7 Brain Breaks for World Language Teachers
You know that glassed-over look that your students get about halfway (a quarter of the way?) through your lesson? The same one you get about 15 minutes into the faculty meeting? Here’s how to fight it.
First, realize it’s not your students’ fault. Their brains are designed to filter and process information and the brain simply can’t sustain a particularly high level of that processing and filing for a long period of time. For one thing, in short, it’s why you sleep. Your brain needs you to stop receiving information so it can process and file all the stuff it experienced that day.
Next, determine you’ll institute a brain break. For more reasoning behind brain breaks, see this post on making sure your lesson plan isn’t out of whack, and for my ongoing collection of brain breaks, follow my Pinterest board on the topic. It could be something as simple as showing a funny, comprehensible TL meme or comic.
You really only need a collection of 8 or 9 of these to rotate through, throwing in a new one every so often to change things up. (Could your students research and propose a new one for the class?) Here are five that my students and conference participants (they need ’em too!) have enjoyed recently. You’ll see quickly how you can put these in the target language depending on your students’ level, but the point isn’t to do anything in the target language – it’s to reset the brain’s attention level to get high brain power working again.
Double, Double, This, That
For a demonstration of this simple hand game, see this video. In my class we’ve changed it to:
vale, vale, sí, sí,
vale, vale, no, no
vale, sí, vale, no
vale, vale, sí, no
Can I bring a…?
This is a game we play on trips. My 6-year-old loves it and I thought, as long as you keep it simple, why not a brain break as well? It’s even easily doable in the target language.
The premise is that you (the class) is going on a trip and you can bring everything except the things that fit into a certain category: things that are square, things that are edible, etc. Students don’t know the category but ask questions to figure it out:
Can I bring an airplane? Yes.
Can I bring a jacket? Yes.
Can I bring a pizza? No.
Can I bring a cookie? No.
Can I bring a frisbee? No.
Answer: Things that are round.
When we did this at a recent conference, participants really enjoyed it but were new to the format and so even the relatively easy category of “things that are round” took longer than expected and longer than is ideal for a brain break. If you keep the categories simple (think: colors, shapes, starts with letter __) and do this one every 8-10 class periods, kids will know the format well and guess quickly.
Look & Go
This is super simple, gets kids moving, is easy to do in TL for those who can handle it, and lasts only as long as you want it to. Choose a descriptor and call it out: Brown. Boring. Awesome. Students go and stand by something that, in their opinion, fits that category.
How many students can fit in three chairs?
This is self-explanatory. My students love it – and they can fit a lot in three chairs – but you may want to skip it if that much physical contact is out-of-bounds for your class.
Human rock, paper, scissors
I’m stealing this one from Thomas Sauer. Students find a partner and stand up but look down. On the count of three, they move to be a rock (hunched over), scissors (arms out), or paper (standing straight, arms at side). The winner finds another winner to compete with, and the loser becomes the winner’s cheerleader. Within moments there are only two left, with the rest of the class cheering for one or the other. Class trophy for the one who wins!
Animals in a row
The students in a row or at a table have to decide to be a certain animal, but they can only make the sound that the animal makes; they cannot tell each other or the class what animal they are. Then, based on the sounds only, they put themselves in order from smallest to largest. At the end, choose only one group to show off their skills to the class. In a recent conference presentation, the row of participants I asked to “sound off” for us made us laugh: when I got to the next-to-last person, she chirped like a cricket. What is smaller than a cricket, I thought. The final man simply stood there staring ahead. After a moment of confused silence he looked at everyone and said, “I’m an amoeba.” Great brain break! Thank you, whoever you are!
What brain breaks have been a hit in your classes? Check out what brain breaks @MagisterP’s suggested.
A few years ago, I saw The Double Double This That game with chocolate-
Choco choco la te
The kids loved it. I taught it to them during our testing week and then again when I told a story about a kid who was looking for chocolate all around the Spanish speaking world.
It’s a fun variation on the game.
Two great minds – you and Jennifer both! We’ll have to try this!
I love the idea of finding something in a category and standing by it. I’ve only done colors but I had never thought to do other adjectives. Great idea! I’ve seen native speakers play the hand clapping game with words like chocolate or mariposa. My third graders love love love it. We also play Diego dice (Simon says) as a break.
http://youtu.be/zWCLNACNObg – video of chocolate Spanish Playground has a great blog post on it as well.
That “Chocolate” game is great! Thanks!
[…] gain a few each week and build up to having one for each day, if possible. They can serve as mini brain breaks, but we can do an activity after watching them twice, which will bring everything together. You can […]
[…] this week, and managed to do them all in the TL! (By the way, I took ideas for brain breaks from Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell, Martina Bex, and Maris Hawkins for this week). The kids loved them and over the course of four […]
[…] I love the brain breaks I’ve been stealing from around the internet. Most of them come from Sara-Elizabeth, but Martina has a great list as well! It’s really nice to reset in the middle of the class […]
I’m really into the primacy recency effect. I want to use this topic for my thesis. The problem is that I’ve read a lot of theory but none about experiences. I’d like to know how much changes teachers could observe in their students’ performance after changing the planning lessons.