Savvy Strategy: Fun Brain Breaks

We all know kids need time to process, time to think, time to socialize, time for this, time for that.  In all honesty, the only way I can get through the excessive amounts of material is with a quick brain break.  On the days when I know I have the MOST to cover, I am certain to include a brain break because the refresher is actually more productive than bulldozing through the materials. Brain breaks should take all of a few minutes (I STRIVE FOR LESS THAN FIVE!)

December isn’t the only time I incorporate brain breaks since every class has one 90-minute period per week.  Although a simple, “get up and stretch” may seem tempting, a variety of brain breaks will keep your kids on your toes rather than making it seem like wasted time.  Check out for more information.  Here are a few tried and true brain breaks to keep your students productive at this otherwise crazy time of year when the only break they can focus on involves presents, snow, and lack of academic stimulation:

1.  The Wright Family:  Have students stand up at their table groups with a pen/pencil in their hand.  Prep them by saying that you will read a story involving the words “right” and “left”.  When they hear you say “right”, they will pass their pen to the person on their right.  When they hear you say “left”, they will pass their pen to the person on their left.  The story can be found here.  This is an excellent exercise for adults or students.

2.  Zip Zap Zop:  This was introduced to my counselors at a teambuilding workshop and was played on a daily basis after the campers were introduced to it.  This can be done in groups or as a whole class.  Stand in a circle. Someone begins by pointing to another person in the circle and saying “ZIP!” That person then points to yet another person and says “ZAP!” That person points to another person and says “ZOP!” This continues, but the words must be said in order: ZIP, ZAP, ZOP. If someone makes a mistake and says a word out of order, that person is out of the game.   Description found at

3.  Four Corners:  I have my room labeled with North, South, East, West signs at all times.  I select a song and have the students walk, dance, whatever they please, around the room.  When I stop the music, the kids must report to a “corner of the Earth”.  Next, I use my Kagan Selector Tools to select North, South, East, West (or use popsicle sticks).  Whoever is in that corner is out!  Very simple adaptation to four corners which can be altered to accommodate your content.

4.  Buzz:  When the teacher says Buzz(# of choice, ex: 3), all students stand up.  One after another in circular direction, they begin counting.  One, Two, Buzz.  Students are not allowed to say the number or any multiples of the number (if they are ready for that). You can make it simple and keep it to buzz in replacement of 13, 23, 33, etc.  This is a quick and energetic brain break.  Description found at

5.  Toe Tapping:  Have students stand up and face a partner.  Both partners put out their right leg and tap their right feet together 1 time and say “1” out loud.  Tap your left feet together 2 times and say “2” out loud.  Continue this until you reach ten.  Other variations provided at

Additional resource:

Dr. Spencer Kagan’s, “Silly Sports & Goofy Games” ($29) is one of my favorite books for teambuilders, classbuilders, brain breaks, etc.  My summer camp counselors get just as much fun out of these exercises as my middle school students.

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