Mindful Classroom

8 Easy, Awesome Brain Break Games for High School Students

When people first begin thinking of the concept of Brain Breaks, they often think of children in an elementary school classroom playing some type of silly game. The fact of the matter is brain breaks are effective for anyone at any age, especially high school students who need short breaks just as much as anyone. You may have to get a little creative with brain break games for high school students, but when you find something that works for your particular students, it’s absolutely golden.

Brain break activities don’t need to take up much time in the school day, but incorporating something like a quick movement break, even if it’s just a minute brain break, will help with energy levels (both increasing and decreasing, depending on the situation). These quick exercises and regular breaks will help your entire class refocus, be it because of the mental break or whole-body physical activities.


It’s somewhat difficult to comprehend what good brain break games for high school could actually work. You don’t want to come up with something that students will feel is childish (unless you have that one awesome class that lives for stuff like that), but at the same time, it is absolutely vital that high school students learn what they need to do to help refocus, reenergize, and also are able to recognize when their mind needs a moment.

They’re about to embark into the real world after all and these are life skills that will take them throughout their journey. You need something that is fun for them, but at the same time is mentally engaging.

Brain break games for high school allow the students a quick brain break to help them focus. They can be a few minutes of (potentially) intense physical activity to help rev up the engine again. A mind break, on the other hand, helps kids learn how to focus their energy and refocus when they’re mentally drained.

Studies are finding that students today are ill-prepared to be able to focus and concentrate like generations before them. With the ever-increasing life of technology surrounding us, our students are not building the same muscle tone that previous generations had.

Though this is certainly different, it’s not limiting and is something that we need to be aware of and to work within the classroom.

Simply put, the right-hand needs to know what the left hand is doing to make this work.

Couple that with teenagers who are most likely more interested in the social aspect of school than what is actually being taught, and you have the recipe for absolutely needing brain breaks in your classroom.

So I set out to do some research on the best brain break games for high school students based on my own experience and those of others. I was looking into ways that work well with various subjects and ages of students too, so this isn’t just “brain breaks”. These are actually “mind breaks”. I always feel that the two are different.


It seems that High School teachers seem to be the ones who show the most resistance to this concept of good, meaningful brain break ideas. The common misconception is that taking a few minutes to perform one of these brain break games for high school will completely disrupt the flow of the classroom. There is a vision of students doing the cha-cha slide or dancing until the music stops. Though these can be a fun brain break concept, as a general rule it isn’t necessary to have a full-out dance party to implement physical brain breaks.

8 Brain Break Games for High School

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Simply put, with all of the expectations of testing and curriculum put on our plates, it seems like this will just waste time and there will not be enough time to cover what absolutely must be taught.

On the contrary, utilizing brain break games for high school students (ad) will actually help them stay more focused and more productive with the tasks at hand. Brain break games for high school students do not need to be corny with some patty cake or sensory bins like with younger kids. They just need to be something that helps your students get the blood pumping and oxygen flowing to their brains again so they can legitimately focus on their work.

Focusing on Student Buy-In

The importance of student buy-in for brain breaks in high school cannot be overstated. High schoolers often find themselves engrossed in rigorous lesson plans, sitting for extended periods, and needing a little break to recharge their mental faculties, plus it is important to give them tools to help themselves refocus as they get older and move on from K-12 education. Effective brain breaks, those short activities designed to increase blood flow and engagement, serve as a means of respite from long periods of academic concentration or can merely help refocus the brain when distracted or exhausted.

When students embrace these moments, it can positively impact their overall learning experience. Whether it’s a quick dance break, a game of beach ball toss, or a challenge involving a medium-sized ball and a single spaghetti noodle, it’s crucial that students willingly participate. 

Their involvement not only promotes physical exercise but also nurtures social skills and a growth mindset. As students guide one another in these activities, they create bonds, learn to appreciate the benefits of brain breaks and foster a sense of unity. This buy-in ensures that brain breaks become a cherished part of the high school day, rather than just a fleeting distraction or something they’re “too cool” for.

To make brain breaks successful for high school students, it’s essential that teachers vary the brain break activities to cater to different interests and grade levels. By incorporating movement songs, dance moves, and even sign language into these short breaks, instructors can appeal to a wide range of preferences.

Activities like the water bottle toss or the inner circle game, where students pass a piece of paper with instructions like “touch your right hand to your left shoulder” around the group, invite students to participate in a fast brain break that reinforces their understanding of different movements and sign language. When students have the freedom to choose their favorite brain-break ideas and propose variations of the games, it not only keeps them engaged but also empowers them to take ownership of their learning experiences.

