Posted in beginning of the year, Warm-up activity

Brain Breaks in the Target Language

12 Brain Breaks for the FL Classroom

As I have been reflecting on my class this summer, I decided that I want to use more brain breaks when school starts.  However, I would like them to be in the target language.  I wanted to come up with a reference list to use while I am lesson planning.  I have compiled 12 brain breaks to use that will be effective in a foreign language class.  I found the first batch here:

  1. Nose-ear change: This could easily be explained to beginning students using TPR (Total Physical Response), and it would allow for repetitions of body parts.  You could also try to include different ones.  The students hold their right ear with their left hand and hold their nose with their right hand.  Then, they switch to hold their left ear with their right hand and their nose with their left hand.
  2. Vocabulary Hot Potato: Students stand in a circle.  One student says a vocabulary word and passes the ball to the person next to them.  That student has to state the first letter in the word and passes the ball to the next person.  That person adds another letter.  This continues until the word is spelled completely.  This would also review the alphabet that students may have not used since the first few days of Spanish!
  3. Snowball: This would be a better ice breaker than brain break, but you could shorten it up by only including one fact or one thing that students did over the weekend.  Students write 3-5 facts about themselves in the TL.  They then ball up their paper, and students have a “snowball” fight with the papers.  Each student retrieves one “snowball.”  Students then have to guess who wrote down which facts.
  4. Getting Warmer: I changed this to be more focused in the TL.  One student leaves the class, and another student hides an object.  When the first student returns, all of the students must give verbal clues in the TL without moving at all to help the student find the object (right left up down behind etc.).
  5. All My Neighbors: Students form a circle and have one less chair than students.  The remaining student will go to the center.  He or she will try to make a statement that other people can identify- for example, he can say “All of my neighbors wear hats.”  The students who are wearing hats have to change seats.  Whoever is left must say the next statement.  With beginners and early intermediates, you can write down the statements.  This would also make the game go a bit faster.

The next batch are from this website:

  1. Calm Down: This would be easy to demo using TPR as well.  While your students are standing or sitting, they cross their right leg over their left leg at their ankles.  Then, they cross their right wrist over their left wrist and interlace their fingers.  Finally, students bend their elbows, so their hands touch their chest.  Then they can take deep breaths.
  2. Push your brain buttons: This could be done in the TL, but you could also just teach students to do this to increase blood flow to their brains before testing!  Students must make a U shape with their thumb and pointer finger.  They put this “U” in the center of their chest below their collarbone.  Then, they put their left hand over their bellybutton.  They push these two spots for about 2 minutes.
  3. Chair Action:  This is great for practicing TPR!  You could add different verbs.  Students sit in their chair, and the teacher plays music.  Students must mimic the motion to the pace of the music (fast or slow).  Some suggested actions are: hiking- students swing their arms right and left while tapping their feet; swimming- students move their arms like they are doing the forward crawl and flutter their feet; cycling- students hold on to the chairs and pedal like they are riding a bike; paddling- students pretend to paddle a canoe; and boxing- students box an imaginary foe.

Finally, these last brain breaks come from this website:

  1. Thankfulness Post-its: Students write down what they are thankful for on a post-it.  You can have a designated space for the post-it.  You could also do this as a graffiti activity.  (According to the website, practicing gratitude makes us 10% happier!)
  2. Mid Class Ticket: Instead of entrance tickets or exit tickets, try a Mid Class ticket!  Students can write down what is happening or any questions that they have.  What a great reflection piece!
  3. Love Letters: Write an encouragement statement to a stranger then post it around school.  This would also be neat to see the target language all over school!
  4. Throwback Thursday: Bring in a picture of yourself from when you were younger and describe it in the target language.  Students bring in photos and describe themselves as well!

I feel like this is a good list to start!  What are your favorite brain breaks to use with students?

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12 thoughts on “Brain Breaks in the Target Language

  1. I love these ideas! They are so creative and useful, and very importantly – fun! My question is a bit more theoretical, and something that I am struggling with. Is it really a brain “break” if it is in the target language? Are we placing a pretty heavy cognitive load on the students simply by only using/asking for the TL, and if so, do these breaks really offer them release? I am genuinely asking the question because I am not sure what best practice with my students is. I should also state that I am working with 1st and 2nd yr students only.

    I’d love hear your feedback!

    1. Hi David, thanks so much for commenting! I think that the purpose of a brain break is to change things up and help your students refocus. I taught beginning students for the past four years. I believe that the TPR type ones (nose/ears), calm down and chair could easily be done in the beginning of the year. The rest I could envision doing with my Spanish II’s from the beginning. However, you could easily do these activities in English if you think that would help your students. Or you could try one in Spanish and one in English the next day and see what was more effective. I would be interested to hear the differences!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and thoughts! I am working my way into using 90% TL in my classes, and I believe that my students could easily do these as a quick change up. I believe that whatever gives a student a change will re-energize their brain. You could easily do these in English though if you prefer!

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