Brain Breaks for Kids: Upper Elementary


Why Brain Breaks for Kids?

Brain Breaks are not only necessary for kids, but they are a great classroom management strategy in the upper grades. My students actually earn Brain Breaks when they are doing excellent work (every 30-45 minutes). They want an immediate reward that lets them move around and be silly, and I want to let them be silly (at the appropriate time). The best brain breaks are less than 5 minutes and incorporate physical activity of some sort.

Brain breaks are not time wasters. They’re a good way to reset students who are antsy and off task, and they’re a great way to build a positive classroom environment!

Here’s a list of some fabulous, engaging brain breaks that you can incorporate in your classroom, along with a FREE set of Writing Brain Breaks I created.

Affiliate links ahead! More information is available on my disclosures page.

Brain Breaks for Upper Elementary Kids

Writing Brain Breaks

These work well when you have 15 minutes or so in your schedule. In my freebie above, you’ll get 5 different writing activities that students can complete with a partner or small group. For example, in “Decipher the Gibberish”, students will try to get their partners to define a made-up word by writing strong context clues. In “Pass the Story”, students respond to a story prompt for 2 minutes. When the timer goes off, they move to another piece of paper, and continue the story where the last person left off.

80s Workout!

Your students love nothing more than making fun of the styles of your childhood. These videos are absolutely ridiculous and make it so much fun for kids to get into exercising. Even the most anti-exercise kid will love being silly with these videos. I highly recommend playing a 2-3 minute piece of a Richard Simmons workout video from Youtube.  He’s the best.

Super bonus points if you get really into it as the teacher!

Find Someone Who

I don’t want to spend too much time planning brain breaks, so I do this one a bit differently. I say something like “Find someone who had the same food item for lunch today as you” or “Find someone who has the same birthday”. Students have 1 minute to pair up, and then I give them something to discuss related to the lesson we are working on.

Gross Them Out!

This challenge is for me: find a way to gross my students out. They get so excited when they hear that this is the brain break we’re doing. This one takes a little extra planning. I love the book Oh Yuck! by Joy Masoff because it gives me a lot of great ideas for gross things to share (that are kid appropriate). Likewise, here’s a fun “Eww Edition” of a Would You Rather? book. I usually share a page with my students and find a short Youtube video (often talking about the science behind the gross thing) to share.

Just make sure you can stand the topic. This video on leeches I showed gave me nightmares!

Real or fake?

Share a weird statement or image and ask if it’s real or fake. Bonus points if it’s about a topic you’re learning about in class!

Here are some weird, but true, facts to get you started:

  • It’s illegal to hug a manatee.
  • Everyone has a unique tongue print (like a fingerprint).
  • A single cloud can weigh more than 1 million pounds.

Just head to your trusty search engine and search for “Weird fun facts”, and make up your own false ones. Or, check out National Geographic Kids book series Weird But True!

Dance Party

These are the best brain breaks for kids who are kinesthetic learners. I keep a folder in my bookmarks that contains short clips from movies of characters dancing, and my students get to imitate them. I like to keep it fresh with the current kids movies and their interests. This one from the movie Ice Age is always a classic!

Order Line-up

I have to split my students into 2 groups for this activity since I have 28 this year! I give them a category and they have to put themselves in order. For example, use birthday months, height, shoe size, name in alphabetically order…there are so many you can choose! I start easy and they get harder over time as my students get better at them.

Talk Like A Pirate

Let students partner up, give them a topic, and they talk like a pirate for 30 seconds each. I try to relate the topic to what we’re learning, and talking like a pirate makes it a lot more fun than regular discussion!


These dice are great for brain breaks when you need something fast and easy, or when you have a substitute and still want your students to get a break! They feature a variety of team building and physical activities that kids will enjoy.

Try these brain breaks out 2-3 times/day in your classroom and get ready for a huge improvement in behavior. Enjoy!


2 Responses

    1. Hi Carolina! I won't have access to my work computer until next week, but I wanted to make sure I replied to your comment. If you go to youtube and search for "movie dance scenes", you will find a lot of great ones. Just make sure to preview them first, of course. 🙂

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April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 


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