Brain Breaks…Have You Used Them?


I’ve had THE dream each of the past few nights.  You know the one – when you realize you’ve forgotten to wear some very important clothing on your first day of school.  That can only mean one thing…the school year is beginning!

While preparing for the new school year, I’ve recently read quite a bit on the value of “brain breaks” based on brain research. If you’re not familiar with what brain breaks are,  The Watson Institute defines them as “mental breaks designed to help students stay focused and attend. The brain breaks get students moving to carry blood and oxygen to the brain. The breaks energize or relax. The breaks provide processing time for students to solidify their learning.”

I must admit that originally I saw the idea on Pinterest (my summer addiction) and thought about how much sense they made. Then I had the argument in my head about the time it takes to do one of the activities I saw and how much learning time my students would lose. So, I decided that it was research time!  Unfortunately I haven’t found any specific brain research on the Internet to support them, but I have found many websites where someone cited someone who cited someone, etc. In looking over material a colleague gave me from a presentation she attended on brain research, the fact that the frontal lobe REGRESSES on average between ages 10 and 14 (found in a study done at UCLA) spoke loudly to me. Our middle level students are going through the largest growth spurt their bodies have seen since between birth and age 2.  Every once in a while taking a short break is exactly what they NEED to get momentum to move forward!

Here are some examples of brain breaks I’ve seen:

  • Play Boggle
  • Do the Macarena
  • Play Telephone
  • Brain Gym
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Hop
  • Simon Says
  • Do the Wave
  • Get drinks of water (the brain needs it every hour, after all)

Of course there are others, including some that could be coupled with team-building or review.  Some of those and other ideas can be found at the following sites:

Since this is not even close to being a complete list, please share any you’ve used!  I hope you have a WONDERFUL school year!


3 Responses to “Brain Breaks…Have You Used Them?”

  1. judyenrighteducator Says:

    Great post Julie! I do believe that these brief breaks work. Great resources here…. THANKS!

  2. Jill Spencer Says:

    If the kids aren’t with us, it doesn’t matter how brilliant our lesson is–taking time for a stretch or brain break helps kids and adults refocus (in my experience). Here’s a good site for team building games: Also we can always tie these types of activities directly to academics with metaphorical thinking…How is this activity like…. In fact I am doing a session on this topic at MAMLE’s annual conference in October.

    • Julie Gardner Says:

      Thanks so much for sharing this site, Jill! What a great collection of ideas! Even though today was our first day with students, I used a brain break part-way through ELA class…what a difference it made! I look forward to trying some of the teambuilding ideas throughout the school year. And, if I can get there, I hope to attend your session at MAMLE. 🙂

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