Since I have been teaching for several years, I have learned that my students need brain breaks every so often. As adults, we sometimes need to take a day off to give our brain a break. Therefore, it is no coincidence that children may need a brain break from their studies too. High school is one of the hardest times in a person’s life. You most likely can think back and remember what it was like to be in high school. The repetition of lectures, notetaking, presentations, and exams was daunting.
From my personal experience, the high school years were a terrible experience, and I could not wait to get out. So, I quickly decided that I did not want my students to feel the same way. I want them to enjoy their high school years by having periods of time to take breaks and have some fun, which is what led me to writing this article. The goal is for other teachers to read this article and decide to implement brain breaks for high school students into their curriculum to provide students around the world with a better high school experience than what we once had. I believe that we can improve the mental health and well-being of future generations by incorporating this small gesture into our lesson plans.
After reading this article, you will officially know:
- What a brain break is→
- The benefits of brain breaks→
- And several fun brain break activities for high school students→
In my classes over the years, I have tried out many different brain break activities to see what works best.
Certain activities worked better for some of my classes, while others worked better for other classes. It is all about your students and their preferences, which is why my advice is to try out different ones.
1. Card Tricks→
2. Activity Pages→
3. Dance and Music Party→
4. Would You Rather Game→
5. Quiet Ball Activity→
6. The Atom Game→
7. Order Game→
8. Four Corners→
9. Relay Race→
10. Rhythm Activity→
11. Back Writing Activity→
Below, I will tell you about 11 different brain break activities that I recommend starting out with…
Take out some cards and do magic tricks for your students. You may even have a student who knows how to do the magic tricks and can show other students. Look up various card tricks to keep your high school students entertained.
No matter the age, everyone enjoys doing crossword puzzles, wordsearches, and sudoku. A lot of students will enjoy coloring as well. You can hand out activity pages to keep your students quiet and engaged.
Turn on some music and let your students sing and show off their dance moves. This will give them a minute to mingle and take a break from the classroom plans.
“Would you rather” is a popular game these days. It is fun for students to come up with “would you rather” scenarios and see what their friends say. It will get everyone thinking and having a good time.
Grab a ball and have your students toss it around to each other quietly. The objective is for everyone to remain quiet. If someone talks, throws the ball too hard, or drops it, they will be out of the game. The last person standing wins.
This is a fun game for all ages. Simply tell your students to move around the room a specific way. Examples of this is to tell your students to move around the room like an animal, a famous person, or a detective. While they are doing this, you shout a number with the word atom. For example, if you yell out “Atom Five,” your students will have to form groups of five quickly. Anyone left out of the groups is out of the game.
This is a quick, fun game. All you need to do is tell your students to form a line by a certain order. You can do order for their first names, last names, birthdays, and height.
A classroom usually has four corners. Therefore, you should ask four questions that have four possible answers. Students are supposed to pick a corner of the room to go to depending on their answer.
If you cannot safely do this in your classroom, my suggestion is to take your students outside. Encourage them to race relay-style and pick up specific objects. For example, you may ask them to retrieve a flower, a leaf, a stick, a rock, and grass. The first team to gather everything wins.
This is almost like Simon Says except with rhythm. Have a student start a rhythm and tell the rest of the class to repeat it. Each student should add on to the rhythm. If anyone misses a beat, they are out of the game.
Tell your students to pair up. Give only one student in each pair a secret word that the other does not know. The goal is for the student to write that word on their partner’s back, either on pen and paper or with their finger in an imaginary way. The student must guess what the other person wrote.
One of my favorite brain break activities to do with my students is the figure eight game. The reason for this is because it is a lot of fun and will get your students up and moving. Kids have so much energy, so why not put that toward something like this activity? Check out a classroom participating in the figure eight game by watching David Sladkey’s YouTube video below.
It is important to remember that sometimes your students may just be having an “off” day where they are not fully present. It is quite normal as adults have these days as well. When this happens, my advice is to make use of your camera for recording lectures. These gadgets are perfect because your students can go back and listen to your lecture if they were unable to be there or had a hard time paying attention.
Brain breaks are just as they sound, a break for your brain. Every individual can use a break from time to time, especially your students who are bombarded with tests, homework, and projects. If you notice that your students have done so well with studying and turning in their homework, why not give them a brain break every so often? It really can make a difference as breaks typically help students refocus and gain motivation.
With students having lots of energy, scheduling breaks will help them get some of their wiggles out and have some fun. In 2016, it was proven by a psychologist, Karrie Godwin, and her researchers that brain breaks not only give students a moment of downtime but also “increase their productivity and provide them with opportunities to develop creativity and social skills.” According to the study that was conducted by this team, brain breaks also “decrease stress, boost brain function, and are an essential part of learning.” You can read more about the results of the research.
You can give your students a brain break by letting them do an activity of their choosing for a certain amount of time, or you can plan a learning activity that will still get them thinking and using different parts of their brain. I recommend doing both often to switch things up. Brain breaks are wonderful because they motivate other parts of the brain while giving the other parts time to rest and refocus. By routinely incorporating these activities into your classes, you will give your students the opportunity to improve their mood, memory, and attention. It is also important to note that you do not always have to play a game or do an activity to give your students a brain break. Stretching, moving around the room, or singing a simple song will also give them a moment to re-energize their brains.
If you are looking for an activity to do during a brain break, check out Mind Oddities’ YouTube video. In the video, you will be shown 12 illusions that will test your brain. These are fun and intriguing activities you can try with your students that will give them a break as well as exercise their brain.
During a brain break, using objects in the classroom to get your students’ minds off the books and lectures is a great idea. I recommend doing this by using your interactive whiteboard, which is a fun tool that can do so much. If you would like to learn more about interactive whiteboards and see which one would be best for your classroom, read my other article by clicking here.
Research shows the positivity of brain breaks in the classroom. In fact, the positive benefits impact students of all ages. Some of the changes that you may see after enforcing break breaks in your classes include great behavior, better productivity, enhanced creative thinking and problem-solving skills, and more comprehension.
— Christa Rinehold (@crinehold) September 16, 2019
I see brain breaks as a win-win for both students and teachers. Students need these types of breaks continuously throughout the school year, which will maximize their performance and efficiency at school. In return, the teachers will be able to have a better teaching experience as the students will be able to listen, understand, and retain the information better.
This will also lead to higher test scores, meaning the teacher did their job well. Stress and frustration will be decreased for teachers and students, while attention and productivity will be increased. Isn’t it amazing that something so little can make a difference for so many people? For that reason, you should think about including brain breaks for high school students into your educational plan for the year.
To give your students a brain break, consider doing the acting game. This consists of going around the room and letting your students take turns at doing a one sentence story. For a demonstration showing you how this works, watch Liana Rivas’ YouTube video.
Another activity to try while giving your students a brain break is the blink game. To see how to do this, take a look at David Sladkey’s YouTube video. He believes that this will help refresh and refocus your students’ attention.
I recently purchased a document camera because these devices are great for students with all types of learning styles. I have also learned that they are handy when it comes to brain breaks. You can place papers or objects underneath them and have your students guess what is being shown.
- Lesson planning
- How to get kids to (REALLY) listen: 7 steps for success
- How to be a confident teacher
I hope this article helped you understand why brain breaks for high school students are necessary for the health and happiness of generations to come. Every single person needs the opportunity to be able to catch their breath and live in the moment for a few seconds. Therefore, your students may come back and thank you in the future for giving them the time to be a kid when it felt like the world was on their shoulders. These breaks may seem simple and small, but I guarantee that they will help in big ways.
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