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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Academic Brain Breaks

A good teacher can tell when his or her students are about to mentally check out. I often attempt to plan my lessons with engaging activities that allow for movement to prevent those little eyes from glassing over…but it still happens from time to time. That's why I have several no prep brain breaks to whip out of my bag of tricks at a moment's notice.

I have several of these squishy balls that my students just love. Daily, we participate in a Pass and Share. The students simply form a giant circle around the desks. I give them a questions or topic about which to respond, and we pass the ball around sharing. The person with the ball is the only one who can talk. Sometimes it will be a one or two word response question, and other times it may take a little longer. This activity allows students to stand up, sending oxygen to their sleepy brains. In addition, it appeals to the social and emotional needs of the students. They are having an opportunity to share personal information about our topic of study and practice active listening skills. If I forget to include Pass and Share in my lesson, my students are sure to let me know. 

Sparkle is my go-to activity when I have a few extra seconds at the end of class. It is a popular spelling game, and there are many different variations.
First, the students form a giant circle around the desks. The teacher then says a spelling word. The first student begins spelling the word by saying the first letter. The second students says the next letter, and so on until the word is completely spelled. After the word has been spelled, the next students in line says, "Sparkle!" and he or she is out and returns to his or her seat. In addition, if a student misspells the word, he or she is out. You keep going with new words until only one student is standing, the winner. I also have the students pass a ball around to ensure we know whose turn it is.  

There are many valuable uses for white boards in the classroom, but I mainly use my to add a little fun to typically boring activities. If we are reviewing a topic, and I need to add a little spice to the lesson, I simply add my white boards. I have students work in teams of 2 to 4 to answer review questions. They have to write their answer on the white board and be the first team to stand and show me the correct answer. This little bit of movement is a real energy boaster. Plus, the students are always motivated by a little competition.

1 to 10
1 to 10 is a lot like Sparkle except the students are counting to ten. The students stand a circle around the desks. The first student starts with the ball and says either, "one," or, "one, two." The next student continues counting by saying the next number or the next two numbers. This continues with students adding one or two numbers until someone says ten. Whoever says ten is out and must return to his or her seat. You continue playing until only one student remains. I play this while passing around a ball to know whose turn it is. In addition, I make students return to their seats if they hesitate too long, indicating they are attempting to count ahead.

Blurt is a super cool board game that can be used as a whole-class brain break. The game comes with cards that contain definitions. The teacher reads the definition, and the student has to "blurt" out the correct word. In order to play this with an entire class, I divide the class into teams of 2 to 4 students. I allow each team to have their own definition, and I give the team 5 seconds to blurt out the correct word. The team that gets the most words wins. This game can also be played with the vocabulary terms you compile over the course of the school year.

This simple game was inspired by the board game Scategories. You divide the class into teams of 2 to 4. Each team has a piece of paper and determines a writer. The teacher gives the class a category (proper nouns related to Halloween, state capitals, parts of a cell) and one minute to write as many terms that fit in the category. At the end of one minute, the teacher reads the lists and the class determines if each answer is acceptable. The team with the most correct terms wins.

  If you haven't checked out Go Noodle yet, you are in for a treat. It is a website dedicated entirely to getting our kids up and moving. There are an array of fun dance and exercise videos, and some of them a even academic.

What no prep brain breaks do you use in your class?

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