In essence, it’s an easy way to ensure that brain breaks serve their intended purpose – reenergizing young minds while promoting engagement and enthusiasm in high school classrooms. So, encouraging student buy-in and adaptability to meet specific criteria are the keys to making brain breaks a great asset in high school education.


Games are an excellent way to engage high school students in the learning process, making educational content enjoyable and interactive. Whether it’s through board games, card games, strategy games, or online games, the variety of available options caters to different subjects and grade levels. In small groups or large circles, games encourage student participation and social interaction, fostering a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. From relay races to scavenger hunts, students work together towards a common goal, enhancing their problem-solving skills and critical thinking.

Fun activities such as vocabulary games or educational board games help reinforce important concepts, ensuring that students have a deep understanding of the main ideas in a particular topic. The best part is that games can be adapted to accommodate a small number of students or the whole class, making them a flexible and dynamic addition to the high school teacher’s toolbox, especially in today’s educational landscape, where online learning has become increasingly common.

Whether it’s a simple game of “Roll of Toilet Paper” for ice-breaking or a more complex strategy game, these games create a playing field where everyone has the chance to shine, learn, and have fun while doing so.

The key to this is knowing your students to determine what is a good idea. If you have a group of fun-loving teenagers who would love to play some silly brain break games for high school students, then, by all means, go to town.

There’s nothing better than a group of older students who want to revert a little bit back to their childhood and play the same games that the younger students will.

I have had classes with these types of students before, and they are an absolute blast to work with. They may buy into a game such as Brain Break Bingo or get super competitive with Simon Says.

However, finding a full class of students who will buy into this is hard to come by (though they are so much fun to have). Given this, you need to make sure that you have different Brain Break games for high school in your arsenal that would be appropriate for students who are, literally, too cool for school.


Again, how this looks really is dependent on the students that are sitting in front of you. You may need to get creative with your brain break games for high school with new brain breaks ready to go when they’re needed (especially if you are teaching any type of distance learning!).

It might involve creating something like having a permanent station set up where students can just walk over be able to stretch or do some yoga poses, or perhaps play some type of a game on a bulletin board so they can just have a few moments to move on their own accord.

It might be a quick game of “This or That” where you ask a question and students have to move to one side of the classroom or the other depending on their answer or utilize some good YouTube videos where music plays or another great activity that is interactive.

You could quickly split into teams and play a lightning round of “Pictionary” or “Spontuneous” (ad) (and to make it fun, you could keep a running score for a specific amount of time to add that competitive buy-in). It might be when they’re having a particularly low-focus day getting up and taking a quick lap around the school.

There are a lot of possibilities depending on your group size; you just have to make sure whatever you’re doing is something that your particular group of students buys into.

The key here is to not give up. You may have a challenging group that isn’t willing to buy into your brain break games for high school. That doesn’t mean you should just give up hope. It means you have to find something that works for them.

One of the great ideas for using games in the classroom is to divide students into smaller groups when working with a large class. This allows for better student participation, ensuring that each student has a chance to shine and contribute. As each group races to be the winning team, they learn valuable problem-solving skills and critical thinking while working with limited resources, often starting with just a single student’s quick thinking and ending with the last person in the group.

The variety of different games in the teacher’s repertoire keeps the classroom environment dynamic and engaging throughout the school year, ensuring that learning remains a vibrant and fun activity for all.

If you’re really stuck, survey them.

They’re old enough that they can tell you things that interest them or they think would be fun in terms of good brain break games for high school. If they come up with stuff that’s off the wall, find a way to create something that will work for them in your classroom. The possibilities are endless, and once you have something created, you have it for all time.

You may need to tweak it a little bit for the students that are sitting in front of you in any given year, but you already have the template to get yourself going with some amazing brain break games for high school.

No matter what you come up with, the key is just to make sure that you have opportunities for your students to take a moment when they need it. It might be because I need to be energized or it could be because they need to relax.

If you have just small opportunities throughout your class to do this, you will get better results from your students than you would any other way. Again it’s worth taking just a few moments (most brain break games for high school can take less than 5 minutes) to energize and focus your students to give you their best work. It’s worth sidetracking for just a couple of moments in order to get better results in the long run.

At the end of the day, we want to see our students succeed. They are not actually living in a time where they are naturally doing their best in the same fashion that previous generations did and we need to help them achieve more.

