9 Brain Break Activities to Incorporate In Your Classroom Now

I used to secretly blame children’s lack of focus on behavior, motivation, or poor upbringing. Katie can’t read for more than ten minutes without glancing down at her shoe, picking at her eraser, or staring out the window. This was frustrating to me, so I tried to find something or someone to blame.

But the truth is, we are an entirely unfocused society as a whole. Technology has reprogrammed our brains to quickly take in information. The skill of sitting quietly, comprehending slowly, reflecting and daydreaming has become nearly extinct. Yet, teachers are often asking students to complete activities that require such concentration.

Research shows that the average middle school student’s brain can concentrate on direct instruction for 10-12 minutes tops. With 40+ minute classes, the only way to get and keep the attention and engagement of middle school students (and all the way up to adults!) is to provide them with brain breaks. Brain breaks get students’ blood flowing, moving oxygen to the brain. This will not only let them relax for a few minutes, but research shows that students who take brain breaks produce higher quality work than students who are asked to work through an entire class period. Pretty cool!

First, I’ll share a list of the more fun brain breaks for the classroom. These are intended as complete breaks from the lesson. 

Silent Speed Ball

Find an area where you don’t mind students throwing a ball around. No one can talk or make a sound – being silent is the aim of the game.

The ball is tossed between classmates. Students cannot throw the ball back to the person who threw it to them. If a player misses the ball, talks or makes a bad pass, that student is out. The last two players are the winners.


I love to pick some of the top hits that students are into for this brain break. Play the music and have the students dance (yes, this will be hilariously awkward). When the music stops, students have to freeze. Whoever moves, is out. Keep playing until there is one person left. Those students who are out are an extra pair of eyes to judge the others.

Heads or Tails

Write out a list of true or false questions (I write them on random life things so we’re still learning). If a student gets the answer wrong, the must sit down. The last student standing is the winner!

If students believe the answer is true, they place their hands on their heads.

If students believe the answer is false, they touch the floor.

Random Exercise

Create a list of random, easy exercises (such as jumping jacks, lunges, arm circles, etc) and have one student choose from the list. Students will complete the exercise to some music of your choice.

Stop the music randomly, and all students must stop their exercise. Whoever doesn’t stop in time must sit out. The last one standing is the winner.

Timed Chatter

Sometimes kids are just bursting to get a chance to chat with their neighbor. For this brain break, set a timer for three minutes and let them get up and chat with a friend. Ask them to use Cafe Voices (pretend they are sitting together in a coffee shop. Their voices are not loud, but also not whispering. Just, conversational).

Below are some educational brain breaks that sneakily keep kids learning as they get their blood flowing to their brains! 

Vocabulary Around the World

Get a list of the class’ most recent vocabulary words. I use Quizlet and display the definition on the SmartBoard. Two students stand next to each other and must call out the correct vocabulary term. Whoever says the correct word first moves on to the next students.

Once a student has gone all around the room back to their original seat, they are the winner.

Heads or Tails 2.0

Write out a list of true or false questions all based on subject matter that you have covered over the entire school year. This is a great review game as well.

If a student gets the answer wrong, the must sit down. The last student standing is the winner!

If students believe the answer is true, they place their hands on their heads.

If students believe the answer is false, they touch the floor.

Synonym Chase

Students should all be given a small whiteboard and a dry erase marker. The teacher asks all students to stand by their desk.

The teacher will write one word on the board, and students must write down the first synonym that comes to mind. Then, they must look around the classroom. Any student that has the same synonym written as them, they need to “link up” with. Those students can THEN work together to determine the next synonym.

Students that do not write a correct synonym must sit down. The game is over once all students have linked up together.

Memory Kerfluffle

Create a stack of cards with an example of one literary element on it. Around the room, place papers that have the different literary elements on them (on the door, on a cupboard, on the back table, etc).

The teacher will read the example out loud, and students must Shuffle (feet can’t come off the ground) to the literary element that they think it is. They must be touching the paper with their hands.

Any students who choose the wrong literary element must sit down. The last student to choose the CORRECT literary element each turn must also sit down. The game goes until one student is the victor!


 What are your favorite Brain Breaks?