Brain Breaks Encourage Learning In the Classroom

By: Danielle Hood

Be completely still.

Now imagine your students doing that all day!

Learning is best accomplished when students get their attention, brain functioning and body moving with frequent brain breaks that can be categorized in three groups, relaxation and breathing, physical activity, and mental activity.
Brain Breaks are Relaxation and Breathing Activities, Mental Activities, or Physical Activities.

What are Brain Breaks?

  • Brain Breaks are “simple transitional physical and mental exercises designed to equip the teacher with tools to manage the physiology and attention of the class and to keep children in the most receptive state for learning,” (Weslake 2).

What are the benefits?

  • Resharpen children's focus on learning.
  • Increase concentration.
  • Increase memory.
  • Increase oxygen in the bloodstream.
  • Increases readiness to learn.
  • Alleviates stress.
  • Improves physical fitness.
  • Develop fine and gross motor skill.
  • Engages students and excites them about learning.

Relaxation Brain Breaks

  • Relaxation and breathing breaks are found to “maintain focus and increase student well-being.”
  • A good way to incorporate relaxation and breathing breaks is to periodically get your students up for a stretch.
  • “Breathing exercises are often coupled with stretching exercises such as neck rolls to relieve stress and relax students (Dennison & Dennison, 2004),” (Weslake 3).
Incorporate yoga, stretching and breathing exercises to relax students.

Rainstorm Brain Break

Let it Rain is a fun activity for the whole class. Everyone works together and the sound is amazing.

1. Stand up.

2. The conductor will model the class through the rain process.

3. Here is the progression that the conductor will take.

Stage 1: soft circular hand rubbing

Stage 2: vigorous back and forth hand rubbing

Stage 3: finger snapping

Stage 4: thigh tapping

Stage 5: foot stomping

4. The class will follow the lead of the conductor. The conductor will take about 5-7 seconds with each stage.

5. The rain will get louder and louder getting to the last stage in which the conductor will lead the 3 separate thunder jumps. Then reverse the stages and the rain will get softer and softer.

Physical Brain Breaks

  • “Studies suggest that regular physical activity supports healthy child development by improving memory, concentration and positive outlook,” (Wilson).
  • Some physical activities that could be done in the classroom could be doing the Cha Cha Slide, the Macarena, Hula Hoop Races, Over Under Relays, Freeze Dance, jumping jacks counting and many other simple activities that don't require much time or resources.
  • Physical brain breaks “were designed to get the children up and moving vigorously to facilitate oxygenation of the brain and release tense muscles,” (Weslake).

As If... (Physical Brain Break)

Academic Focus: Storytelling, Vocabulary practice, Language Comprehension.

Activity: Teacher reads sentences to class. Have students act out each sentence for 30 seconds.

  • Jog in place AS IF a big scary bear is chasing you.
  • Walk forwards AS IF you’re walking through chocolate pudding.
  • Jump in place AS IF you are popcorn popping.
  • Reach up AS IF you are grabbing balloons out of the air.
  • March in place AS IF you are in a marching band.
  • Shake your body AS IF you are a wet dog.

Mental Brain Breaks

  • Mental activities “may or may not involve movement and generally take the form of a learning game, or similar activity,” (Weslake 3).
  • Some examples may be a game of telephone or a classroom riddle.
  • Mental brain breaks can be an extension to a lesson.

Zero In (Mental Brain Break)

Academic Focus: General activity

  • Activity: One student is selected to stand in front of the room while facing the class.
  • The class is given direction that they are going to help the student (a.k.a the guesser) guess a secret number without talking or using hand gestures. A secret number is held up behind the student.
  • The guesser will call out a number. If the guesser needs to guess higher, the class will cue him/her by jumping up and down.
  • If the guesser needs to guess lower, the class will cue him/her by squatting up and down. The class continues to give active, silent, cues until the guesser guesses the secret number.
  • Instead of using a number, hold up a math problem that the class has to solve before the guesser begins guessing. The guesser must guess the answer to the problem (of course, without seeing the math problem).

Helpful Hints

  • Create a positive atmosphere that enhances the self-esteem for all students. Each student should feel respected and valued. All students do not move alike or at the same speed.
  • Have a signal or sign that can refocus students quickly so that they can “freeze” and listen to you when you need to speak or end the activity.
  •  Make certain each student understands the teacher’s expectations prior to the start of the activity.
  •  Model enthusiasm for physical activity. Be aware that students (at first) may seem apathetic or silly. These are common expressions of being self-conscious about trying something new in front of their peers. With practice, this discomfort can be minimized and students will be more relaxed and willing to participate.
  •  Give instructions before and after arranging the room to get ready for participation. Remind students of the rules for the activity and the “freeze” signals.
  • Take time to make sure that objects are out of the way for safe movement.
  • Set a time limit for the activity before beginning movement. Be sure to share that time with students.
  • Compliment groups or individuals so that all groups or individuals feel as though their participation was valued. (Springer)

Works Cited

Springer, Andrew, PhD. "Brain Breaks - School of Public Health." UTHealth. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2016.

Weslake, Alyssa and Christian, Beverly J. (2015) "Brain Breaks: Help or Hindrance?," TEACH COLLECTION of Christian Education: Vol. 1: Iss. 1, Article 4.

Wilson, Donna, PhD. "Move Your Body, Grow Your Brain." Edutopia. N.p., 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.

Created By
Danielle Hood


Created with images by celesteh - "Statue" • Colin Browne - "Rainstorm" • geoff bosco - "Dancing Kids"

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