Movement breaks are brief intervals that enable all students to move their bodies and help teachers to engage learners in physical ways. Chants, poems, even Morning Meeting greetings, and activities can be used as movement breaks throughout the day.
- 5-4-3-2-1 In this simple game, students stand up and the teacher (or leader) has them do five different movements in descending order. For example the teacher would say: “Do five jumping jacks, spin around four times, hop on one foot three times, walk all the way around the classroom two times, give your neighbor one high-five (pausing in between each task for students to do it).
- Trading Places Have students stand behind their pushed-in chairs. Call out a trait, and everyone who has that trait must change places with someone else (students who do not have the trait stay where they are). Examples: “Everyone with curly hair.” “Everyone who ate cereal for breakfast.” “Everyone who is wearing stripes.”
- Six Spots Number six spots around your room from 1-6. Have students each go to a spot of their choice. Choose a student to roll a die (if you can make a big one out of foam, it adds to the fun). All the students at the number rolled must go back to their seats. Students that are left go to a new spot, and the die is rolled again. Continue until only a few students are left.
- Mingle, Mingle, Group! In this game students mill about the classroom saying, “mingle, mingle, mingle” in soft voices until the teacher says, “Groups of 5,” at which point the students must quickly group themselves into groups with the correct number of people. Students who are left over must do three jumping jacks before the next round starts. The teacher can call out any number for the group size. You can also add rules such as: as soon as a group is complete, all members must sit down in a line.
- Dance Party! Put on some rockin’ music and dance! If you can make the room semi-dark and have a black light or other special effect, your kids will love it!
- Freeze Dance! Similar to Dance Party, except that every so often the music stops, and students must freeze and hold the position they are in until the music begins again.
- Name Moves Students stand behind their chairs. In turn, each student says his or her name accompanied by a special movement. For example a student might say, “Kayla!” while dramatically dropping to one knee and doing Jazz Hands. After the student does his or her move, the rest of the class says the student’s name in unison and imitates the move. Then it is the next student’s turn.
- Keep It Up Students must keep a beach ball from hitting the ground. Add two or three balls to make it even more fun.
- Simon Says An oldie but a goody!
- Movement Songs Sing a song with whole-body movements, such as, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “Father Abraham,” “Toe-Knee Chest-Nut,” “Shake Your Sillies Out (Raffie),” “Grand Old Duke of York,” “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” etc.
- Recorded Movement Songs Older students might enjoy a simple Zumba routine, YMCA, or the Macarena. Littler ones will love Sesame Street’s A Very Simple Dance to Do.
- Animal Pretend Younger children will enjoy pretending to be various animals (or even objects such as lawn mowers or airplanes). Call out a few in sequence.
- Would You Rather Ask a “would you rather” question and have students show their choice by moving to one end of the room or the other. Have a few kids share why. Here are 20 free “Would You Rather” Questions to get you started.
- Find It Fast Call out a color or other trait (e.g. something round, something made of wood), and students must find an object in the room that fits the trait and get to it quickly.
- Physical Challenges Challenge students to do something physically difficult, such as standing on one foot with arms extended, or this one: Grab your nose with left hand, and grab your left earlobe with your right hand, and then quickly switch so that your right hand is on your nose and your left hand is grabbing your right earlobe. Yoga poses could also be a good variation.
- Plates Give each student a paper plate. Students must walk around the room balancing the plates on their heads. If a student drops his or her plate, the student must freeze until another student picks it up and places it back on the student’s head (while keeping his or her own plate in place, of course).
- Line Up! Have students line up using a specific criteria, such as age (use day and month, not just year), height, alphabetically by middle name, hair length, etc.
- Limbo All you need is a long stick and a pair of kids to hold it. Music is nice, too.
- Human Knot Divide students into groups of about eight students. Have students each grab right hands with someone who is not directly next to them. Then do the same with left hands. The challenge is to untangle and become a circle without releasing hands.
- Jump Skip Counting Have students count by twos, fives, tens etc. while jumping with each count. You could also practice spelling words this way.
Videos from GoNoodle are great!
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For Teachers: 3 out of 4 elementary schools in the US use GoNoodle to: – Give students the brain breaks they need – Host indoor recess – Make subject transitions seamless – Energize or calm their class
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Videos from Stand Up Kids
LEARN TO SQUAT
MAKE IT RAIN
CROCODILES & CRABS
SHAKE THE WIGGLES OUT
FAST FEET & HIGH JUMPS
BLOCKED SQUAT & GRASSHOPPERS
ONE LEGGED HOPS & PLANKS
AIR SQUAT & RUN IN PLACE
Pogo Jumps & Lunges
Pushups & Spins
Blocked Squats & Backpack Chair Deadlifts
Floppies & Planks
Push Press & Tuck Jumps
Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition by Eric Jensen Chapter 4. Movement and Learning
Research-Tested Benefits of Breaks Students are easily distracted, but regular, short breaks can help them focus, increase their productivity, and reduce their stress
The Cognitive Benefits of Physical Activity in the Classroom
Movement Breaks to the Rescue!
Classroom-Based Movement Breaks
Sensory and Movement Break Ideas | Getting Classrooms Moving!
Teacher Toolbox Physical Activity Breaks in the Secondary Classroom
- Keep physical activity breaks short and manageable. Shoot for 1 – 5 minute breaks at least 2-3 times per day.
- Participate with your students in the activity. Students will be more likely to join in and have fun if they see their school community moving with them.
- Ask teachers and school administrators to share and demonstrate their favorite activities, games, and movement ideas during staff meetings throughout the school year.
