Brain Break List of Ideas

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29 thoughts on “Brain Break List of Ideas”

  1. Here’s a list of brain breaks I fall back to:
    • Ball Toss: count / words exchange / sentence creation
    • Charades: acting out any vocab of the day
    • Circle Up: “Hola. ¿Cómo estás?”
    • Circle Up: Say “Hola” like you are… mad, sad, broken up…
    • Copy Cat: student A stands and imitates gesture of leader, student B looks only at student A and tells student A that word
    • En mi opinión: student A stands and states an opinion. Others stand if they agree.
    • Guess Who: guess who the person is taped to your back
    • Mini survey: ask as many students, in Spanish, a targeted question
    • Math break
    • Maypole: Outside & inside circles. Circulate to music. Stop and converse.
    • Morning Exercises
    • Music video viewing
    • Note on the forehead: classmates give clues for you to guess
    • Quiz the teacher: “Profesor, cómo se dice _____________ en inglés?
    • Sentence circulation: write one word per person on paper to create a sentence
    • Team Spelling Game: spelling out a word, one letter per person, standing
    • Write on Back: one student writes a vocab on the back of another
    Let me know if you’d like for me to explain any of these any further. I look forward to seeing what other people post.
    Side note: On more than one occasion I’ve had an observer tell me later that they loved the brain break and not really care about the CI.

      1. Hi, all. I’m really enjoying reading this post. I would love to see that list of brain breaks but the link isn’t working for me. It takes me to a page which says I don’t have access. Is there an alternative link perhaps? Thanks!

        1. Zach, you probably need a username/password to access the Forum. Ben?
          The Forum is full of excellent ideas and interesting conversations that go back a few years.

          1. Oh, I figured it out! I’ve been a member for a while, but I just discovered/figured out this WordPress version of the forum I didn’t know existed…

  2. Oh I certainly didn’t mean for you to rewrite it. The link if fine. I’ll say one thing. I have no earthly idea how any of you find time to teach and keep up with what we talk about here. Amazing. It’s the guy on the back of the trolley with the open briefcase and the papers flying all over.

  3. “Simon Says” to review target structures. Never gets old ?! It’s perfect to get total silence and engagement. Tremendously boring for the teacher while kids think it’s fun. It apparently also helps kids with self control, impulsivity and such?

  4. James wrote…”Honestly, I feel pressured by the “brain craves novelty” thing. I have to be a clown on a stage, now?”
    James said something that many feel and this is such a genuine statement. Glad Ben articulated something we all feel throughout the school year or on a Monday morning.
    These are all valid feelings. But being a “performer” is not the requirement for teaching a language. It sounds like to me that James is differentiating instruction with all that he does. That is novel all by itself.
    Teenagers can be snotty. James is an effective teacher and has tons of evidence to validate that.
    I think the presurre to be novel is somewhat of a defense mechanism for a TPRS teacher because we battle against the old way of teaching and learning. By going against the traditional systems of language learning we put a target on our backs. This can be motivating but also stressful to try and “one up” the next guy.
    Ben I am glad your post gave us permission to not always be “on.”

  5. also: pictionary, word chunk game, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation (silent or guided), plank challenge or other simple physical activities, “dramatic reading” of a previous class story (pairs or groups read and act out the story), or just a simple “take 5 / 3/ 1 min total break unstructured”
    yes, this can all be overwhelming. and i am probably not going to spend lots of time preparing materials for brain breaks, which is why i tend to do physical ones or just games to recycle previous stories or “trivia” questions based on “current events” in the school community or in the world. and i also am not ashamed that i sometimes just give them a few minutes to chill without it being a planned activity.

