What is a Brain Break?

Fight the Fidgeting with These Fun Pick-Me-Ups

Teacher pointing to students with arms raised
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 A brain break is a short mental break that is taken during regular intervals during classroom instruction. Brain breaks are usually limited to five minutes and work best when they incorporate physical activities.

When to Do a Brain Break

The best time to do a brain break is before, during, and/or after an activity. The essential purpose for a brain break is to get students refocused and ready to learn again.

For example, if you have just finished a mini math lesson on counting, you may ask the students to count the steps it takes them to get back to their seats for a quick transition to the next activity. This will help you with classroom management as well, because students will be so focused on counting their steps, they won't have much time to chit chat during the transition period.

For the little ones in kindergarten, you may want to do a brain break after about five to ten minutes into a task when you notice students starting to wiggly around. For older students, plan for breaks about every 20-30 minutes.

Brain Break Pick-Me-Ups

Whenever you feel your students engagement is lacking, try a few of these pick-me-ups.

  • Have a three minute dance party. Put students favorite song on the radio and allow students to dance away their jitters.
  • Play Mingle! Set the timer for one minute intervals that last five minutes. Each time the timer goes off students have to mingle with someone new. The teacher poses five questions on the front board to help get the conversion started.
  • Follow the leader is a student favorite. Change this game up by having students take turns being  the leader.
  • Play a movement song like the "YMCA" or any other popular dance that all students know. These songs are quick and get students up and moving while releasing energy.
  • Simon says is another classic game that gets students up and moving. It's also a game that you can end after one minute or five minutes.
  • Jumping jacks! Choose a specific number of jumping jacks to get students heart rates up quickly.
  • Sky writing is a great way for young students to practice their spelling or vocabulary words. Just choose a word and have students write it in the sky!

What do Teachers Have to Say About Brain Breaks?

Here is what teachers had to say about using brain breaks in their classroom.

  • I create a special box for students to take turns choosing a "brain break activity." Students love to reach their hand in this mystery box to discover what quick activity we will do!
  • Brain breaks do not have to be five minutes or less. In my classroom I adjust the time based on my students needs. If I see they got all of their energy out in one minute I will redirect them to the lesson. If I notice that they need more than five minutes then I allow that too!
  • Write six brain break activities on a die and have students take turns rolling the die between each task. Or, create a list of activities for each number on a die. Then when students roll, they look on the chart to see which activity they will be doing.
  • In my classroom we do air band! Students have a blast pretending they are playing different instruments in the air. It's a fun way to get their energy out and we always have a blast doing it.

    Looking for more ideas?

    Try a few of these 5 minute activities and teacher-tested time fillers.