5 Easy Brain Breaks to Do In Class

Rob Donatelli on episode 216 [A special encore episode] of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Want to help students learn and be more refreshed? Students need breaks too. That is why brain breaks are becoming so popular. Teacher Rob Donatelli @DTown_MrD talks about the brain breaks phenomenon. Then, Rob gives teachers five ideas he uses in his classroom for brain breaks. Take a brain break today!

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Enhanced Transcript

[Recording starts 0:00:00]

Bloomz is sponsoring today’s show, they are my favorite tool for engaging parents in the classroom. And at the end of the show I’ll tell you about a free webinar they’re sponsoring where I’ll teach you five habits you can start now to help your classroom thrive in the fall. Stay tuned to the end of the show.

“And if I don’t do this, Vicki, they’re begging me, they’re wondering at the end of the period, when are we doing a brain break?”

The Ten-minute Teacher podcast with Vicki Davis. Every week day you’ll learn powerful practical ways to be a more remarkable teacher today.

VICKI: Happy Five Idea Friday. Today we’re talking about engaging brain breaks. So today we have with us Rob Donatelli. Rob, what is a brain break?

ROB: Well I will say that a brain break is an opportunity for the students to take a break from the higher level processing of learning to really just kind of calm down, relax the brain, have some fun and refocus that brain. So when a teacher gets back into learning at a higher level, the students can really refocus themselves and retrain their brain to learn at their highest potential.

VICKI: You know, we just can’t keep going full-till, can we? If an interstate is at a 100% capacity it doesn’t move, right?

ROB: Absolutely. And these students today – you know, when they come in our classrooms they come in with so much outside noise going on whether it’s Snapchat or their Instragram or what happened in the hallway. So if we can’t hook our students either at the beginning of the class with just something fast such as a story about what’s happening in the world or a joke or a quote or some sort of brain teaser to hook them in and to really get them going – that’s one of the best way to calm that mind down and get them ready to learn for the day.

VICKI: Okay. So what’s our first easy brain break?


ROB: All right. Here’s a really easy one that I actually just did yesterday. So you split the class, let’s say you have 30 students in your class and you have 15 in 15, you split them up. And what they do is they’re going to do a backward race through the room. So if you have two sides and my room is set up in pods, I have 8 different stations, 4 students at them. And what they have to do is they have to race backwards through zigzagging through the desk and they cannot touch a chair, they cannot touch a desk when they have to go back.

And the students look at you kind of like you’re crazy at first. It’s a lot of fun when you get the whole class involved.

VICKI: Wow. Although it sounds like it’d be dangerous in some way. So I guess that kind of helps them just reset their brain.

ROB: Absolutely. [Indiscernible 0:02:47] it really just kind of helps the blood flow, the dopamine which really helps them refocus to get back to the learning.

VICKI: Okay, Rob. So what’s your second idea?

ROB: Second idea is to get the students to just get up – and I don’t think students today have an opportunity to just kind of talk and speak and learn those soft skills. So the second one is called 60 second pitches. And you present the students with an example of something like, “Sell your team or a few people on why homework is bad for your health.” And you put a timer up on the board and one student at the time has to speak for 60 seconds on why homework is bad for your health. And they’re not allowed to stop talking.

So it really forces them to think through a problem. And students love it, it practices their soft skills, they get to work on their public speaking. So 60 second pitches is our second one today.

VICKI: Cool. I know you just do that to each other so you’re not waiting for everybody to get through their pitch.

ROB: Correct. They just do that to each other.

VICKI: Cool. Okay, what’s our third?

ROB: The third one is – when you want them to do just a really quick one you have them stand up and this one is called named three things.


So I have them sometimes do a best of five because it goes really quick. And for example, I’ll have them faceoff against one person and I will say, name three fruits. And if you and I were doing it, we would say apple, orange and banana. And if I beat you then I won that round. And I’ll put up all kinds of crazy stuff. I’ll say name three brands of shoes. I’ll say names three states in the United States. I’ll say name three countries. And they just have to spit out, it’s really quick, it’s really fun processing. I love that one. And the kids always really get into it and get super excited.

VICKI: Oh fun. Okay, what’s our next?

