Thursday, January 31, 2013


Just a few more brain breaks that you can add to your bag of tricks!

White Hanky – Throw a white hanky or tissue in the air.  Children get to jump around and act crazy until it hits the ground.  Then they must freeze.

Turn on Your Brain - Help children focus and get ready to learn by turning on their brains each morning:
Turn on the right side of your brain.  (Pretend to turn on right side.)
Turn on the left side.  (Pretend to turn on left side.)
Turn on your right eye.  Turn on your left eye.
Turn on your right ear.  Turn on your left ear.
You don’t need to turn on your mouth because it’s always “on.”
Now you’re ready to learn!

Jump!  Have children stand.  Tell them to jump as long as they can.  When they get tired they can sit back in their seats. 
*You can also say traditional jump rope rhymes as students jump.
Marching - Children can get an amazing amount of exercise simply by standing and marching in place.  Put on a marching band and here you go!
*Power march by swinging arms up and down as you lift your knees high.
*March slow and then march fast.
*March in a circle and then turn around and march in the opposite direction.
*March like a toy soldier with stiff arms and legs.
*Lift opposite sides of your body as you march.  For example, left knee and right arm in the air.  Lift right knee as you extend your left arm in the air.
*March high and then march down low.  March on tippy toes.
*Make big circles with your arms as you march.

Shake Down – Shake right hand five times as you count.  Shake left hand 5 times.  Right foot 5 times.  Left foot 5 times.  Then shake each limb 4 times…3 times…2 times…1 time.  End by saying, “Oh, yeah!”

Toe Writing - Cross right leg over left and write the letters of the alphabet with your right foot.  Then cross your left foot over your right and write the letters backwards!

Calisthenics - Get oxygen going to the brain by doing jumping jacks, windmills, squats, waist bends, scissor kicks, and other exercises.

Wave - To do the WAVE, ask children to look at you.  Explain that when you point to them, they stand up, wave their arms in the air, and then sit down.

Going Crazy – (“Better Bodies and Brains” CD)
Begin by crossing your right leg over your left knee.  Place your right elbow on your knee and prop your chin in that palm.  Sing the song below to the tune of “Reuben, Reuben, I’ve Been Thinking.”
I am slowly going crazy. 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – switch.
(On the word “switch,” switch positions by crossing your left leg on your 
right knee and placing your left elbow on your knee.)
Crazy going slowly am I.  6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – switch.
*Continue singing the song faster as you change positions every time you sing the word “switch.”

Games - Play “Simon Says,” “Copy Cat,” or group games.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Today you’ll find are some simple props your students can use for brain breaks.  I’d make one each week and use it every day for a different movement.

Streamers  - Staple strips of tissue paper (18” x 1”) to a straw and invite children to follow along as you make cross lateral movements to music.
*Make rainbows across your head with your right hand and then your left hand. 
*Make big circles in front of your body with your right hand and then your left hand.
*Make “lazy” eights (8 on it’s side) with your right hand and then your left hand.
*Clasp hands and make rainbows, circles, and lazy eights.
Hint!  Children can also use surveying tape of 3’ sections of toilet paper as streatmers.

Paper Ball Juggling - Begin by having children wad up a piece of scrap paper.  
*Can they toss it and catch it? 
*Can they play catch with a friend? 
*Can they toss it, clap, and then catch it? 
*How many times can they toss it without dropping it? 
*Can they toss it from the right hand to the left and vice versa.
*Add a second paper ball and let the fun begin!
Hint!  You can make inexpensive juggling scarves by cutting net fabric into 12” squares.

Paper Plates – Give each child two paper plates. 
*Can they clap them to the beat, make rainbows, use them like cymbals, or make other movements?
*Place the plates on the floor and put a foot on each plate.  Now you’re ready to skate by sliding your feet.

Drum Sticks -  Who doesn’t want to be a drummer?  Children can use cardboard rollers from paper towel rolls, popsicle sticks, or pencils like drumsticks to tap the beat of the music. 
*Make pattern cards for children to follow along.  Vertical lines mean tap the sticks on the table or floor.  “X” means to cross sticks and tap.  __ means to hold sticks up and pause.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Use your finger like a magic wand as you wave it and say, "Abracadabra!."  Explain that when you say a word, they must become the word.   When you say, "Freeze!" they need to stand still until you wave your wand and say another word.  For example, "Abracadabra!  You're frogs!"

