Turn your primary classroom’s brain breaks into a dance party.
Movement in the Primary classroom is generally undervalued. It is seen as the light refreshment in the smorgasbord of learning.
Many teachers use the promise of being able to move about the classroom as the dangling carrot to good behaviour.
But movement in a Primary classroom is essential to children having control of their body in how they move around the classroom and developing their spatial awareness which is so important in many other learning areas.
What is a Brain Break?
For most Primary teachers, the concept of a brain break is very identifiable. It is a physical activity that is generally unrelated to the task that is being explored in class. It may only be 10 or 15 mins in duration and is usually done on the spot or using a small amount of space.
Brain Breaks allow children to move their bodies after periods of concentration and stillness.
The importance of Brain Breaks in Primary teaching
It is important in that it allows your students to reset and refocus but also has an essential physiological function. Research has shown (Hillman, 2009) that physical activity sends oxygen through the blood to the brain supporting information retention.
Movement is important for enhancing the brain’s ability to pay attention and therefore allows children to learn more effectively. Not only is it enjoyable and productive but it acts as an energiser to the student’s minds.
Periodic physical activity throughout the day can also energise the atmosphere in the classroom.
Using a Brain Break to your teaching advantage
Using movement and dance as a part of how you organise and energise your teaching space can be more subtle than a ‘stop everything’ kind of activity.
Use a dance movement activity when your students body language is showing signs of sliding into a coma during a writing exercise. Or even to move children from the floor to their desks.
Try counting backwards from 10 with each number speeding them up a little more. The slow getting off the floor will help develop their muscular weight bearing and the quick finish will have them sparked up for the next activity.
Avoid the Brain Break from going for too long or getting students over stimulated. We want to avoid them being distracted for the next learning activity.
Some fun Brain Breaks to try in your classroom
Prep – Year 1 Brain Break Dance Activity
This age group loves follow me activities and this one will have them asking for more. Po Pow Pay is three cute penguins doing a dance to fun music that is simple and moves on the spot. A favourite of mine as they can do it standing next to their desks or on the carpet area.
I love Po Pow Pay because the movement isn’t too specific so that they feel like they are getting it wrong. Also, the penguins are too cute!
Go over a couple of the movements before you put the video on. When playing any videos at school ensure you have removed the ads or pre-cued the video.
Year 2 – 3 Brain Break Dance Activity
Hit the Deck is a game that can be adapted to suit the specific movement needs of your class. It is not done to music, so you and the class don’t get sick of hearing the same song.
It is done standing next to desks so keep the movement on the spot and work from high level to low level and from fast to slow. The idea is to encourage the enjoyment of the movement so don’t make it so hard and fast that the children can’t achieve it. It’s about showing what they can do not what they can’t.
The teacher places a deck of cards in front of the class. One student selects a card and the students will do the corresponding activity for each suit.
It would be helpful to display corresponding activities for each suit.
For example: Heart: touch elbow to knee, Diamond: march in place while clapping to every second step, Club: roll your body to the floor and back up again, Spade: do hula hoop movements with your hips.
Make sure other students can pick a card from the deck and repeat activity. Consider creating a range of movement devised by the students to use when doing this activity.
Year 4-6 Brain Break Dance Activity
Using body percussion is fun for this age group. It combines dance and music and you can make it as simple or as complex as you like.
Start by clapping a simple rhythm with the class standing in a circle. Each student repeats the rhythm using a different part of their body.
Think of slapping thighs, clicking fingers, stamping their feet. They will come up with ideas you may not have thought of. The idea is to move from one student to the other as quickly as possible.
When the rhythm comes back to you send a different one back the other way.
These are just a few ideas and there are many more that can be adapted from non-movement Brain Breaks. Keep looking for inspiration to move your students you will be rewarded with the positive results.
Experiment with movement for your Brain Break and make dance the new normal in your Primary classroom.