is told there are a lot of benefits to playing this game, especially with a younger crowd.
Again, this is nothing more than 5 of the best brain break ideas to use in your classroom. Hopefully, they are helping your wheels turn in thinking about what will work in YOUR classroom. Go have fun with it!