Brain breaks can be great to use after transition times (ie. after recess), when your students are restless, or when students are struggling to pay attention. If you’re introducing these activities to your class for the first time, I’d recommend starting with activities that have limited movement, minimal physical contact and simple rules. Then, progressively increase these factors over time. I’m also a big believer in a quick game being a good game. Don’t play a game to death – call it quits while people are still enjoying it. This leaves them wanting more and means you can reuse brain breaks over the year (see if students can perform ‘better’ the second/third time round).
1. Do As I Say
Students make a circle in groups of 5-6. First round students do exactly as teacher describes (jump right, jump left, jump in, jump out). Second round students do the opposite of what the teacher describes (ie. When you call jump right, they jump left)
2. One, Two, Three
Get students into pairs. Students take it in turns to count from 1 to 3 (ie. Student A says 1, student B says 2, student A says 3, student B says 2 etc). Do this for max 20 seconds then introduce an action for number 1. So instead of saying ‘1’, student does a start jump. Do this for a max of 20seconds then introduce an action for number 2 (ie. Squat). Do this for a max of 20seconds then introduce an action for number 3 (ie. 4 high knees on the spot).
3. Would you rather
Give students the choice between two exercises. They choose which one to perform. For example: would you rather squat for 10 seconds or do jumping jacks for 10 seconds? Do 3-4 rounds.
4. My Day So Far
Get students in pairs. Give students 30 seconds to act out what they have done so far today. Begin with waking up and travel through the entire day up to the current moment. Make sure students ‘acting’ do this silently in place. Partner tries to narrate the story. Swap roles.
5. Trade Places
Have students stand in a circle, or behind their chairs. Call out a trait, and everyone who has that trait must change places with someone else (students who do not have the trait stay where they are). Examples: “Everyone with curly hair.” “Everyone who ate cereal for breakfast.” “Everyone who is wearing stripes.”
6. Rock Paper Scissors Championships
Students pair up and play rock paper scissors. The loser of the round joins the winners ‘team’ and follows them around cheering them on as they verse other students. Eventually you get down to two remaining players (and their teams) vying to be crowned the ultimate Rock Paper Scissors Champion.
7. Silent Ball
Find an area where you can safely throwa ball around. No one can talk or make a sound – being silent is the aim of the game. The ball is thrown underarm only, between classmates. Students cannot throw the ball back to the person who threw it to them. If a player misses the ball, talks or makes a bad pass, that student is out. The last two players are the champions.
8. Pen Flip
Students Stand up. Take a pen and flip it ONE REVOLUTION. (Imagine a piece of tape on one end of the pen, then throw the pen from the tape side. Have the pen go one full turn around. The aim is to catch the tape side of the pen again). Now do the same thing with your other hand. Now get a pen for both hands and try to do both pens at the same time. If you really are good at that, then try to throw the pens up into the air and catch them in opposite hands.
9. Symbolic Alphabet
Instead of reciting the A, B, C, try to go through them quickly thinking of an object that goes with each letter. For example, Apple, Ball, Cat etc
10. True or False
Students can stand or sit for this one. Teacher calls out out a series of true or false statements. Students respond by placing their hands on their heads if they think what you’ve just said is true, or hands on their hips if what you’ve just said is false. Can play elimination round (ie. Whoever gets it wrong sits down) but I’d recommend not playing with elimination – more fun and engaging for students to remain involved. You can tie this into more academic questions if you want to keep it educational, or alternatively you can just have some fun with it.
11. Notebook exercises
Students stand up. They each need a notebook, textbook or pencil case. Challenge students to move their ‘object’ in a range of different directions. For example – figure 8 through their legs.
This is actually a card game from my child hood. Its basically a pile of question cards and pile of alphabet cards (ie. cards with one letter of the alphabet on them). You turn over a question card and a alphabet card and the first person to shout out a correct answer wins the question card (ie. Questions such as ”A piece of fruit”, “Something made of wood”, “A word with oo in it” etc). This game can easily be made up – and questions can then be content/camp/group specific if you want.
13. Clap Song
This one challenges patience, commitment, coordination and leadership. So perhaps one to introduce at the start of term, then revisit over the course of the term. Sit in a circle – everyone needs a cup. Can watch a video tutorial here. I broke it down into the following key words (and used these key words when teaching it to the group): Clap clap tap tap tap, clap up down, clap flip hit tap switch slap down. We started in one large group. I did a demo to begin. They then followed along as best they could. We then split into smaller groups for students to practice. When students feeling ready you can challenge them to a clap off – you give them the beat, they then compete.
14. Connect and disconnect
Put students into groups of 6 and have them sit in a circle. First person says a random word to start the game (ie. dog). Person to their right must say something connected to this word (ie. cat or pet or fur). It continues around the circle until someone stutters, repeats a word or says a word that doesn’t connect. The person who got out starts a new game but sends it in the opposite direction and participants must say words that DONT connect. Participants can challenge if they think a word connects when it shouldn’t or doesn’t when it should. Can do this as a ‘whole class’ but find it students engage more if they have to offer a word once every six words rather than once every thirty words.
15. Angels and elephants
Participants stand in a circle. One person in the middle. Person in the middle randomly points to someone in the circle and calls out ‘Angels’ or ‘Elephants’. As quickly as possible the person who was pointed at and the people standing either side make the shape of what was called out. Demonstrate these shapes to being (ie. Angel = person pointed at makes prayer hands whilst people either side makes wings. Elephant = person pointed at makes trunk whilst people either side make ears.) Last person into position, or, person who does wrong position then becomes middle person. Best played fast so highly recommend teacher being person in middle (and remains in middle) the first time you play this with students. Can then revisit this game another time but split large group into smaller groups and have them play without the teacher.
16. Thumb and pinkie
Students stand up. Place their fists together. Thumb up on one hand, and pinkie out on the other hand. Then switch. Keep switching as fast as you can. Watch it in action here.
17. Nose Ear Change
Hold your right ear with your left hand and then hold your nose with your right hand. Try to switch so that you are holding your left ear with your right hand and your nose with your left hand. Try to speed up (without punching yourself!)
18. Stomp Your Syllables
Have students stand up beside their desks, and stomp each syllable of whatever they say. You could ask them each a question, have something projected on the board to read out collectively, or put them into pairs and get them to have a simple conversation (provide conversation starters or questions to ask) while stomping their syllables.
19. Animal Round Up
Tell students to silently think of their favorite animal. Then tell students that without talking, they need to arrange themselves from largest to smallest animals. Students can only make gestures and the noise of their animal. After they have finished, have group members go around and say the animal they were supposed to be to see if it was accurate.
20. Toe Tapping
Stand up. Students are in pairs. Challenge students to tap their feet together with their partners foot in a certain pattern – for example: one tap with left feet, three taps with right foot, two taps with left foot. See something similar in action here. Or something a little more complicated and challenging (and hence might take a few sessions to get the hang of) here. You could even make up your own.
21. Finger Tapping
Stand up. Hands out in front of your body, palms up. Take your left ring finger and tap it onto your right palm twice. Take your right pinkie finger and tap it onto your left palm three times. Take your left ring and tap onto your right palm once. Continue this pattern as fast as you can. See it in action here.
Handy Brain Break Apps & Videos:
- PE Games by The PE Geek Jarrod Robinson (these are more PE focused or active games)
- Class Break , Literacy Break, Math Break, Science Break, Brain Break, all by the Energetic Educator Dale Sidebottom
- Search ‘brain breaks for high school‘ in youtube.