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How to Add Movement, Brain Breaks to Your Lessons and Improve Learning Without Losing Instruction Time

brain building brain breaks build skills with movement

Most young children can not sit still for long periods of time and quite frankly neither can I. Our brains are incredible organs, but they are limited in how much they can stay focused and motivated. We need movement to create more oxygen and blood flow to the brain for it to function optimally. Studies have shown that physical activity (even small movements) improves students’ focus, retention, memory, creativity and mood.

With the increasing educational demands and decreasing recess or free play times, young students are not able to move about freely during the school day as much as they should. The CDC recommends that children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. However, less than one-quarter (24%) of children 6 to 17 years of age participate in 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Virtual learners may be required to sit in front of a screen for long periods of time without a break.

Since our young learners just are not wired for this type of environment, I wanted to create a way for them to get up and move while learning. Because our school requires activities to be linked to standards, I created activities that require students to show their answers to questions by doing movements instead of just saying or inputting their responses. This way, they are using purposeful movements to help them learn and practice standards. Using purposeful movements during a lesson enhances students’ comprehension and retention and makes learning more fun!

These multi-sensory brain building brain breaks help students learn reading and math skills while having fun!

brain breaks in the classroom

They can also be used while virtual learning. I love that it gives students a much needed break from sitting!

Brain Breaks, Movement learning activity

Here is how the Brain Building Brain Break/Movement Learning Activities work:

Whole Group Activity

The most common way to use this activity is as a whole group.

Explain to students that instead of saying their answers, they are going to show their answers by doing specific movements.

Introduce the movements to students by showing the movement picture slides on your whiteboard, smartboard, projector, or share your screen during a Zoom Meeting. Have students practice each movement.

Show students the questions on your smartboard or by sharing your screen in a Zoom Meeting. Read the question and point to the answer choices for each movement.

For example, say something like “Which is the matching lowercase letter? If you think it’s this one do arm circles. If you think this is the correct lowercase letter march in place. If you think this is the correct lowercase letter touch your toes.”.

The visuals beside each answer choice show students how to do the movements so learners of all levels can participate (even nonverbal students).

brain breaks in the classroom

If you are virtual learning, share your screen in Zoom Meeting. Be sure that side by side mode is selected so you can view students doing the movements (Under Settings click the Shared Screen Tab, click the Side by Side Mode check box). The student pictures are blurred in this picture for privacy.

add brain breaks to your Zoom Meeting

Students do the movement that is next to their answer choice.

Look to see what movements students are doing.

You will be able to look and see which students know the skill by what movements they do, how fast they do them in response to the question, or whether or not they are looking to see what the other students are doing because they may not know the answer.

Show students the correct answer.

The activities are self-checking. Click the slide after students do their movements to show the correct answer (a green check mark will appear next to the correct answer). Optional: You can then have all students do the correct movement to reinforce the correct answer.

using movement in the classroom

Brain breaks are a perfect way to get students engaged and learning! These activities also help with following directions and focus – students have to think about their answer and the movement associated with it.

These fun movement activities can be used for a variety of skills and are super simple to differentiate.

I wanted to be able to pick and choose how many slides to do at one time and what slides to use which is why I created them in both Google Slides and PowerPoint format. The slides can be rearranged in any order very easily making differentiation simple.

They can be used for a fun introduction, practice, or review throughout the year!

Small Groups

You can also do the brain break activities with your small groups using a laptop or ipad. It is also an easy and fun activity for a parent volunteer to do with a group of students.

adding movement, brain breaks to lessons to improve learning

Computer or At-Home Activity

As mentioned above, these brain break activities are perfect for virtual learning during Zoom Meetings. They can also be used in your computer centers or at home. Students can move through the slides and since they are self-checking they will know if they are correct.

movement in the classroom to improve learning

Some teacher friends who have tried them said the following:

“My kindergartners LOVED this!! SO much fun – one of the best things I have bought on TPT” – Katie S.

“This is a great resource for students while on Zoom. It helped to keep them engaged. The kids loved it and gave them a chance to get up and move while still learning.” – Charlotte U.

“Fun and engaging for students” – Jessica G.

“This is a great resource! These are fun to use as a quick lesson, or when the kids really just need a break! It is something fun for them to do, and it helps them get up and get moving!” – Stacey H.

“This resource has worked great for distance learning for our on-line meetings! It keeps kids involved and I can see who is understanding the concept! Thank you!” – Diane B.

“My class had a great time participating!” – Karen A.

“My students are loving this for review and it helps me quickly check where everyone is at.” – Shelby S.

“This is very cute! My students were really engaged!” – Landy V.

Would you like to use these learning brain breaks, movement activities with your students? CLICK HERE to view all of the Brain Breaks, Movement Learning Activities or try a Get to Know You with Brain Breaks Activity free!

Click the any of the pictures below to see more details and samples!

brain breaks in the classroom to improve learning

Hi! Thanks for stopping by!

I’m Tina and I’ve taught preK and K for 20+ years. I share fun and creative ideas that spark your students’ love for learning. 


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