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.
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. This may only be a 10 or 15 mins filler using dance, done on the spot, or using a small amount of space.
These kinds of activities allow children to move and release their bodies after periods of concentration and stillness. Making Brain Breaks work in your classroom is not that difficult to achieve through some simple dance activities.
The importance of Brain Breaks in Primary teaching
Brain Breaks are important in that they allow your students to reset and refocus. They also serve an essential physiological function. Research has shown that physical activity sends oxygen through the blood to the brain supporting information retention (Hillman, 2009) .
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 energizer to the student’s minds.
Periodic physical activity throughout the day can energize the atmosphere in the classroom.
Using a Dance Brain Break to your teaching advantage
Making movement a part of how you organize and energize your teaching space can be more subtle than a ‘stop everything’ kind of activity.
Try using a 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.
Count backwards from 10, with each number speeding their movement up a little more as you count. Slowly getting off the floor will help develop their muscular weight bearing and the quick finish will have them sparked up for the next activity.
Some Dance Brain Breaks to try in your classroom
Avoid the Brain Break from going for too long or getting students over stimulated. We want to diminish the chances of students being distracted for the next learning activity.
Prep – Year 1 Brain Break Dance Activity
Early learners love follow me activities and this one will have them asking for more. This is a favourite of mine, as they can do it standing next to their desks or on a carpet area.
I love Po Pow Pay because the movement isn’t so specific that they feel like they’re getting it wrong. Also, the penguins are too cute!
Go over a couple of the movements before you put the video on. This helps you and the students feel a bit more confident when it gets a little fast paced.
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. This is not to music, so you and the class don’t get sick of hearing the same song.
It’s done standing next to desks, so keep the movements 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.
These dance activities are about showing what students CAN DO, not what they CAN’T DO.
The teacher places a deck of cards in front of the class. One student selects a card, and the students will perform the corresponding movement for each suit.
It would be helpful to display corresponding movement for each suit before choosing the card.
For example: Hearts: touch elbow to knee, Diamonds: march in place while clapping to every second step, Clubs: roll your body to the floor and back up again, Spades: do hula hoop movements with your hips.
Make sure other students then take turns in picking a card from the deck and repeating the activity.
Consider creating a range of movement compiled by the students to use when doing this activity. You could get them to decide which movements they will be using at the beginning.
Remember to have a range of movement levels and speeds in the dance movements for your Brain Break.
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 and you will be rewarded with the positive results.
Experiment with movement and make dance the new normal in your Primary classroom.
Please share this article with other teachers, there’s a good chance that it will help them with their class.