- Create a classroom atmosphere that embraces movement! Consider playing age and culturally appropriate music. Be patient – it may take some time for kids to embrace and be comfortable with the physical activity.
- Integrate physical activity into academic concepts when possible. For example, a social studies unit on the Olympics can include student participation in classroom energizers fitting into an Olympic theme.
- Encourage your physical education teacher to be a movement leader and advocate. Ask if he or she can share some simple motor skills and games for classroom teachers and guidance for creating safe movement spaces.
- Empower students by asking them to share their own physical activity break ideas. Provide opportunities for students to lead and demonstrate activities.
- Add physical activity breaks right into your daily schedule. Try creating a classroom physical activity calendar of events that includes a variety of ideas throughout the month. Use a classroom physical activity tracker to help your students reach 10 minutes daily! Check out these brain break for testing ideas.
- Add in fun equipment items such as beanbags, spot markers, yoga mats, and balance boards. Consider applying for a Game On grant!
- Integrate health and fitness concepts while moving with students to emphasize the importance of daily physical activity and good nutrition.
Energizers! 88 Quick Movement Activities That Refresh and Refocus– Susan Roser
Action-Packed Classrooms, K-5: Using Movement to Educate and Invigorate Learners (2009)
- by Cathie Summerford (Link)
- “Focusing on using movement and music to energize young students and boost their learning, this research-based book offers strategies for basic energizers, clear objectives for standards-aligned instruction, and a student/teacher/principal agreement to commit to active learning.” – Amazon
Brain Breaks for the Classroom: Quick and Easy Breathing and Movement Activities That Help Students Reenergize, Refocus, and Boost Brain Power-Anytime of the Day! (2009)
- by Michelle Gay (Link)
- “40 fun exercises help students take a quick break and return to their work refreshed and ready to learn. Each exercise is designed to get more oxygen and energy to students’ brains, improve their focus, and calm their nervous systems. The result: increased motivation, cooperation, and learning in the classroom. Includes a full-color poster with five easy moves all kids can do when they need a ‘brain break’! For use with Grades K–5.” – Amazon
Brain Gym: Teacher’s Edition (2010)
- by Paul E. Dennison and Gail E. Dennison (Link)
- “This is a stand-alone book for parents, teachers and learners who want in-depth descriptions and variations for the 26 Brain Gym activities.” – Amazon
Energizing Brain Breaks (2009)
- by David U. Sladkey (Link)
Energizing Brain Breaks 2 (2011)
- by Scott Miller (Link)
The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning Through Movement (2010)
- by Traci Lengel and Mike Kuczala (Link)
- “Research shows that regular physical activity helps children perform better in school. This inspiring book illustrates how to integrate movement within classroom instruction, ranging from short activity breaks to curriculum-enhancing games.” – Amazon
Learning on Your Feet: Incorporating Physical Activity into the K-8 Classroom (2016)
- by Brad Johnson and Melody Jones (Link)
- “In this much-needed book, you’ll learn how incorporating physical activity into the classroom can improve students’ engagement, achievement, and overall wellness. Students typically spend most of the day sitting at their desks, and many don’t have recess or PE, yet research shows that regular exercise helps stimulate brain function and improve skills such as reading, critical thinking, organization, and focus.” – Amazon
Moving INTO the Classroom (2018)
- Stacia Miller and Suzanne Lindt, Eds (Link)
- This textbook focuses on research in movement integration and the benefits of physical activity to the child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. It includes research on and suggestions for integrating movement into English-language arts, mathematics, science and social studies for lower and upper elementary students. Though the textbook is specifically aimed at elementary-level teachers, secondary teachers and pre-service teachers can modify the activities to fit their lessons as well. – Springer
- by Jill Johnstone and Molly Ramon (Link)
- “…blueprint for improving perceptual-motor skills—the skills that require young learners to use their brains and their bodies together to accomplish tasks. When kids improve these skills, they not only improve their coordination and increase their body awareness but they also enhance their intellectual skills and gain a more positive self-image.” – Human Kinetics
Physical Activity and Educational Achievement: Insights from Exercise Neuroscience (2018)
- edited by Romain Meeusen, Sabine Schaefer, Phillip Tomporowski, and Richard Bailey (Link)
- “A growing body of research evidence suggests that physical activity can have a positive effect on educational achievement. This book examines a range of processes associated with physical activity that are of relevance to those working in education – including cognition, learning, memory, attention, mood, stress and mental health symptoms – and draws on the latest insights from exercise neuroscience to help explain the evidence.” – Amazon
Physical Activity and Health Promotion in the Early Years (2018)
- edited by Hannah Brewer and Mary Renck Jalongo (Link)
- “This book…provides a theoretical base explaining why physical activity is important, and offers practical strategies for increasing health and well-being in early childhood settings. It takes ancient wisdom on the mind and body connection, applies it to the youngest children, and supports it with current empirical and international evidence—all with an eye toward improving wellness across the lifespan. The many topics discussed in the book include children’s motor skills, movement, interaction, physical literacy, the use of video games, dog ownership, developmental delays, as well as strategies to improve physical activities in the classroom and broader contexts.”
Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008)
- by John J. Ratey (Link)
- “Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.” – Amazon
Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2005) – chap. 9: Movement and Learning
- by Eric Jensen (Link)
- “…[this] best-seller is loaded with ideas for how to improve student achievement and create a more effective classroom by applying brain research to your teaching. [It] translates the latest scientific findings into effective instructional strategies…” – Amazon
The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning (2010)
- by OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design (Link)
- “Created by an international team of architects and designers concerned about our failing education system, [this book] explores the critical link between the school environment and how children learn…” – Amazon