Three students working on a project hand-on

Assessment season brings a lot of memories to mind. As a former teacher and assistant principal, I remember the nervous energy that settled into the room as students sat down to take their tests, and I can still feel the fatigue that youth experienced during those very long days. Just think about how exhausting it is for a third-third Expressive sixth grader to sit silently for a 90-minute exam!

For many kids, examinations can be deenergizing, and it’s important that students maintain their momentum, so they perform to the best of their ability. That’s why brain breaks are so useful! They reduce frustration, increase focus and provide coping skills to help students learn to recover and rejuvenate.

If you’re looking for brain break inspiration in the next assessment window, try any of these seven activities.

1. Card Touch

The goal of the activity is for teams to touch numbered cards in order as fast as they can. To set it up, make a boundary in the shape of a circle on the floor, lay out 40 cards numbered 1-40 at random inside the boundary and create teams of four to five kids. Participants must touch the cards in order. Only one body part (hand, leg, etc.) can be inside the circle at any time, and each student must participate.

While teams may arrange themselves however they like around the circle, they cannot rearrange the cards. Give the groups up to three minutes of planning time and ask them to set a target for how fast they think they will go. Then, start your stopwatch (or phone) to time one team at a time.

For each infraction (meaning a card is touched out of sequence or more than one body part is in the circle), add five seconds to the overall time. Afterwards, debrief what went well, whether their goals were realistic and how their behaviors impacted the experience.

Try using Card Touch multiple times during the testing window and challenge teams to keep improving on their time to give youth a fun way to clear their minds and motivate them to persist.

2. Thinking Preference Stations

When anyone feels drained, they can lean into their strengths to recharge their batteries. Finding ways to reset is especially valuable to help students let go after a long exam and get ready for the next one.

Create stations around your classroom that are designed to speak to each of the four Thinking Attributes – Analytical, Structural, Social and Conceptual. Encourage youth to spend their break time engaging in whatever activity is calling to them that day. Most likely, it will be a station that speaks to their STEP Youth Report!

If you’re looking for some ideas to get started, use puzzles for the Analytical Attribute, geometric coloring pages for the Structural Attribute, a good luck card writing table for the Social Attribute and a create your own dance moves station for the Conceptual Attribute.

3. MPA Activity

Another way to re-engage students through their preferences is to have them participate in an exercise with classmates who share their Most Preferred Attributes (MPA). To do this, you will need STEP Youth Reports to assign the groups correctly.

Divide the class based on their Thinking Attributes or their preferred thirds for a Behavioral Attribute. Once you have split them up according to their preferences, encourage them to participate in a random scenario. I recommend doing something silly. For example, you could ask them to describe the best qualities in an imaginary friend.

After five minutes, have the groups share out their thoughts. By connecting with classmates who share similarities, youth can get a break from a testing mindset.

4. M&M’S® Questions

This activity is great because it combines chocolate and STEP – what can be better? Give each student a package of M&M’S and place youth in small groups. As they take out their first blue, green, red or yellow M&M’S, ask them to answer the following questions aligned to the Thinking Attributes:

    • Blue: Share the name of the last good book you read
    • Green: Share the details of something you have been planning
    • Red: Share a story about something fun you did with a friend or family member
    • Yellow: Share something you did that was unique and different

The activity can give kids a glucose boost while also absorbing them in a conversation that will connect to at least one of their Thinking preferences.

5. Zig & Zag

After sitting for an extended period, it’s important to get moving! As you may know, exercise boosts cognitive functioning, which supports academic achievement.

Line up with your students and go for a walk. The first person in line creates a movement that the rest of the group mimics for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, the leader goes to the back of the line and the next kid makes up the action for the class to copy.

When I did this exercise with my class, the moves were all over the place – some students zig-zagged down the hallway. Others did figure eights with their hands. They danced. And, without fail, the activity got my scholars’ minds away from their tests and produced a lot of laughter, which was refreshing on challenging days!

6. Brain Dump

Silently taking an assessment can be tiring – even for youth in the first-third of Expressiveness. Through the Brain Dump exercise, students get the opportunity to say whatever is on their mind for one minute. Then, it’s their partner’s turn.

Using this time to express themselves, youth release stress or any thoughts they are still holding onto from their last assessment. They also create more mental space to support their success in their next exam.

If you have Youth Reports for your class, I recommend grouping kids according to like-Expressiveness. If you do not know your scholars’ preferences, you can pair them up at random or with someone they frequently talk to.

7. Cross the Line

Have youth assemble in a straight line, side-by-side, facing the front of the class. You will say a statement, and if it resonates with a student, they will step forward. Pause for a few moments so kids see who from the class agrees and who does not. Then, have them stand back in line and repeat the process with a new sentence. You can come up with any statement, and here are a few to get started:

    • You often eat dinner with more than just your family members
    • You seek out new adventures
    • You like to research new topics
    • You follow make things step by step
    • You feel scratchy when things move too quickly
    • You feel scratchy when things move too slowly
    • You feel scratchy when you have to talk
    • You feel scratchy when it’s too quiet
    • You like when the schedule changes
    • You like when the schedule stays the same

This activity checks a lot of boxes because it gets youth moving, opens more mental space and allows them to learn about their classmates.

I hope these brain breaks give you some ideas to help students restore their energy and perform at their best during the testing window. By empowering youth to lean into their strengths and discover tools to support their motivation, you can inspire them with important self-regulation skills to encourage perseverance and focus.

If you’d like to learn more about how Emergenetics enhances self-awareness and persistence, explore Celebrate You(th): A Social Emotional Learning Curriculum or fill out the form below to speak with one of our team members today!

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