Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teachers Share Their Best Brain Breaks & Contest Winners!

Over the last two weeks, teachers have been sending in their best ideas for brain breaks.  A brain break is a simple mental and physical exercise, taking no more than a minute or two to complete, that helps re-energize and reengage your students in the classroom.  These submissions were part of a contest to win one of two copies of the book Energizing Brain Breaks by David Sladkey.  First, here's our two winners, as picked by the author himself:

Winner #1, Molly Tanner:
Try to blink one eye while snapping on the opposite side's hand 15 times in a row alternating eyes. [In other words,] blink you left eye while simultaneously snapping with your right hand and then blinking your right eye while snapping with your left hand.
David says: “I love the BLINK one. I'm going to use that one tomorrow.

Winner #2, Janet Frey:
Four Corners
  • label each corner with a number 1, 2, 3 or 4
  • have one person be "it" - they sit blindfolded in the middle the of the room
  • everyone else picks a corner to stand in
  • "it" says a number and the people in that corner are out
  • people move to new corners and "it" keeps saying numbers until there is just 1 person left
David explains: “I like Janet's because you can incorporate your lesson ideas into this. For instance, you could have students move to one corner of the room for an answer to a multiple choice question. Or even an opinion question where you have to commit to a corner and be prepared to explain why.

After reading all of the entries, I knew it was going to be tough to pick two winners, which is why I asked David to judge them! Here are the rest of the great submissions for the contest:
Students have to move their right foot in a clockwise circle, and then with their right pointer finger, they need to write the number 6 in the air.

They have to grab their right ear lobe with their left hand, and their nose with their right hand. Then they switch (grab their left ear lobe with their right hand...)
--Andrea Ryan

Students stand up. You come up with some alliterative sentences or sayings. Pick the letter that is causing alliteration (in the phrase “birds and bubbles balance on the big, beautiful banister” the letter is ‘B’) and the kids sit down or stand up every time they hear it. The goal is to go faster and faster with each repetition.
--Summer Haskell

Have the students quickly re-seat themselves in alphabetical order by last name. Based on the age level, you could also have students re-seat themselves by age, day of birth (June 1st birthday would go before February 10th birthday), height, alphabetical by first name, etc. This requires the students to get up, move around, talk to their other classmates (a terrifying feat for some in high school), and work together.
--Rachel Miller

Would You Rather
  • everyone stands up
  • teacher asks a question, usually silly, and designates a spot in the room for each option (ex. would you rather be big foot or be loch ness monster? big foot stands by the door, loch ness stands by the windows)
  • a few students tell why
Simon Says (led by a student)
-- Janet Frey

Drumstick tap
  1. grab out two skinny objects that are the same size ie pencils, rulers, drumsticks.
  2. hold one object in each hand in the middle of the object between your thumb and index finger (similar to a pencil grip only with more fluidity).
  3. tap one end of the pencil in you right hand on the top of the pencil in pencil in your left, the "momentum" of the hit will cause you to flip directions of the tap causing the bottom of the pencil in your right hand to hit the pencil in your left on the bottom side.
  4. The pen in your left will then flip so that the bottom flips to hit the pen in your right hand on the bottom and flip again to hit it on on the top.
  5. Then you repeat the process.
--Janelle Keune

My students love to play BUZZ at any random time I might just say BUZZ 7. Everyone stands up. Proceeding in a circular motion we start counting. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, BUZZ...you can't say 7, any multiple of 7, or any number with a seven in it (17), instead you must say BUZZ. This causes the person to your left (the next person to count) to be out. They sit down. If you miss your BUZZ you are out and count continues with the next number. This game works with any number, but 6-9 seem to work best.
--Lauran Tyndall

I have taught my 2nd graders an activity that is great for practicing skip counting whole class. We call them our "skip counting chants," and we use them to learn our 2's, 5's, and 10's. For counting by 2's up to 20, we touch things that we have 2 of: eyes, ears, shoulders, elbows, hands (show 10 fingers when you say 10) hips (give them a shake!), thighs, knees, shins, feet. Even works backwards starting at the feet! We do cherry pickers/windmills for counting by 5': arms out 5! touch right hand to left foot 10! arms back out 15! touch left hand to right foot 20! and so on. For counting the 10's, we do jumping jacks up to 100.
--Marie Hoag

Have the class line up at the front of the classroom. Then on a count of three, they have to sit down in Alphabetical order according to first names (and last names if there are two students with the same first name). When this becomes too easy, have the students sit down in reverse alphabetical order.
--Jennifer Wagaman

Two students partner up and do a rhythmic chant:

Double Double This This,
Double Double That That,
Double This,
Double That,
Double Double This That

Whenever the students say "double," they make two fists and hit the bottom of their hands against the other student's.

Whenever the students say "this," they slap hands together, like two high fives.

Whenever the students say "that," they flip their hands around and "high five" the back of their hands against the other person's.

It ends up working out like this:

Fist, Fist, High Five, High Five,
Fist, Fist, Flip Five, Flip Five,
Fist, High Five,
Fist, Flip Five,
Fist, Fist, High Five, Flip Five

The last one is definitely the trickiest!

This could easily be done individually against a desk, too, and you can let students try it on their own time or you can chant the words together as a class so that it's easy to transition back to more structured work.
--Jenny Wilson
For my review and more information about David's book, read Engage Your Students in a Minute with Energizing Brain Breaks.