Brain Breaks for Kids: Upper Elementary

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Why Brain Breaks for Kids?

Brain Breaks to me are not only necessary for kids, but they are a 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 them to be allowed to have that silly time (at the appropriate time). The best brain breaks are less than 5 minutes and incorporate physical activity of some sort.

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

Updated to add that I found this book recently and LOVE the ideas in it. 

Brain Breaks Book

Brain Breaks for Upper Elementary

Brain Break: 80s Workout!

…because 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 (the set below is my personal fave).


Brain Break: Find Someone Who

I don’t like to have to do a lot of planning with brain breaks, so I do this one a bit differently. I say something like “Find someone who had the same food item for lunch as you today” or “Find someone who has the same birthday”. They have 1 minutes to pair up, then I give them something to discuss about the lesson we are working on.

Brain Break: 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). 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!

Brain Break: 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 true weird facts!

  • 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!

Brain Break: Dance Party

I have a folder in my bookmark 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 is always a classic!

Brain Break: Dice

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!

Brain Break: 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. Examples: Birthday months, height, shoe size, name alphabetically. I start easy and they get harder over time as my students get better at them.

Brain Break: Talk Like A Pirate

I have 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!

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

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Written by
April Smith