  6. Thank you James for pointing this out and Ben for making it a post. We must always balance what students need with what we have available to give. Pushing ourselves when we aren’t ready/available is as useless as pushing students to acquire language they aren’t ready for.
    Comprehensible Input first. Personal connection second. Everything else is icing on the cake.
    Carol may have never intended for her “The Brain Craves Novelty” mantra to be interpreted as “We have to be constantly inventive super-entertainers.’ It may simply have been a way to support and validate why a twist or surpise ending works. It also explains why animals being main characters and exaggeration (he bought 235,678.3 cars) help the memory.
    It’s hard not to connect “the brain craves novelty” with Carol’s personality and delivery when she presents. She’s energetic, funny, has crazy props and can improvise like a pro. It’s part of her presenting persona.
    But…..if you watch her video clips with her guys….those conversations she has are pretty mellow. She’s not delivering 15 different kinds of CI with matching lyrics and dance moves. She’s just talking with them about how to invite Shakira out to dinner.
    If WE AS TEACHERS feel that something is missing in class, looking to shake things up a bit, adding some novelty is a great idea. But we shouldn’t put pressure on ourselves to do it all and be it all just for the sake of a mantra.
    Seriously, most of us have enough students and classes (and assemblies, and firedrills, and hallway disturbances…..) that everyday is a nuthouse of novelty!!!!!
    I promise you that the great majority of our colleagues are not worried about delivering a novel lesson every single period.
    Dave the Pirate makes a great point in his presentations: It has taken him YEARS to put together a menu of hooks, intriguing lessons, and compelling assignments. (and he continues to work on it.) Do not expect it to be possible in less time than that. YEARS!!
    with love,

    1. “I promise you that the great majority of our colleagues are not worried about delivering a novel lesson every single period.”
      This is so true! I was talking to a colleague one time, and I was talking about how much fun teaching can be (at times, of course…) and he pretty much said that he doesn’t “train” his students to expect anything exciting. (By the way… It sounds like his classes are pretty boring- no sweat off of his back…)
      In a certain sense one of the worst things is for us as teachers to become bored. If we’re bored then our students will almost definitely be bored. Plus, it takes away from our own love for life. Thankfully, there is a lot of room for imagination and creativity with TPRS- certainly much more than with a focus on grammar and vocabulary!

  7. Thank you Laurie I think it was a simple misreading on our part of Carol’s message. There will be and have been lots of misunderstandings in this work. It is because we are all so different. That is a very good thing. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “If everyone is thinking the same, then no one is thinking.”

  8. I first read that line in a PowerPoint (or similar file, possibly shared as a link in here??) that Carol presented at DPS a few years ago. The PowerPoint was great. It was, though, if I remember right, about other options than live stories with actors. But it didn’t come off as oppressively demanding at all! At the time it was what I needed (I was on the way to better spring months with the challenging 7th grade class).

  9. Ok….this whole thing led me to a blog post, but here is the part I wanted to put here:
    I get it. I’m the queen of taking things personally, having spent most of that past five decades elevating it to an art. :o) I have had to work very hard to listen to the voice in my head that says..’Oh that’s a good idea.” and not the one that says, “well duh!! You know that. You should do that. Why didn’t you think of that? Kids would pay attention if you did things like that. Thirty years in the profession and you still don’t have it right. ”
    I’ve taken large numbers of suggestions as face-slapping criticism and used to cry on a regular basis after post-observation conferences with my principal. It’s taken a long time to just listen to people without a strong, emotional self-flagellation reflex kicking in.
    The folks in this profession are very passionate people. That inner energy sometimes leads us to extremes….whether it’s extreme dedication, extreme worry, extreme committment or extreme self-evaluation.
    If you are doing the best you can today, and hoping to always do better when you can…..
    You are truly doing enough.
    (and yes…I’m saying this to myself as much as I am saying it to anyone reading this….)
    Don’t let yourself hear anything different.
    with love,