Call out different animals for children to imitate.
Frog – Jump up and down.
Bird – Flap arms.
Mouse – Tip toe.
Horse – Gallop in place.
Monkey – Scratch under arms and bounce up and down.
Giraffe – Stretch arms high in the air and walk on toes.
Elephant – Arms together and swing like a trunk as you bend over.
Flamingo – Stand on one foot and balance.
Snake – Wiggle up and down.

Hint!  Glue pictures to cards and hold them up for the younger children.  Write words on flash cards for the older students.

Use holiday or seasonal symbols to stimulate children’s brains and imaginations.

Scarecrow – Children flop arms around.
Bat – Flap arms.
Cat – Arch back and meow.
Pumpkin – Arms around head.
Spider, witch, Frankenstein, etc.

Reinforce vocabulary words by having children dramatize their meaning.

Seed – Bend down.
Roots – Stick out legs.
Stem – Stand up straight.
Leaves – Stretch out arms.
Flower – Arms around head as you smile.

Call out adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and verbs for children to dramatize.

Anxious, Brave, Curious
Slowly, Quickly, Angrily
Fire Fighter, Nurse, Chef
Chatter, Build, Sleep, Exercise
 *Creativity can really blossom with this activity because there's no right or wrong way to do it.

Monday, January 28, 2013


First, everyone will need a buddy.  “Elbow partners” where children stick out their elbow and the person’s elbow they touch is a quick way to do this.  You could also quickly number your students 1-12 and then 1-12 (depending on the number in your class).  Ones get together, twos, threes, and so forth.

Patty Cake - Have children play hand clap games, such as “Miss Mary Mack” or “Say, Say My Playmate.”  (You can find lots of these online.) Children face a partner and clap their hands together. Next, clap right hand to partner’s right hand.   Clap hands together and then clap left hand to partner’s left hand.  Continue the pattern.
He learned to tie his shoe.
*Patty cake and count to 10, 20, 50, 100 or more!
*Skip count by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s etc. as you patty cake.
*Patty cake spelling words or word wall words
*Say nursery rhymes or other poems as you patty cake with a partner.
*Say ABC’s saying letter and making then making the sound.

Ride that Pony (“Is Everybody Happy?” CD)
Ride, ride, ride that pony,                    (Face partner and begin clapping
Get up and ride that big, black pony.      to the beat.  Bounce up and down 
Ride, ride, ride that pony.                      as if riding on a pony.)
This is what they told me.
Front, front, front, my baby.               (Clap hands up in the air with partner.)
Side, to side, to side, my baby.            (Gently bump hips on the side.)
Back, back, back, my baby,                  (Turn around and bump back sides.)
This is what they told me.                  (Find a new partner.)

Spider Challenge – Children sing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as they make the motions on a partner’s back.  Next, have children stand next to their partner and extend their inside arms around their partner’s waist.  Each child will use her outside arm to sing the song and cooperate with their partner.

Back to Back – Children touch backs with a partner.  The children continue to touch various body parts as the teacher calls them out.  End with, “Bottoms to chairs.”

Head, Shoulders – Slowly sing the song as children face their partner and gently touch their partner’s body parts.  (You might need to demonstrate the meaning of “gently”!)
*Just for fun have partners put their backs to each other and touch body parts.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I knew that title would get your attention!  Actually, today’s ideas are ways to help children calm down and relax when they are over excited.

Balancing Act – Ask children to stand.  How long can they balance on their right foot?  How long can they balance on their left foot?  Can they balance on their right toes?  Left toes?  Can they balance on their right foot and extend their left leg in the air?   Can they balance on one foot with their eyes closed?
Hint!  Classical music is lovely for balancing activities.

Deep Breathing – Inhale slowly as you count to 8.  Exhale slowly as you count backwards from 8 to 1.  Breath in hot chocolate.  Breath out and blow the candles out on a birthday cake.        

Vacation – Tell your class to give their mouth and their eyes a “vacation” by closing their eyes and mouths.   Next, ask them to practice breathing through their noses.  You’ll be amazed at how this brings down their energy level and helps them focus.

Lip Sinc – Make motions as you mouth the words to finger plays and songs.  Invite children to join you when they recognize what you are doing.

“Eye” Exercise - Demonstrate how to hold your two index fingers a few inches from your eyes on either side of your head.  Look at the right index finger with both eyes and then look at the left index finger.

Tighten~Relax – Tighten up your body as tight as you can and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.  Then relax and let it all go.  Repeat several times.
*Starting with the toes, call out one body part at a time for children to squeeze and then relax.  For example, toes, feet, knees, legs, hips, back, fingers, arms, shoulders, necks, faces, and then a whole body SQUEEZE!

