Teachers use brain breaks in it lots of different ways. I find that I tend to get stuck in a rut and use the same one or two repeatedly for weeks (or months!!). In order to combat this, I have a couple different methods for bringing out new brain breaks. One way is by using colorful Popsicle sticks to write out a few brain breaks and letting a student pick. This forces me to use a variety of different brain breaks.
Another randomizer that I use is this dartboard selector. Click for a video to see how it works! I have set up an account that any teacher can use immediately!!! The username and password are both: brain.breaks. You can also make your own account, but I figured I would pre-load some of my favorite brain breaks in English for you to use if you’d like!!!
You can get to my favorite tool, the dartboard selector (AKA la rueda de suerte/muerte depending on the student’s point of view since I also use this in my Spanish Language Arts classes to select the next presenter when we have projects due!), by going to Tools in the top right hand corner. Now….. I tried typing in the description of each brain break, but unfortunately there’s not enough space for the entire description to show at the bottom of the page when your dart hits that brain break. So the activities I’ve included on the dartboard are as follows:
- Rock, paper, scissors contest
- Freeze Dance
- Fast Fingers – both partners show as many fingers as they want on the count of three and the first to add them correctly wins
- Trading places – trade places with someone if you…
- Mirror Hands – Students pair up and mirror the actions of their partner.
- Circle up – Find a group of 3, find a group of 7, etc.
- Zumba – google and save some videos to follow on your projector
- Hot potato – with a ball
- Silent ball – like hot potato, but if you talk you’re out
- Human knot – In groups of 6-8, students each grab right hands with someone who is not directly next to them. Then do the same with left hands. The challenge is to untangle and become a circle without releasing hands.
- Birthday line up – line up by month or day silently
- Hot or cold – Hide something and 1 person searches while the class shows with clapping if the person is hot or cold
- Mannequin Challenge (video it to show later in class)
- Who’s under the desk/in the hall – people give clues to 1 person who must guess who it is under the desk or in the hall
- Double, double, this, this, double, double, that, that
- Greet each other as if… (the other person has something in their teeth, etc.)
- Add on – each person does 1 movement that you continue adding to the moves before
- Simon says
- 2 body parts – Partner up, teacher calls elbow to knee (students must touch elbow to knee), and so on
As far as how to use them, I tend to use Brain Breaks very frequently. I usually judge the students’ behavior and restlessness to tell me when we need one. I also use them to get back from getting off topic or too many side comments. For those quick brain breaks, I will often resort to my favorites which include quick TPR (run, jump, stand up, touch your head, cry, walk), Chocolate, or a round of rock paper scissors.
Another of my go-to brain breaks in the past was a game I refer to as the “dice game.” I think I invented it based off of six spots (#9 on this document). It’s GREAT if you have a Promethean board (or access to digital dice via the internet). Also, it can be done in the target language (some would argue if you’re using the TL, then it’s not a break, buuuuuuuuuuut, the kids get a chance to move, get excited, and often yell/cheer, which I think is enough of a break), and it’s good practice for a handful of words like, “Ready?” in the target language. The way I play is students stand up or sit on their desks if you have desks. Students choose a number between one and six and hold it over their heads so as to avoid any inadvertent changing of number after the dice have been rolled. I use the dice selector on a Promethean board (click to see a video) which allows me to add up to 6 die. This is fun for what I call a speed round. For a normal around, I usually use two or three die. I tell the kids to choose a number and say ready (in TL) and then count down 3, 2, 1 then I roll the dice. If the number that they chose comes up on me any die, then they are out and must sit down in their chair. We do this until there is one student left. You can also play the reverse where they only stay in if their number is rolled, or as I mentioned before you can do a speed round with six die to get the majority of the kids out pretty quickly. It’s really fun and the kids get really involved. I like it because even the most reluctant learner can feel successful when their number comes up on a die.
In addition to “full” brain breaks, I also use lots of brain bursts à la my former teaching partner, Annabelle, anytime I feel like I’m not getting enough of the students’ attention. I sometimes tell my students that I’m super selfish, and I want ALL of their attention ALL the time. Brain bursts wake them up and remind them that we are still in class, and I neeeed their eyes!
Lastly, one way that I have used brain breaks in the past is as an incentive to remain in the target language. I have done this with my 1A, 1B, and Spanish Language Arts/Spanish heritage speaker classes. I have yet to try it in Spanish 2, but I’m sure it will come up someday soon. What I do is I put a timer on the Promethean board counting down from 10 minutes. As soon as that timer reaches zero, one student gets to throw a dart at the dartboard and select a brain break. However, if any student blurts out in English during the 10 minutes, I very calmly walk over and reset the timer to start counting down again from 10. Some teachers might think that this is that students need brain breaks every 10 minutes whether or not they “earn” them so you will have to decide if this is something that your class can mentally handle. For my classes last year, watching the timer tick away and even if I reset it, the resetting it was almost like a brain burst in itself because it took them away from Spanish, even if just for a moment.
Yay for brain breaks!!! I hope that this offers you a usable resource and a few ideas!