I’ve seen pictures of brain breaks & bursts written on Popsicle sticks for students to draw at random. This, or some other system of randomly selecting one, is an excellent idea…
At a certain point, we don’t ever need to plan a break/burst, or specify what kind on our agenda. How? It’s simple. Once a brain break makes its way into the rotation, write it on a stick, or tiny piece of paper to put in a hat (or drum, Corinthian helmet, etc.). When students begin to lose steam, have someone choose the next break, or burst. That’s it. This especially helps for brain bursts when I’m not feeling creative in the moment. In fact, why not do the same for all TPR, pre-writing funny chain commands ready-to-go? You could also use separate hats/drums/helmets for the bursts (e.g. the one pictured that lasts just seconds), and other breaks that might take longer (e.g. draw/color for 2 minutes).
Recently, I took inventory of my breaks & bursts, making note of the ones I no longer use at the end of the list. Some of those were helpful when I first began comprehension-based communicative language teaching (CCLT), and couldn’t really sustain an hour-long class in the target language. Others just weren’t that fun. However, give them a try and see how they work in your context.
I’ve revisited my list of TPRable (Total Physical Response-able) words with way more entertainment in mind, made a PPT to follow along, and also rebooted my safety nets for 2019. This is all in anticipation of students returning from holiday break, forgetting absolutely every routine we established…
While Card Talk (formerly Circling with Balls) is great for establishing MGMT expectations by having students literally play ball on the first day of school, don’t forget about it the rest of the year! Write/project a prompt (as bell ringer/Do Now?), then talk about what students drew on their cards. This is no-prep, which sounds like juuuuuuuust the right thing to begin class once back from the holiday break, especially to reinforce class routines after being away for a bit. Aside from my new Brain Bursts, this is what I’ll do tomorrow, and it might even last the entire class!
Given the nature of holidays, instead of making things difficult for the less-privileged, or assuming who celebrates what, I’ll keep mine to a simple and global prompt:
Quid bonum erat? (What was good?)
Oh, and the student who draws nihil (nothing) actually helps us out. The “nothing” response makes it all the easier to launch into some non-examples, either/or questions, and Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) comparisons, as well as “I don’t believe you” and “liar” rejoinders that are instant hits that extend the conversation every time!
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…