ROB: So actually last week I have long tables in my pods that we have and I went and bought some Ping-Pong balls, I was out at the Dollar Store. And I thought, “Man, wouldn’t it be fun if we took their cellphones and they played ping-pong against each other on the tables just for two minutes?” So in their baskets at their pods I had ping-pong balls in there and they actually used the back of their smartphone to hit a ping-pong ball across the table and they played ping-pong with each other.

And what gets really competitive, it only takes 2 minutes, 3, minutes, usually say till 5. And it just works on those motor skills and kind of lets them decompress from all the info that we’re learning through our class.

VICKI: What a blast. That sounds like so much fun. Okay, what’s out last one?

ROB: Our last one is, if you have a bag of pennies, maybe a bunch of pennies laying around and you want to put them to good use, nobody today really likes carrying around pennies. I keep a bag of pennies in my room for the penny arm flip. And what I like to do is I put a timer up on the board for a minute and the students have to put a penny on their elbow facing up towards the ceiling. And when they move the arm down, they try to catch the penny. And it sounds really easy but it’s kind of tough if you don’t do it really quick.


And I challenge the students to see how many can you get and if they can beat me in 60 seconds. And it turns very competitive, some can do it, some can’t. But there’s definitely always some laughs that go around and it’s a really enjoyable just quick, brain break 60 seconds.

VICKI: Okay. So Rob, let me ask you this, what happens when somebody comes in and observes your room and they think you’re playing?

ROB: Interesting question. We actually went from a model; last year we were teaching 42 minutes and now we’re teaching 68 minutes in trimesters. And we were encouraged by our administration to really come up with some brain breaks because you want to able to chunk that information. If the student is sitting there for 68 minutes just getting lectured to or doing a project, they’d really have a hard time. And we know that through research focusing even after 18 to 20 minutes.

And so our administration is very encouraging to allow us to do these brain breaks and to challenge our students to be creative and get up and engage with each other. So it’s been really cool to have the support from that standpoint.

VICKI: Okay. Here’s your brain break, Rob. Pitch all of the teachers out there listening for 40 second, why does every classroom need a brain break. Go.

ROB: Every classroom needs a brain break because the students are inundated with so much noise. And what the brain break allows students to do is really just take a break from all of that knowledge that is getting cramped into their brain, through lectures and projects and discussions. It also improved their motor skills, creativity skills, teamwork skills, skills that allow you to build those soft skills with handshakes and talking to one another. And then a day and age where our students are so inundated with their technology and they’re on it all the time.

It really is fun to have them engage with one another in a fun and enthusiastic and creative and interesting way.

VICKI: Teachers, to be remarkable we need a sensitive venture, we have to shake up routine. If they’re doing the same thing everyday the same way all the time – and part of that we have because of our classroom procedures. But we do want to kind of mix things up and break the routine and make things novel and exciting and remarkable.


ROB: Absolutely. And if I don’t do this, Vicki, they’re begging me, they’re wondering at the end of the period when are we doing a brain break? So it’s really transformed the classroom and brought a level of energy that was missing in years passed.

VICKI: Thank you Bloomz for sponsoring today’s show. It is my favorite tool for parent engagement in the classroom. Just go to bloomz.net. Now, they are sponsoring the April free webinar on Thursday April 27th at 6pm Eastern. I’ll be sharing five habits you can start now to help your classroom thrive in the fall. There are things you can do now to have a better classroom. So join me by going to http://cctea.ch/bloomz-spring to register for the webinar. Or just go to the show notes are http://ift.tt/2quX4Nu for the link.

Thank you for listening to the Ten-minute Teacher Podcast. You can download the show notes and see the archive at http://ift.tt/2quX4Nu. Never stop learning.

[End of Audio 0:09:13]


[Transcription created by tranzify.com. Some additional editing has been done to add grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. Every attempt has been made to correct spelling. For permissions, please email lisa@coolcatteacher.com]


Bio as submitted

Rob Donatelli is a business & computer science teacher at Dallastown Area High School. He is also the founder of the Donatelli EdZone. His passions include school leadership, education technology, presenting, entrepreneurship, and coaching. Follow him on YouTube at the Donatelli EdZone or on Twitter @DTown_MrD.

Twitter: @DTown_MrD

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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