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Sometimes, a break is exactly what’s needed to get your class back on track.

It’s been scientifically proven that a break in learning and ‘doing’ can make all the difference to how our minds process things, and brain breaks for kids are no exception. According to Amanda Morin of Understood, improving focus, enhancing concentration, and boosting our ability to absorb knowledge.

Here are ten brain break ideas to help your students focus, whether they’re brain breaks for elementary school or brain breaks for high school students:

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1. Freeze dance

One of the best brain breaks for middle school students and younger, freeze dance allows you to shake off the dust, get moving, and take a few minutes away from engaging your brain. Gather up your best music – or let your students pick their own – and have everyone up on their feet and boogying. As soon as the music stops, they must freeze. Anyone that doesn’t stop in time is out until you’re down to the final victorious freeze dance champion. This brain break for students is simple yet effective and perfect for letting off steam before returning to work.

2. Movement multiple choice

This fun game is one of the brain breaks for the classroom that are as enjoyable for high schoolers as for younger students. The class will be quizzed in this game on simple trivia with A-D multiple choice answers, as with many popular game shows. You could probably research some kid’s game shows for some great questions. Instead of writing their answers on paper, students must answer by moving the correct pose:

  • Pencil shape for A
  • Star shape for B
  • Curled in a ball for C
  • Standing on one foot for D

Not only do you get kids moving, but there’s also plenty of fun along the way. If you’d prefer seated play, you can use sign language for each letter as an alternative.

3. Silent keep-ups

A silent ball game is an excellent choice for classrooms needing little peace. All you need is a medium-sized softball and your students seated at their desks. Students must then pass the ball from one person to the next with no noise – and no dropping. You can use a range of rules, from boy to girl, or set a timer to complete the class within three minutes. You’ll get the odd giggle, but this game is ideal for quieter brain breaks. Add even more complex rules to the ante, including two balls or only using one hand to catch.

4. Would you rather?

This question-based brain break still gets the mind working, but in fun new ways that aren’t anything like the stress of schoolwork. Ask your class increasingly silly would you rather questions, and you’ll soon receive some fantastic responses. From ‘would you rather have a giant nose or giant ears?’ to ‘would you rather have an ant-sized dog or a dog-sized ant?’, there are plenty of questions to pick from. Sign Up Genius has a particular fun list that might be worth a look at. To add movement to your break, ask students to move to one place if they choose the first answer or another if they pick the second. Your students can even chart the outcome of their questions later in their math lesson, so it’s a win-win.

5. Colouring pages

Mindfulness is a big trend in classrooms, and coloring is one self-help skill researchers know helps to switch off our brains for a bit. These brain breaks for high school, middle school, or elementary school are beloved by practically every student and allow them to take their minds off class for a few minutes. Provide each student with colored pencils and a coloring page of your choice – the older they are, the more complex the design – and your whole class will soon be looking far more zen.

6. Mini skills

While learning complicated skills can feel like another lesson, learning a mini skill is a great brain break for students who don’t require too much input but provide plenty of rewards. Whether learning three words in ASL or how to draw a dog or cat step-by-step, the skill should be simple and easy to master while also being enjoyable for the students. Simple origami could be another idea, or even basic card tricks that take minutes to learn.

7. Cooldown free time

‘Free time can often be associated with loud play and recess, but when used with cooldowns, it can be an excellent way to provide students with a gentle, calm brain break that sets them up better for the rest of the day. Provide a list of cooldown activities, such as:

  • Walking around the playground
  • Talking with friends under a tree
  • Reading in the library area

Let each student decide for themselves. Including desk-based activities like drawing a picture or even leading mindfulness breathing can provide calming choices that will leave your students ready to face just about anything for the rest of the school day.

8. Chatter time

If you know your students, you know that most of them are desperate to have a good chat with their friends by mid-morning – especially elementary and middle school students. Include a short chatter time brain break, and they’ll get out all their words in one go. You can also offer smartphone time for high school students who might prefer to talk with their friends over messenger – which works great if coordinated across multiple classes. Speaking is an excellent way to shut off from learning and leaves students energized to get back to work once it’s all ‘out.’

9. Fitness fun

Some online teacher resources offer fitness fun cards, though making your own is just as much a good idea if you’d like to save some cash. Students are asked to get into small groups in this brain break activity. Each group picks three cards and must perform each action on the card one after the other, for one minute each. Examples could include star jumps, twists, push-ups, and knee-high jogs. After three exercises, they’ll be more than ready to get back to their desks and work. These short but sweet activities work perfectly as a warm-up to the start of each lesson without causing too much disruption.

10. Spelling sparkle

This simple spelling game is one of the best for brain breaks for elementary school, though it works up to middle school. In this game, students will be sat in a circle. The first student will say a word, such as ‘cat.’ The next student will say the first letter, and so on. When the word is complete, the final student must shout ‘sparkle!’ to announce it has finished and then pick the next word for the circle. C-A-T Sparkle! Fun, easy to set up, and a little challenging to play; this game is a favorite in many classrooms.

What are your favorite brain breaks for students in your school? Perhaps you prefer more physical activities or think some quiet time is needed. Whatever your game choice, these options might inspire you to switch things up in the future. There’s nothing quite like taking a little time out from learning to bring your students back up to their best, and that’s exactly what brain breaks provide.