Mid-Year Check-In: Brain Breaks & Brain Bursts

Teachers fall into a routine, often focusing on a particular strategy for a while because a) they want to hone their skill,  b) it’s magically engaging for students, or c) both. During that period of focus, however, other teaching practices tend to get left behind. The holiday break is good time to take a look at what has NOT been going on in the classroom. For me, it’s been Brain Breaks. Annabelle Allen would be ashamed of me!

It’s true, though. Looking back to just before the holiday break, I’ve been doing just one Brain Break, and there were even days when I did zero due to an activity involving somemovement. There’s no excuse for neglecting Brain Breaks, though, and there’s no rationale behind substituting them with other activities. I need to get back on this horse…

Anny Ewing reminded me of Annabelle’s work promoting Brain Breaks and Brain Bursts. Some of these short breaks in input are inspired by Organic World Language (OWL)—a teaching method that I share very few principles with—and are often referred to as Output activities that don’t raise the affective filter (i.e. what makes you shut down when trying to speak in another language). I can’t agree with the OWL folks that they’re Output in the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) sense because most of them are based on sentence frames. Bill VanPatten has mentioned that saying target language words in this way could be interaction, but not Output according to his definition of “when students, or language learners actually use language to create a message of their own, from scratch.” These Brain Breaks and Brain Bursts do, however, satisfy desires to speak the language, and fulfill many expectations schools have about engagement and interaction.

So, I’ve been rewatching Annabelle’s videos, and have begun updating my own Brain Break list to include Brain Bursts, which I’ll be focusing on this winter. Brain Bursts are similar, but last merely seconds, keeping students on the edge of their seat anticipating the next one! My plan is to start class after the holiday break and mention that we’ll now be doing “many short bursts of movement to activate different parts of our brain that help us learn language.” I realize that might be quite a claim, but the indirect benefits are undeniable, and the students need a clear explanation. For class, I’ll print this paper, set a timer for every 5min, and go right down the list.

Here are Latin versions of most of Annabelle’s Brain Bursts. These Latin versions contain some stupidly infrequent words, yet using already known vocab would make for some awkwardly long sentences. Besides, if students start using “elbow” in funny ways, that’s more buy-in that can only help build class culture. Ideally, create Brain Bursts using words students already know well. The point is to be low pressure enough to be a real break (i.e. “volō domum īre” or “volō candy” to the “tell your neighbor what you want” Brain Burst). As is usual with any unclear words, just establish meaning, and model the actions.

  • surge, dā quīnque vīcīnae, consīde
  • surge, dā quīnque vīcīnīs duābus, consīde
  • surge, tange [capitum/tergum/crūs/etc.], consīde
  • surge, tē verte, consīde
  • surge, salī [semel/bis/ter/etc.], consīde
  • surge, tange digitōs, consīde
  • surge, lūde “saxum charta forfex” cum vīcīnā, consīde
  • surge, lūde “saxum charta forfex” cum vīcīnīs duābus, consīde
  • surge, mūtā sellam cum discipulō camisiam similī colōre gerente
  • surge, consīde in sellam dextram
  • surge, consīde in sellam sinistram
  • surge, tange cubitōs ūnā, consīde
  • surge, tange cubitum nāsō (<– I have a feeling my HS students wouldn’t be into touching their tongue to their elbow like in the original. Here, “nose” is used. Know your audience!)
  • surge, quaere aliquid [caeruleum/rubrum/viride/etc.], id tange, consīde
  • surge, dīc vīcīnae quid velīs, consīde
  • surge, stā post sellam…(after a min. or so)…, consīde
  • surge, numerā tēgulās quam rapidissimē et quam maximē vōce
    • surge, numerā tēgulās silenter
  • surge, dā quīnque discipulīs—quattuor parvē—, consīde
  • surge, fac ut vīcīna rīdeat, sed nōlī rīdēre. quisquis rīdeat consīdit

3 thoughts on “Mid-Year Check-In: Brain Breaks & Brain Bursts

  1. Gratias amice! (Is that right!??!)

    My output Brain Breaks were definitely inspired by OWL but Brain Breaks in general I’ve been doing and observing CI teachers use forever! 🙂 ALL learners need breaks in the rigor of listening to us speak 90%+ in the TL. I LOVE LOVE LOVE them and I LOVE that our students do too!

    Gracias for the shout out!!! xoxo

    La Loca

  2. Lance, this has been my goal this whole year and it has TOTALLY transformed my teaching. I feel like, kind of like with CI, once I got my brain around it, it got much easier. Posters, timers, and for the first few weeks, actually listing the 4 breaks I was going to do each day helped. Also, for me, having a bunch of the prop type things that I saw Annabelle model (such as cups with pom poms, small cards or dominoes) out and in my face when I teach has helped me figure out how to use them. Good luck!

  3. Pingback: Card Talk: What was good? | Magister P.

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