Brain breaks ideas to help motivate students in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade

Brain Break Ideas for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade

Brain Break ideas for motivating uninterested students in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade

Written by Guest Blogger S.M.

So, we’ve all been there…you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into the lesson and in front of you are a classroom full of uninterested kids.  I mean, you could be dancing on the desks and they wouldn’t notice you. After so many struggles with what to do I’ve finally figured it all out…they need BRAIN BREAKS!  How simple right? Well, there are things to keep in mind before instituting brain breaks in your classroom. Trust me, set up is what it’s all about.

Managing Brain Breaks

These ideas can easily turn your quiet (while albeit boring classroom) into chaos.  The key is ground rules. Keep it simple…these are only 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students afterall.  Follow this easy guide to keeping the chaos controlled:

  • Brain breaks should last no longer than 3-5 mins depending on the activity.  Anything more is play time.
  • Students must learn early on that when the bell rings (or buzzer) it is time to sit back down and get back to work with little fuss and very little discussion.
  • If at first the students cannot come back together you must suspend this idea for the time being.  Trust me, doing this early on will show them they MUST follow the rules.
  • After a few more tries of pulling them back together they should be coming back immediately after you ring or buzz them back. 

6 Easy Brain Break Ideas

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.  Brain breaks should be simple ideas that help get your students up from their desk and moving around.  Actually movement helps blood flow which helps them with concentration and helps our ADHD kids re-focus on task.  Here are a few ideas that I’ve used:

  1.  Paper plate walk around-  Grab cheap paper plates from any dollar store.  Each student places one on their head and walks around the room.  There needs to be movement by the students. If they don’t move around you should make them stand and watch everyone else.  As the students are moving around, plates will eventually fall off their heads. They ARE NOT allowed to pick up their own plate.  Another student must come over and pick up their plate (without dropping their own) and place it back on their heads…this game should go on for 3 mins.   Collect your plates and re-use another day.
  2.  Go Noodle is a fantastic website that students get to jump up and dance with for about 2 mins.  As a class you can create your own class mascot and participate in guided dancing, meditation, or stretching techniques.  Simply go to and create your own FREE account.  Explore on your own the categories you would like to go into and plan ahead.  If you allow students to pick which ones to go into they will never agree. This is best left up to you before you begin.
  3. Beach Ball Blast-  Grab a cheap BIG beach ball.  Line up the students in the hallway, they will need to lay on the floor with their legs and feet up against the wall.  Begin by telling the students they need to move the beach ball from one end of the hall to the other and back again. They are only allowed to use their feet.  This also works as a team building activity. This break will probably last about 5 minutes depending on the size of your classroom. Students must use small movements in their legs and feet to “pass” the ball to the person next to them.  If the ball falls out of range of the students, simply grab it and throw it back to the next person.
  4. Pull a Stick Student- Each student has a classroom number.  Grab some small Popsicle sticks and place each student number on a stick.  Randomly pick a stick, and that person gets to be Simon in Simon Says. Continue playing for as long as you would like but I would recommend this game stay to about 3 mins.  Be sure your “Simon” is making the students move.
  5. Hula Hoop Mania- Have all the students hold hands in one big circle.  Grab a hula hoop and start anywhere. The object is for students to get the hula hoop across all the students without separating their hands.  They can use their feet, bodies, arms they just CAN NOT stop holding hands. This activity is something the students get better and better at. I would suggest keeping a time log from how long it took to get through the whole circle the first time and challenge them each time to shorten their time. 
  6. Floor is Lava- Grab about 5 different colored sheets of construction paper, about 5 of each color (it really depends on the amount of students you have).  The scenario I’m giving you would be perfect for a class of 20. Throw the paper all over the floor but within reasonable jumping range. Keep your back away from the students and randomly call out a color.  The students have to land on the color you pick or they end up in lava.  THEY CAN NOT TOUCH THE FLOOR, they are only allowed to jump. If they touch the floor or cannot get to the right color, they would sit down while the game continues.  This is a longer game and would last about 5 mins.  

All of the brain break games can be used multiple times.  I would use GoNoodle about 3 times a week as needed. 

It is best not to provide too many breaks or you’ll have kids simply not working but just waiting for “game time.”  This is not the goal. Your goal as a teacher is to observe what’s happening in your room and provide breaks on an as needed basis. 

This isn’t something that has to be done all day…maybe not even everyday. I find most of my students need these breaks during a heavy reading assessment or task. 

Check out these other classroom management tips.  

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