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Brain Breaks: Why Your Students Need Them

Brain Breaks: Why Your Students Need Them

By Lena Troxtell

You may be wondering: What are brain breaks? Why should I use them? How in the world will I fit them into our classroom day?

These were all questions I had and now I’ve found the answers.

Brain breaks give my kids a chance to move and get them more excited about learning—two very good reasons to find time for them in your day.

“This is the perfect transition activity for those times in the day when you need a minute to get ready for the next lesson or see that your students are drained, looking for a boost of energy.”

Learn more about how this simple idea can make a difference in your class and discover a few tools you can use to facilitate it.

The Brain Breaks Breakdown

Brain breaks are small activities used during the day to get students moving around the class, which helps them refocus on the lesson. This is the perfect transition activity for those times in the day when you need a minute to get ready for the next lesson or see that your students are drained, looking for a boost of energy.

There are a number of tools, modern and traditional, that help you facilitate brain breaks in the classroom. My three favorites are: 

  1. GoNoodle.com
  2. Pull sticks
  3. Random activities

More: How Teachers Can Nurture Students’ Strengths

Why I love GoNoodle.com

I was so excited when I came across this tool last year—it really saved me at the end of a tough year, when I needed something to help manage a tough class. Once signed up, you or your class can decide on a champ, the adorable alien- or monster-like GoNoodle “mascot.” They have fun names like like Flo Yo, McPufferson, and Zapp von Doubler.

Your champ keeps up with the students’ activities and even has cute sayings that always get the kids laughing.

Each champ has five levels—your class moves up a level every 10 brain breaks. There are a lot of options to choose from—even with the free version—including Zumba; right now my kids are into the Fresh Start Fitness breaks and my girl students are huge fans of the Kidz Bop videos.

Next time you’re stuck with an indoor recess, you can use GoNoodle’s set of indoor recess breaks that last for 15 minutes.

Going into the test season, I use a brain break activity called Flow, which focuses on breathing and relaxing, rather than dancing or bouncing around.

Why I love Pull Sticks

I don’t use Pull Sticks as much as I used to, but they’re great for days when I don’t feel like getting on the Internet or our Wi-Fi is acting strange. Simply write a few activities on Popsicle sticks and then pull 1, or 2 or 3 and have students complete the activity—students love pulling the sticks too.

Activities can range from jogging in place or having a 1-minute dance party to doing 10 jumping jacks as a class.

“Using pull sticks allows you to be creative and cater the activities to what you know your students will love.”

Using pull sticks allows you to be creative and cater the activities to what you know your students will love. Brainstorm ideas with your class and then pick a few every week as needed.

More: 5 Reading Apps Students Will Love

Why I Love Random Activities

I know you’re probably thinking: what in the world is this crazy woman talking about? Sometimes when I see my students getting antsy, or are unable to concentrate, I create a random break activity.

If there’s good weather, we’ll bounce our class ball around outside while I ask questions about whatever we’re learning. We’ve done this for test prep and multiplication fluency. While it requires a little more time than the other options, the kids love a couple extra minutes outside.

“At first, I told myself it would never work; we don’t have time to do these things. I was very wrong. Now they’ve become almost a daily occurrence.”

This is a good option for spring, when you’ve been stuck inside because of the weather. However, it can also be done inside as well. We have a small blue ball that we bounce or pass around the classroom while answering questions. Sometimes we even play “silent speed ball,” where the kids have to pass the ball around quickly without any talking; they think it’s cool to get to throw a ball around in the classroom.

I started using brain breaks because I needed something to help me with a tough class. At first, I told myself it would never work; we don’t have time to do these things. I was very wrong. Now they’ve become almost a daily occurrence.

Some days we get busy and don’t have time for brain breaks, but I strive to have one or two every day. Not only do the kids love it, but it keeps them interested in what we’re doing and gives them a chance to get their energy out.

I know all teachers have one or two minutes in their day to throw in a brain break. If you carve out some time, I think you’ll be surprised at how much your students enjoy them and how successfully they are at helping students refocus.

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