Rag Dolls and Soldiers – When the teacher calls out “rag dolls” everyone flops over like a rag doll.  When the teacher says, “soldiers,” everyone stands up tall and stiff.  Continue calling out “rag dolls” and “soldiers” faster and faster.

Make Rain - Ask the children to do what you do and they’ll get a surprise!
Tap right index finger to your left palm 10 times.
Tap right index finger and middle finger to your left palm 10 times.
Tap right index, middle, and ring finger to your left palm 10 times.
Tap right index, middle, ring, and pinky finger to your left palm 10 times.
Clap hands 10 times.
Clap hands and stomp feet 10 times.
(Reverse movements)
Place hands quietly in your lap and smile.

Criss Cross Applesauce – Do this on each other’s backs:
Cross cross,                           (Make an “x” on back.)
Applesauce,                           (Wiggle fingers down back.)
Spiders crawling up your back. (Crawl fingers up back.)
Warm breeze.                  (Gently blow on neck.)
Gentle squeeze.                  (Hug from behind.)
Now you’ve got the         shiveries!  (Tickle fingers down back.)
Hint!  Have children stand in a circle and face right.  That way they will each have a back to write on.

Plant a Garden – Do on each other’s backs:
Dig up the dirt.                  (Knead back with fingers.)
Rake the ground.                  (Stroke down with fingertips.)
Dig holes for the seeds.         (Pretend to dig holes with index finger.)
Cover up the seeds.         (Finger covers up seeds.)
Pat the dirt down.                  (Pat back with both hands.)
Here comes the rain.       (Lightly touch the back with fingertips.)
Up come the plants.         (Make upward movement with hands.)
Then you pick, pick, pick.  (Pretend to pick plants.)
Note!  If children are sensitive and don’t want to participate you should respect their decision.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Oh, my!  I just looked at the calendar and I realized Groundhog Day is just a week away.  I better “pause” my brain break blogs and give you some ideas for next week.  Although Groundhog Day will actually fall on a Saturday this year, I’m sure you’ll want to incorporate some of these activities in your plans.

Groundhog Day – February 2nd
(Tune:  “Say, Say, My Playmate”)

February 2nd,                           (Hold up 2 fingers.)
Is Groundhog Day.
Gather round his hole                (Make circular motion.)
To hear what he’ll say.               (Place hand by ear.)
Will spring be early
Or late this year?
Watch and listen
To what you’ll hear.

If he sticks his head out            (Make a hole with one hand.)
On a sunny day                           (Stick the index finger from the other hand
His shadow will frighten him        up through the hole and wiggle.)
And he will say,
“I’ll go back in my hole                 (Tuck finger in your fist.)
And go back to sleep.
You’ll have winter
For six more weeks.”

If he sticks his head out      (Make a hole with fist and stick up finger.)
On a cloudy day                          
He’s not frightened
So he will say,                           (Wiggle finger.)
“I think I’ll stay out
And the weather should clear.
Spring will be here
Early this year.”
*You can download this book at February, 2007.
Cup Puppet – Let children draw a groundhog or download one off the internet.  Staple to a straw.  Punch a hole in the bottom of a paper cup and insert the straw in the cup.  Raise and lower the groundhog as appropriate in the song.
Sidewalk Shadows – Go outside on a sunny day and have children stand with their backs to the sun.  Let them make silly motions and play “Guess what I am?”  Give them chalk and let them trace around each other’s shadows.
Draw shadows at 10, 12, and 2 and compare.

Where’s the Groundhog? – Cut twenty 4” squares out of heavy paper.  Write high frequency words, math facts, letters, etc. on the cards.  Make a copy of the attached groundhog.  Have the children sit on the floor in a circle.  Mix up the cards and place them face up on the floor.  Identify the word (etc.) on each card as you place it down on the floor.  Tell the children to turn around.  Hide the groundhog under one of the squares.  Children turn back
around and try and guess where the groundhog is hiding.  One at a time children call out a word and then “peek” to see if the groundhog is under it.  The first child to find the groundhog gets to have a turn hiding it.  The game continues as children hide the groundhog and then try to discover his whereabouts.

Dramatize - Invite children to dramatize the groundhog peeping out of his hole.   What if it's sunny?  What if it's cloudy?

Note!  Visit for some great ideas!

Friday, January 25, 2013


By acting out various sports your students can oxygenate their brains and cross the midline.  I’m sure your class can add to this list.  (Send me an email with their suggestions and I’ll post it on my blog.)
*Model how to do each sport and then “practice” for a minute or two.  Once students know the movements you can play a game where you name different sports and they have to switch motions.

Baseball – Pick up the ball and throw it.  Bat the ball.

