Brain Breaks In the elementary classroom

What is a "Brain Break"?

A brain break is just as it sounds, a break for the brain. Brain breaks are short activities (1-15min. OR however long a teacher thinks is necessary) that include some type of physical activity. The activity may or may not be related to the topic/subject currently being taught in class.

Many students sit in a classroom for roughly 4.5 hours a day (Grauer, 2013) and have limited specials (art, gym, recess, music, etc.). Brain breaks are a great way for teachers to break up the learning with fun and engaging activities to give students' minds a break.

Why Are Brain Breaks Necessary?

  • "The CDC recommends that children get 60 minutes of physical activity a day, but government research shows that most children typically get less than 20 minutes. Too much sitting can contribute to low self-esteem, emotional outbursts, or even bullying, as kids look for ways to release their pent-up energy, anxiety, and stress." (Libby, 2016)
  • Brain breaks allows a way to squeeze in physical activity, play and fun into the school day. They can also help child practice mindfulness throughout the school day.
  • Students' minds never get a break throughout the day. "In 2015, an independent research company compared a school-year's worth of standardized math test scores for two groups of students and found that those who participated in "brain breaks" scored 50% higher than those who didn't." (Libby, 2016)
  • If there is evidence clearly showing that physical activity promotes an increase in student academic performance, then teachers should be aware of all the ways they can incorporate physical activity and mindfulness into their classrooms.
  • In addition, with all of the research available about brain breaks, there is not one piece of research that has anything negative to say.
  • "As of January 2016, more than 480,000 teachers in 68,000 schools have brought 'brain breaks' into their classrooms — with 10 million kids participating." (Libby, 2016) Now it's time to get brain breaks in EVERY classroom!

A wonderful thing about brain breaks is that they can be modified so that all students in a classroom can participate!

Let's now learn how to implement brain breaks into elementary classrooms so that students can continue to be set up for the best possible chance of success in their futures!

When To Implement Brain Breaks Into Your Classroom...

1. Start the day with a brain break! Why not? It's a great way to start every morning and will get the students ready for a fun and engaging day of school.

2. After a lesson. Use brain breaks as a transition! This will help enhance focus for whatever is next to come.

3. If you notice your students are losing their attention, have a surprise brain break and get them up and moving. This will help their bodies regain focus. **A great way to do this is to have a bell that is rung by the teacher every time a brain break is about to happen. (This can work with any instrument)**

4. During a lesson, as part of the lesson! If a lesson is heavy on the amount of material being received, break it up and turn the info into a game, ultimately becoming a brain break.

5. Before a test! Many students get nervous before a test is given, so have a brain break, then administer the test. It may be a good idea to also administer one after the test as well, as students may feel their brain is fried, so get it re-energized again.

Incorporate Educational Technology!

Even though brain breaks is a concept that has been around and researched for a while, brain breaks just recently have become more widespread. In some districts they are now a requirement. Here are a couple examples of how educational technology can be used. (Keep in mind more educational technology is sure to pop up in the near future as this concept continues to gain popularity):

This video service was created specifically for brain breaks and is full of school approved videos and activities for any classroom, no matter the age or grade level.
This app was created to get kids up and moving. The app is full of games and activities to suit many different ages and grade levels.

Examples Of Brain Breaks...

Do the Conga!

Activity: Have students line up, placing their hands on the shoulders of the student in front of them. Start some music and lead students around the classroom.

Whip/ Nae Nae Workout

Health Smart

This is a brain break that can be incorporated into a lesson. This specific example can be used if students are learning about the heart, nutrition, or anything science related dealing with the body. It can be modified to meet a lesson's criteria.

  • The teacher will discuss a given topic, such as the heart (what strengthens/weakens it)
  • Teacher gives an example of an activity that can strengthen/weaken the heart
  • Teacher instructs students that he/she will be listing a bunch of activities. If the student thinks the activity strengthens the heart than the student should jump, if it weakens the heart the student should squat.
  • Examples of activities to vocalize are: raking leaves (jump), swimming (jump), playing video games (squat), riding a bike (jump), dancing with friends (jump), eating fast food (squat), etc.

The Sid Shuffle

Student Trainer

Student run brain break.

Activity: Have a student lead a 3-5 minute physical activity break doing any activity or game of the class's choosing. Be creative and have everyone in the class get involved.

Find More Brain Break Ideas....

The following websites are great resources for finding brain break ideas. Feel free to modify any ideas you see to fit the activity to your class's needs.

** Note: This is just a sampling of resources that are available**

  • YouTube: Good resource for brain break videos. *Not all school approved videos, so do some research and searching before presenting to class.*
  • Pinterest: Great resource to gather ideas from other teachers around the world!
  • AISD: List of brain breaks from Austin Independent School District.
  • EatSmartMoveMoreNC: List of "energizer" activities for grades K-5.
  • MindsInBloom: List of brain breaks that last approximately 3 minutes.
  • The Happy Teacher: List of very simple brain breaks that don't require many materials.

What Standards Do Brain Breaks Incorporate?

International Society for Technology in Education- Teachers

  • Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity.
  • Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments.

International Society for Technology in Education- Students

  • Creativity and innovation.
  • Communication and collaboration.
Brain breaks are developed and implemented in a classroom to help students regain focus and concentration. Brain breaks may not meet any Common Core State Standards specifically, but they are a great tool to make sure your students retain the standards and skills being taught.


  • Grauer, S. (2013, 13 Oct). Small Schools Coalition. Sitting Disease. Retrieved from:
  • Libby, H. (2016, 22 June). UpWorthy. The Amazing Way 5 Minutes Can Affect Your Child's Learning Experience. Retrieved from:
  • Images retrieved from: Google & Adobe Spark

Created by: Chelsea Vrabel


Created with images by flickingerbrad - "student_ipad_school - 138" • USAG-Humphreys - "Back to School 2012 - U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea - 27 August 2012" • USAG-Humphreys - "Back to School 2012 - U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea - 27 August 2012" • USAG-Humphreys - "Back to School 2012 - U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea - 27 August 2012" • USAG-Humphreys - "Back to School 2012 - U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea - 27 August 2012"

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