Brain Break Activities

No matter what type of classroom you teach in, whether it be in-person or virtual, you need to keep the brain in mind in your teaching methods. Most people cannot sit-and-get their learning and retain much at all. It doesn’t matter if you work with youth or adults, the human brain needs a short break when learning new things in order to absorb the new learning.

We know a few ‘brain break’ activities that allow the brain to re-engage after a long period of sitting or learning.  Most types of movement can help awaken the brain and allow for another round of focusing on tasks.

Here are a few brain break ideas for you:

The Move Your Body Thumball:  This ball is a perfect ‘brain break’ activity for the classroom. It’s quick, easy and fun!  Toss the ball to anyone in the class.  When they catch the ball, have them look under their thumb and announce what is written there.  The entire class will act out what is said.  For example, if the command is “Kick a Goal and Cheer”, the entire group charades kicking a goal and cheering out loud together.  Then, after a few seconds of acting out the action, the ball gets tossed to a new student and the process is repeated.  This is a great way to re-engage the brain after a difficult lesson, and allows for the ‘wiggles’ to get out as well! If you are teaching in a Virtual Classroom, then toss the ball to yourself and announce the action. Everyone can do the action on their own!

Pen Flipping: There are several different tricks you can do with a pen or a pencil to flip it around your thumb or twirl it through your fingers. There are many benefits to this simple act from a brain break point of view. It engages your brain in a different way than how you were listening to a presentation. This helps wake up a different part of your brain, so when you go back to listening again you can refocus on the previous task. Practice pen-flipping for 5 minutes, then resume your original task. Here’s a great tutorial video on some basic pen flips. Warning: This is a very noisy activity. If you have everyone spread a towel or scarf on their desk it will muffle the sound.

Back to Back:  This is a simple technique to do a lesson review on what the students just learned.  Ask everyone to stand back-to-back with one other student (even numbers work best for this). While the participants are standing back-to-back give the group a discussion question (open-ending question) like, “Discuss one thing you learned about the lesson.” or “What could you teach others about this subject?”  Then you will say, “Front-to-front!” At this point each pair discusses the question given until they hear, “Back-to-back!”. At this time, participants turn back-to-back with the person they were just talking to and wait for the next discussion question or instructions.  (I learned this activity from Jim Cain.  It is also in the book, The Empty Bag by Chris Cavert and Dick Hammond.)

What are some of your favorite Brain Break ideas?  We’d love to hear some of your ideas, too.

Michelle Cummings, Owner/Trainer/Big Wheel, Training Wheels,