Brain Breaks!

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The best decision I made last school year was to stop giving out incentives for good behavior, and start giving out brain breaks. I know, I’m pretty late to this party. I’d actually had parents write me notes-“Please, if you don’t mind, can you not give Kaylee any candy? Please?” These notes broke my heart! I try to make healthy choices at home. I run, I do yoga, I buy my dog this crazy expensive dog food that you have to drive to the vet to get and they close at 1 o’clock on Wednesdays, but here I was not reinforcing these healthy choices at school.


(See super expensive food eating dog above.)

So, ok no candy, no more. Easy! But I have been hooked on giving out incentives my whole teaching career! What can I do now? Brain Breaks!

What are these Brain Breaks?

About every 45 minutes, my students take a break from what they are doing and wiggle, laugh, breathe deeply, stretch, yell, jump, or sing! We started small and simple at the beginning of the year with games like “follow the leader” where I’d walk around the classroom like an airplane, then a frog. We sang some silly songs and made up dance moves. I keep a list on the wall by our smart board of our “Brain Break Leaders” (you get to add your name to the bottom of the list for making an awesome choice- our one incentive!) I’d pick a brain break leader and let them teach us their Tae Kwan Do moves (carefully!) Or we’d use any of the awesome videos on

How does this help classroom management?

Sitting still is not a natural state for children, especially younger ones like my second graders. The knowledge that they were going to get a break soon and a chance to wiggle and be silly keeps them focused just a bit longer. But you have to be consistent and you can’t keep telling them, “We’ll take a break in 5 minutes.” My students knew when brain breaks were coming and sometimes we had to stop what we were doing to take this opportunity to refocus.

But There Isn’t Enough Time and They’ll Just Lose Control!

There’s really no wrong way to hold a brain break as long as you set very clear expectations before hand. Picture what would happen if you asked children to stretch (by far the least scary of the things on my list above) without giving any directions first. “Ok let’s all stretch our arms wide and breathe deeply… whoa! Whoa! Hands in your bubble! Sarah you ok?! ALRIGHT hands back down! Hands back down!”

On the very first day of school, I rolled out the brain break expectations.

  1. You must stay in the brain break area (which is a big, safe area of our classroom.)
  2. You must move your body with enough control that no one gets hurt.
  3. As soon as the brain break is over I will say our class quiet signal and that’s your cue to sit down right where you are and put your eyes on me (now they’re ready to listen!)
  4. No begging for certain brain breaks and no whining about which brain break we’re doing!

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Get a FREE brain break expectations poster here!

That last rule is the headache saver! You can do so many different types of brain breaks, including the amazing videos at, but if everyone is jumping in your face yelling, “Disco Brain! Disco Brain!” then brain breaks are going to be too much of a disruption and you won’t want to do them.

At the beginning of the year, each time we come to our front carpet to do a brain break, we go quickly through these 4 expectations. Any of my students can tell you these rules- especially if they get to say them in a funny voice. “Who can tell me our brain break expectations like Cookie Monster?”

The truly hard part is enforcing those four expectations every time. Every time. Even when Alice’s mom, who is also the music teacher, walks in and it’s Alice who is disco dancing so violently that Kendra gets poked in the eye. If students aren’t following our brain break rules I say very calmly, “I’m sorry Alice, but you’re not moving safely, so you need to sit in your seat.” With most groups of students, you’ll only have to do this every once in awhile to show that these expectations are important.

Why are Brain Breaks so Great?

Here are the results I found after a year of having my students take brain breaks every 45 minutes:

  • We got more done!

I was not constantly having to ask for students to listen or stay focused. When I saw that a lot of the students were having trouble paying attention, we took our brain break earlier and I got them all back on task! Sometimes I even made a smaller lesson into a brain break between bigger lessons! For example, when we were studying how to make words plural by adding “s” or “es”, I wrote a bunch of nouns on index cards. I split the class into teams and had them line up in two lines and run back and forth to buckets labeled “s” and “es.” I stood in the back of the room handing out new cards and each child got to run at least twice. Then we all sat around the buckets to see if we had sorted the words correctly.

“Uh oh, dish ended up in the “s” bucket! Where should it be?”

“The “es” bucket! Dishes!”

  • We were calmer, happier, and more focused!

The students loved taking brain breaks and therefore worked hard to earn that privilege! Taking these breaks also gave students the chance to get their wiggles out, be loud, jump, etc! All the things that kids love AND NEED to do.

  • No one missed earning candy, prizes, or gold stars!

Occasionally, a student would ask me, “Why don’t we get lollipops like Mrs. H’s class?” All I had to say was, “Because our class is so well behaved that we get to take brain breaks!” I also had parents thank me for adding exercise into our day!

  • I had more energy and focus too!

I like to participate in the brain breaks with my students. They think it is hilarious to watch me learn the dances or be a rocket ship and when the break is over I get their focus back right away (and stronger than before!) Getting up and moving around every 45 minutes is good for the teacher too! More energy = more patience! Plus you can get more steps on your Fitbit… but really it’s for the kids. 🙂

If you haven’t tried using brain breaks in your classroom, then I highly recommend it! If you tried it last year and it didn’t work, then try it again with clear expectations from the first day of school. It is a fun and healthy way to enhance your students’ focus and encourage good choices. Message me here with questions or email me at 🙂

brain break picture

My Super Classroom!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a fabulous classroom! Motivate your students to learn with  an exciting Super Hero classroom theme!

Why Super Heroes?

Several years ago, the school where I worked, did a whole school Super Hero theme. That awesome school did a different them each year, but the super hero theme was my favorite because it is loved by students and parents alike. Super Heroes are risk-takers who fight for the greater good! They persevere through challenges, help those in need, and always strive to do their best! Aren’t these the character traits we hope to inspire in our own students? As a bonus, super hero movies are very popular right now and their decorations are easy to find and create.