We know that Generation Z is different from any other generation that has walked into our classrooms (and Generation Alpha is coming right behind them). That is the reality; we can’t change that. But we can change how we approach it in our classroom.

Brain break games for high school students are not difficult to create, we just need our students to buy in and then the possibilities are endless.


This list is a bit different than your usual fare in that respect, but I think it’s important to look into stuff like that. It’s not just about physical activity either. Some of these games actually require some mental engagement and allow students to refocus on their studies by doing so! So here we go!


Basically, you write down words that students should be able to define and understand easily on separate pieces of paper. Then, you give them a sentence or two and they have to find the words in the sentence and highlight them. They have to find all of the words correctly in a certain amount of time.

Not only does this give students a fun way to practice what they’ve learned, but it also gives them a chance to improve their reading skills and decoding abilities while refocusing and reenergizing at the same time!


This activity is a great way to help students refocus and reenergize for a few minutes. I love that it’s also a lot of fun! You take some paper airplane templates, ask students to make them as best as they can, and then let them go through several rounds of tossing those planes into garbage cans or onto designated desks.

Not only does this provide a little bit of mental engagement, but it also gets kids up and moving around for a few minutes! It’s so easy for these students to get lethargic, so having activities like this is so important!


This is a great way to help students who need a little bit of time and focus to re-energize. Basically, you give each student a few pieces from a puzzle and have them try to put the puzzle together without any verbal communication whatsoever. You can also do this with math equations or anything else that has multiple steps.

This activity is not only great for refocusing, but it’s also a good way to help students learn a little bit about each other in that they have to communicate in other ways. I love that this activity is easy and straightforward, but the results are just amazing!


This is a classic game that you can use for just about anything that has multiple steps. You give students a topic and then they have to ask the teacher 20 questions until the teacher says yes or no to every single one of them. The good thing is that it’s really easy to see whether someone is asking smart questions because you can focus on depth, not length.

I like this activity for a few reasons. One of those is that it not only refocuses kids but also helps them learn how to be on their toes and ask smart questions instead of just trying to play along or goof off!


This one is a lot of fun. You give students some Jenga pieces (ad) and have them build a tower as you talk about a topic. Each student has to hold one piece of the tower at all times as you teach, but as the teacher talks about the topic, students can reach out and take other pieces from surrounding towers until they’ve taken enough that their own tower begins to wobble. Then they have to sit down.

This activity is great for refocusing while also teaching kids how to be more aware of what’s going on in the room so they can prepare themselves if their tower starts to wobble! I love this game because it really helps students get the most out of what you’re trying to teach them.  


This is another classic game. Give each student a paper with words from a certain topic or idea on it and have them try to find their matches as you teach the material. They can only use one hand, so they’ll have to pay attention!

I like this activity because it not only helps kids refocus for a few minutes but also helps them learn how to follow instructions in an active way.


This is my favorite way to refocus kids for a few minutes at least once per class when they’ve been getting rowdy or when I see that they need a little bit of time. All you have to do is give them a simple task to complete before the timer goes off–something that’s not too big or overwhelming. I usually give students either 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or 20 minutes of time for this activity.

When students are working on these tasks, they need to stay focused and silent until the bell rings to let them know their time has expired.

This technique is best for students who need a little bit of time to refocus themselves and get back on track. It also gives them some mentally engaging work so they can learn how to stay focused when doing something they might not be interested in.


This game is fantastic for when you’re teaching after lunch. All you have to do is make a “bank” on the board with two columns labeled “Energy” and “Fatigue.” Then, write some examples of things that give students energy along with what it feels like.

You should also include some examples of negative things that cause fatigue. Underneath “fatigue,” you should also put some examples of how it feels.

The whole point of this activity is to give students a visual representation of what will help them stay focused and what makes it hard for them to concentrate. It’s the perfect activity for keeping kids on track during those after-lunch classes!

…and these are just a few brain break games for high school. Give them a try or see what else you can come up with. You’ll be surprised at the effect they have.

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This article was originally published on April 5, 2019

After moving from a teacher-dominated classroom to a truly student-centered one, Jenn found herself helping colleagues who wanted to follow her lead.  In 2018 she decided to expand outside of her school walls and help those out there who were also trying to figure out this fantastic method of instruction to ignite intrinsic motivation in their students.  Read more about her journey with Student-Centered World at studentcenteredworld.com/about


  • Margaret Mbabazi

    I loved JENNs Work on student choices, and the whole way of engaging learners. I would love to continue following her lessons

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