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Brain Breaks

Brain breaks are a great way to re-energize tired students. They are very easy and simple, and there are hundreds of variations to be found on the web for free. They are great for breaking up class stages and keeping the class interested and focused.They are particularly popular with young learners and a great opportunity to practice Total Physical Response.

Here are a few that I use in class.

Figure of 8

Tell your students to do the following actions:

  • Draw a figure eight in the air with your writing hand. Repeat this five times.
  • Now do the same with the opposite hand.
  • Now try with both hands at the same time.
Elbow 8’s
  • As above try the same with your elbows.
Alphabet brain work out
  •  Have the alphabet written around the room with letters L, R or T under each letter.
  •  This can be done on cards or on an electronic whiteboard.
  •  You then say a word to do with your subject and read it a letter at a time.
  •  Students then have to look at the chart and move their arms or / and legs according to the letter next to the alphabet letter.
Total physical repsonse Brain breaks for the ESL class room. Alphabet brain work out chart

1. Read through A to Z and then Z to A getting students to move arms and legs as directed on the grid.

2. When starting with keywords read out keywords with few letters increasing to longer words and get
them to move arms and legs as directed on the grid. For example – car, science etc

You can vary the grid above with different actions to make the activity more physical and active. Another example of how you can modify the task is shown below which involves clapping, jumping and hopping.

If you found this post interesting you may be interested in “creating curiosity in the classroom” and “boredom busters”

Boredom buster

Fun and easy ESL game This activity is always a great way to give ESL students a break from the book and liven them up if they are falling asleep or even bored! There are many different five minute games you can use with a ball. Here I’ll be talking about one in particular that is a great activity for practicing lexical sets of vocabulary.

Activity Time:  2-5 minutes a round
Materials required: A soft ball
Number of students: More than two
Skills practiced: Listening, speaking and Vocabulary.
Level: All levels


A simple game I play is “Bomb”. When introducing this game for the first time I usually show the class the ball and ask them “what is it?” they of course respond that it is a ball and then I tell them “No it is a bomb!” I divide the class into two groups or more depending on the class size. I put 2 minutes or more on a timer. Then I give them a category such as animals for young learners and when they get the ball they have to say an animal and pass the ball to the other team. No words can be repeated. So they have to keep the ball until they answer. They have to keep the ball away from their team because when the timer runs out, whatever team is holding the bomb loses the point.

Category suggestions:  

Young learners:
Items in the classroom
Buildings (i.e Bank, Cinema etc)
Jobs (Teacher, policeman etc)
Fruit Etc

Things small enough to fit in a matchbox
Things you would find in a car
Things you would find in the newspaper
Adjectives, verbs and nouns asked randomly by the teacher.
Things you would find in a sports centre etc

With this game you can cover any area of the ESL course book or any random things to make them think. This game is always enjoyed by all ages and a great way to develop quick thinking in English.