Get back to school super hero resources here!

Below you will find some examples of the super hero theme in action!

This is my “Super Second Graders” bulletin board from this past year. I used super hero clip art that I found here and added each students’ name. I created a city skyline using black paper in front of a navy blue paper that already had stars printed on it, but you can create this same effect using glitter or cut out stars!


Here are some pieces of the board before it was put together. Pablo helped me print and laminate all of the clip art. Once it was time to take the “Back to School” board down, I put the super students up in the classroom and displayed the students’ work under their names.Slide2

To create large super heroes for my reading nook I projected pictures of Wonder Woman, The Hulk, and Spider Man onto the big screen in my classroom. I then hung up large white sheets of bulletin board paper and traced the images. It works best if you project simple images of the characters. If you google “Wonder Woman coloring sheets”, then you’ll get an easy to trace black and white image. Later, I colored the characters in and laminated them. I made these in 2009 and here they are on the walls of my 2014-2015 classroom! Woohoo working smarter not harder!


I used my reading nook bulletin board to display my “Super Hero All About Me Books!” The students created these during the first days of school and then again at the end of the year. When I sent home both copies the parents loved seeing how much their child’s writing had progressed from the start of the year. I’ve had my second and third graders create these books and they love them!



If you are looking for super hero resources to use in your classroom click here!


The first time I meet my students I like to give them a little something that let’s them know how excited I am that they are in my class! These super hero goodie bags are easy and inexpensive to create. You can find the goodie bag tags here and fill them up with party favors!


I love using Creatives Clips Clip Art to make everything match the super hero theme!

Below are some examples of hallway decorations! Don’t be afraid to get creative! Black paper and white chalk make an easy city background!

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We love Reviewing Math Skills!

This week we decided that each day after our math lesson, we wanted to have a lot of new math centers that review the concepts we’ve learned this year! The Busy Class and K-5 Math Teaching Resources came to rescue Mrs. Felter and give her some great ideas! We set up new expectations for our math center time. Here are the rules we established:

Expectations for Math Centers

  1. Have a positive attitude about centers and partners.
  2. Read the directions before asking for help!
  3. Stay focused the whole time.
  4. Organize your materials and clean up when you’re done.
  5. All done? Clean up & find Mrs. F for a new center!

With these new expectations, that we created ourselves, we are having a fabulous time! Here we are hard at work.Busy Class Centers 3Busy Class CentersBusy Class Centers 5 Busy Class Center 2   Busy Class Centers 4

What’s Going on in Our World?

Let’s get back into studying current events! Choose an article below, from my favorite website, and use your nonfiction reading skills to attack the text! Are you hunting for facts? Are you thinking about time and place? Are you thinking about how this might change the world?

A Great Math Week!

We are about to have a fabulous week of math centers! I have been hard at work preparing fun ways for our class to review for the End of Grade test! This week you’ll have opportunities to practice adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, working with time and money, graphing, area and perimeter, geometry, and more! All of our centers will include games and partners to help you stay engaged in your learning! So get your math journal and a pencil and get ready to have some fun! 

Awesome Centers from the Busy Class on TpT

Pablo really likes the telling time game!pablo plays math ceners by The Busy ClassWe send a big thank you to The Busy Class and K-5 Math Teaching Resources for creating such awesome centers for us!

Also, I found a rhombus on Pablo’s head! Crazy!

Pablo has a rhombus!

Learning Comes Alive!

What a wonderful surprise I had when I looked out our classroom’s window yesterday! I spied some familiar looking, hard working botanists! Mr. Bar, our science expert, helped our class plant sunflower, marigold, and corn seeds in our school garden.They used shovels to dig holes in the garden. The students also learned about not digging too deep, so that the plants are able to grow and survive. If you dig too deep the plant can’t grow because it isn’t getting enough energy from the sun. Mr. Bar also explained that when you plant the seeds in the ground you can’t pat the dirt down too hard or too tight because the stem can’t get out of the soil! After planting the seeds, they watered the ground. They learned that plants need the exact right amount of sun, water, and soil to grow. Too much of any one thing can cause the plant not to grow!

Garden Garden 2 Garden 3 Garden 4

Click here for a wonderful plant website! Learn about seed growth, parts of a flower, seed dispersal, and plant identification.

Education = Job Choice!

The more education you receive the more choice you have about your future job, and how much money you will make! The jobs that our class gets the most excited about, like being veterinarians, working with computers, or being a teacher, all require 4 years in college or more! Some people, who finish school, even get to make up their own jobs. Peter Rork, is one of these people! Read about his cool job here!

Young Entrepreneurs here in Charlotte!

Hornets Nest Elementary, has three young entrepreneurs who are making a big difference at their school! Aiden, Joel and Logan have planted a “Helping Fields” garden, where students can pick fresh vegetables to eat over the weekend.  They have entered their helpful idea in a contest held buy United States entrepreneur Warren Buffet. These eight and nine year olds have made it to the final three in the contest! Cast your votes for these smart kids before midnight to help them win the grand prize!

VOTE HERE:  and vote for Choice #1, Helping Fields


Click here to see the boys on the news! 

It’s Chrysalis Time!

Yesterday, I snapped a quick picture of our caterpillar, Pablo Jr. It looked to me that he was getting ready to begin making his chrysalis. Today when I got to school, he was already in his chrysalis preparing to turn into a butterfly! I apologize for the bad pictures, but I didn’t want to move him while he was in metamorphosis!

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Below, you can see the metamorphosis process sped up! Today, we will be reading and exploring how caterpillars, like Pablo Jr., make this big change!