  10. This is an interesting thread. To a certain extent, I agree that our job is not to be entertainers. (The best is actually if we can make our students the entertainers). On the other hand, if we just say, “I am delivering the input, and if you are not receptive or attentive to it, you will miss out,” we are back to the old way of thinking. The #1 best thing I have taken from CI/TPRS is this idea that it is our job to guarantee our students’ success. Of course, we cannot be TOO hard on ourselves, since there are so many other factors in the equation, but it keeps me on my toes to think that way. In an ideal world, the students would attend to our input (without any of these TPRS add-ons) because it is so compelling…but they are in high school. They are more concerned about whether they are invited to the party Friday night, what they will have for lunch, and who they are going to work with in the next activity. I don’t blame them for that – who could? In light of this, I think we need to keep exploring ways to make the approach FEEL different for students (even though it is exactly the same). For example, to review a story, I will tell parts aloud and have students slam the desk and yell “Ridiculous!” (in the TL) if there is an error (of content, not form). Also, I will project the Artist’s drawing and read a statement. Then, I instruct them to yell out “Right there!” when I pass the picture with my laser as I make it dance around the screen. Anyway, this is nothing revolutionary (and I might have stolen these ideas from one of you – we share so much that it is difficult to distinguish who came up with each idea), but it does point to the need to change things up to keep students engaged. Of course, they must meet us half way, but if we are going to (attempt to) guarantee their success, we need to keep things fresh.

    1. I agree man. Things have to feel different for our kids for them to be fresh. I always plan out things that are different for every day, no matter what day it is. Call it novelty or call it “activity to make things seem different,” I don’t really care. It seems necessary, even if it is more work. The basic principles are the same, there is just some sort of activity (like you described), that brings something different to the table. In my experience, kids really do get bored, and in this small, wealthy town that I live in (Sun Valley, ID), kids really let you know quick that what you’re doing is boring.
      Honestly, I separate brain breaks from this “fresh activity.” But yeah, I think brain breaks in a way make what we do fresh also, as long as we vary them.

    2. I think that any new “feel” needs to be as simple as possible for us, too. It’s a mental health issue; I want to work from rest and without fear. So, for example, I’ve read some amazingly detailed approaches on Martina Bex’s really great blog, but I’m not even going to consider doing most of them. I collected ideas into that chart (by what TPRS step it aims at) but actually only really use maybe 8 from each chart regularly. Those are the simpler ones to pull off.
      Keeping the activities simpler is also a way to prioritize use of the target language. If an activity is too complex, the kids don’t get it, and I spend too much time trying to explain in English. I don’t need that added stress; there is enough stress even in happy daily events, right?

    1. James good idea. I think that we get so much input in by mid-year that we need to go to more output type stuff in the second half of the year. Bob Patrick’s OWATS idea is both input and output, yet it gives the kids the sense of being in command and gives them a break from all the input, which we have to admit is not easy and in fact really rigorous. I am very much like you, though – if it were up to me, my classes would be one big steamroller experience of auditory and reading CI, with me driving the steamroller. But sometimes we have to give up the ideal for the reality, that these are just children and not all of them are highly motivated. In fact, as Kyle indicated, certain classes can really make a stink about novelty, etc. and it is best to bend rather than break on that point. Annick Chen in DPS once told me that she specifically limits stories in levels 1 and 2 so that the kids don’t tire of them. She actually found that when she does that, she can still use them very effectively in level 3, when most of us cannot and have to turn more towards reading based input in the upper levels.

  11. I personally think novelty is a really strong word to describe bringing new things to the table. Obviously, people can take novelty too far and get carried away. But small, simple cases of novelty every day are definitely not a bad thing to to discuss.
    1. The quality of being new, original, or unusual.
    “the novelty of being a married woman wore off”
    synonyms: originality, newness, freshness, unconventionality, unfamiliarity; difference, imaginativeness, creativity, innovation, modernity
    a new or unfamiliar thing or experience.
    plural noun: novelties
    “in 1914 air travel was still a novelty”
    denoting something intended to be amusing as a result of its new or unusual quality.
    modifier noun: novelty
    “a novelty teapot”
    2.a small and inexpensive toy or ornament.
    “he bought chocolate novelties to decorate the Christmas tree”
    synonyms: knickknack, trinket, bauble, toy, trifle, gewgaw, gimcrack, ornament, kickshaw
    “we sell seasonal novelties”

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