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  • Writer's pictureGreg Graber

Socially Distanced "Brain Breaks" for Students

Some "pandemic brain break" tips for teachers to utilize with students from our outstanding Middle School Counselor at Lausanne Collegiate School, Amanda Pearson:

We know this year is going to be challenging in new ways we haven't had to deal with before now. You are going to have moments in classes that are going to feel especially tough or tense. Here are some social distance friendly brain breaks you can use during classes that will help break the trauma and anxiety that these kids (and you) have been experiencing for many months now.

Trauma manifests not only in changing brain structure, but also in our whole body. The more you can do to move their bodies, the better they are going to feel and perform. If anything, remember to bring a sense of silliness and control for our kids, since we definitely cannot control everything right now.

Quick strategies:

  1. Dance break - Even if they just shake out their bodies or stretch during a one-minute dance break, this can introduce some trauma work and silliness they need. Put on some fun music and join!

  2. Group norms - Allowing kids to set group norms at the beginning of advisory/class if you want. This gives a sense of control and autonomy. Ask each kid to come up with one or do a doodle for one. Refer back to these norms during class when you need a break or having one of those days.

  3. Celebrations/High Fives - Celebrate small victories often. Ask your students to come up with creative "high-fives" that are socially distant. EX: a "raise the roof" motion when a kid gets an answer right. Each kid can pick the celebration they want from the teacher/class.

  4. Heavy work - Heavy work calms the sympathetic nervous system. If a kid needs a break and can't take a walk in the halls, ask them to take a piece of paper in each hand and push them up against the wall as hard as they can. Binder push-ups over heads, etc. Keyword=heavy.

  5. Body scan - Can be done anywhere. Close eyes and scan each body part from top of head to tips of toes to gain awareness of any tension.

  6. Would you rather - If you have a particularly flat/bored/tired class, stand up and do a lightening round would you rather question & make it silly. EX: Would you rather have to walk clucking like a chicken, or always have spaghetti noodles attached to your clothes? Make it as fast as possible so they wake up.

  7. Writing names - If they need to get up and move and be silly, have them write their name with body parts (elbow, head,'s pretty funny to watch)

  8. Mirror me - Put on some music and have your students mirror movements you do. Make it as silly as possible!

  9. Simon Says - You know what to do!

  10. Breath drawing - If kids need to calm down, have them doodle their breaths. Think waves, swirls, squiggles. Put on some calm music or youtube "brown noise" (like white noise, but lower frequency).

Greg Graber, the author of Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, teaches mindfulness and Social & Emotional (SEL) skills to schools, top sports teams, and various organizations around the world. Graber, a frequent keynote speaker, currently serves as the Director of SEL at Lausanne Collegiate School. He may be contacted through his website:

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