Saturday, September 19, 2015

Brain Breaks {Not the GoNoodle Kind}

Hey!!  There is life on the other side of this computer - I AM here!

I got a lovely message from my dear friend Patty over at 2nd In Line telling me that a teacher in her district had sent out an email referring them to my blog to read about how GREAT they are!  If you read that post you'll see that it has been quite a while since I last blogged. 

No excuses.  Just life.

That little bit of happy, from Patty,  motivated me to get back to it...

So, here I am!

Well, I hope with this new school year, you've been able to hold on to those good feelings you gathered over the summer months - relaxing, pinning, blogging, Periscoping {don't know what that is - check it out here}, and all those other things us teachers do during those glorious long summer days.

I know it can take one staff meeting and you feel like the weight of the world is back on your shoulders.  I CANNOT urge you enough to hop on social media.  Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, {outside of Instagram, that's my personal favorite - google it!} to help you focus on the POSITIVES in our profession.  I swear to you, I don't know if I would still be teaching if it weren't for the positive energy I glean from all my online teacher friends/colleagues.

But, that's not why I'm here...

I wanted to share a magical part of our day.  Magical in the quiet, non-academic sort of way.

I pride myself on classroom management. It is one area that I can say, with a smile on my face and 100 percent confidence, that I rock the house.

Think about right after recess.  What does your classroom sound like?  Do tattles abound {even though it has already been handled on the playground by an adult}?  Do the acceptable noise levels of a school playground follow your students into your classroom?  Do you hear yourself saying "quiet down boys and girls, QUIET DOWN - you are NOT outside anymore, you are in a classroom", over and over?  Does it take, what seems like forever, for them to calm themselves down and get ready for the rest of the day?

I don't have that problem.  EVER.
{disclaimer: full moons, party days, random "what on earth" days excluded}

Okay, at first I do.  Like, say, for the first few days of school - but with lots of practice and training, I don't; and here's why:

That's one of our schedule cards that hangs on our agenda each day.  You can pick my schedule cards up {here}for free. It's almost just that simple.

Name it.

That's what I did, I named it.  I gave that time of day an official name - like math, science, social studies {all have clear expectations} we have "brain break" with lots of expectations that we practice over and over and over.

I tell my first graders that the minute their first foot walks through the door, their voices turn off, and they sit down, drink from their water bottles, take their turn to use the restroom, and focus on their breathing.  Some put their heads down, some stare off into space, some find an object to focus on and "smell the soup, cool it down" {how we slow our breathing down}.  

And the lights?  Make sure they are all off! {I spray some cinnamon air freshener right before they come into the classroom.  I'm not sure if cinnamon is an official calming smell - but I like it - it calms me I like to think "happy teacher, happy classroom".}

The whole first part of the brain break I speak calmly and quietly - reminding them of what they should be doing.  I sound so calm...I want to fall asleep. All the while, I'm reminding them that their engines were running really fast outside but now that they are inside they want to slow them down by slowing down their breathing, drinking water, etc.  First graders need to be taught HOW to calm themselves down.  Every single day I go over some techniques for how to go about doing that.

It's magical.

I still have little ones who try to come up to me about a recess problem and I'll quickly {and ever so quietly} say "Did you tell a noon-aide" and if they did - I quietly motion them back to their seats.  Soon, they realize they can't come into the classroom with a tattle/recess problem.  I am always sure to ask if they told an adult outside - because I don't want to dismiss something serious that is happening outside that may deserve some attention.

Naming this time, setting the expectations for this time, practicing the right way and stopping them when it's the wrong way has made a world of difference.

Our afternoons aren't perfect...but after taking the time to calm ourselves and get our bodies ready for an afternoon of serious learning - they are better.

And then there's always GoNoodle...

...for after science

...and math

...and social studies



  1. Super love this. I have been wanting to incorporate Brain Breaks (like you describe), but didn't include it into the schedule. I most certainly will on Monday! Thanks for sharing how you do it.

    1. Hi Alyce,
      There's just something powerful in naming that time...glad you stopped by!

      Holly :)

  2. I like "smell the soup, cool it down." I feel calmer about things just reading this post. :)

    1. Ha, Tammy!

      Smell the soup....coooooooool it down.....smellllll the soup, cool it downnnnnnn.

  3. At one of my brain based learning Kagan workshops, Dr. Kagan highly advocates "quiet time." It is amazing the studies that have shown how powerful it is in calming kids' brains! We do it every afternoon before we transition to math. <3

    1. Hey Lady!

      I tell my first graders that we may not have nap time but this is as close as we are gonna get and we will do it EVERY day. It only lasts about 10 minutes - but it does wonders for everybody!

  4. This is great...makes me want to come down to your room after lunch recess and soak up the cinnamon smells and cool my soup!

    1. HA - you can cool your soup with us - anytime!

  5. Thanks for the reminder~ I used to do this but I got away from it...time to put it back in my day! I think we will begin on Monday, just need a different scent as cinnamon triggers my asthma. Thanks for the great reminder. Miss your smiling face my friend!

    1. Hi Carolyn!

      Get back into it - you won't regret it! But don't do anything to trigger that asthma - I don't want to be the cause of that! HA!

  6. Hey! That's another great post! And it's one I'm going to share this time! Thanks for the shout out! I love you and your ideas too.

    1. Hey Lovely Lady!

      I can't thank you enough for sharing that your colleagues were drawn to my last blog post - it really meant the world to me and inspired me to continue on with this journey! HUGS to you, sweetheart!

  7. Brain breaks are important for the older kids too! I start each class with my middle schoolers writing down the agenda, checking it in with me (for attendance and a chance for me to "see" & "speak" to every kid, every day) and then we all do PACE from Brain Gym. Drink water, brain buttons, cross crawl & hook-ups. So important for them to start with this, especially if they are transitioning from a class that didn't allow movement. Once we finish hook-ups (lights off, focused breathing, soft music) they are ready to start the period and are way more focused!

  8. Hi Shauna,
    I'm so happy to hear that you use brain gym/breaks with your middle school kiddos. People of all ages need them - right?! ;)

    If you search my blog for "Brain Gym" I have a poster that helps kiddos "find their pace".

    Thanks for sharing!


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