Football – Feet apart and run quickly in place with arms out in front of you.

Soccer – Kick across your body with your right foot and then kick across with your left foot.

Tennis – Shuffle in place and pretend to hit the ball with your right hand.  Shuffle and pretend to hit the ball with your left hand.

Golf – Golfer’s stance.  Swing and hit.  Turn in the opposite direction and swing and hit.

Basketball – Dribble, dribble, shoot!  (Jump up on toes.)

Karate – Feet spread apart with knees bent.  Pretend to chop with your right hand and then chop with your left hand.

Skiing – Knees together and bend to the left as you swing your arms.  Knees to the right as you swing your arms.

Ice Skating – Alternate arms in front as you pretend to glide on different legs.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


“Dance with the stars” in your room and activate the brain at the same time.  All you need is some good music and a little enthusiasm. 
Hint!  Model these moves and then invite children to join in. 
*Children can do these standing up or sitting in their chairs.

Disco Dance – Put right index finger in the air and point to the left.  Bring right index finger down by your side.  Place left index finger in the air and point to the right.  Then bring down by your side.

Swim - Pretend to swim by stroking arms.  Can you backstroke?  Sidestroke?

Funky Monkey - Fists out in front and move them up and down to the beat.

Hitchhike - Right thumb up and move across your body.  Left thumb and move across the body.

Twist - Elbows by waist and rotate upper body.

Chicken - Hands in armpits and flap like wings.

Pony – Pretend to hold reins as you bounce up and down.

Batman – Make “v” with index and middle fingers and swoop them across your eyes.

Salsa - Left arm bent with index finger up in the air.  Right arm bent with finger in air.

Bollywood – Right palm up in the air like you’re screwing in a light bulb.  Left palm down like you’re turning on a water spicket.

This has to be one of my all time favorite brain breaks!

Hand Jive – Put on a Broadway tune, country music, rock and roll, and…
Slap thighs four times
Clap hands four times
Shuffle right palm over left palm four times
Shuffle left palm over right palm four times
Thump right fist on left fist four times
Thump left fist on right fist four times
Reach up and pretend to grab something in the air with your right hand.
Put it in your left palm.
Smash it with your right hand.
Open your left palm and pretend to blow it in the wind.

*Ask students what they picked in the air and shared with their friends.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Would you like to pick some peppers or put the fire out?  Try leading the class in one of these movements today between your small groups.

Picking Peppers – Stand with feet stretched.  Bend to the left and pretend to pull something beyond your left foot with your right hand.  Stand.  Bend to the right and pretend to pull something with your left hand.
*Pick apples or oranges by stretching up in the air from left to right.

Put the Fire Out – Pretend to get a pail and scoop up water on the floor by your right foot.  Throw that pail of water over your left shoulder.  After ten times in this direction scoop water from the left and throw it over your right shoulder.

Shopping – Pretend to steer a grocery cart and then reach to the left with your right hand and take something off the shelf and put it in your cart.  Reach with the left hand to the right and put something in the cart.

Chop Wood - Hands together as if holding an ax.  Place hands on your right shoulder and then cross over your body to your left foot as you pretend to chop wood.  Place hands on the left shoulder and then chop to the right foot.

Car Wash - Extend arms loosely to your sides and then move your body back and forth as you swing your arms around.

Climbing – Act like you are climbing a ladder as you reach up with your right hand and lift your left knee.  Reach with your left hand and lift your right knee.

More?  Challenge your students to come up with other movements that require crossing the midline.  One at a time they can play follow the leader as classmates mimic their actions.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


My husband and I will be on vacation the next week, but I’ve created some special ideas for you each day while I’m gone!

“Neurobics” is a term that refers to brain exercises or activities that can improve students’ learning. Although you can’t get inside your students’ heads and shake up their brains, these activities can help make your students’ brains more alert.  You can use these brain breaks to start your day, between lessons, or whenever your students appear bored or restless. These ideas can also be adapted for those winter days when you can’t get outside.

Introduce one activity at a time and observe how your class responds.  Write those they like on a poster or put them on index cards and store them in a “brain break” can.  Encourage students to choose their favorites and lead the class.

These are some great websites where you can find additional activities:                           


Draw a line vertically down the middle of your body.  That’s called the midline.  Every time you cross over that line, you are helping connect the hemispheres in the brain.  Let students put a piece of painter’s tape or masking tape on their midline to increase their awareness when you do these activities.  Put on some lively music and practice these movements for about 30 seconds each.  (My Raggedy Ann doll that I made over 50 years ago agreed to be my model for the masking tape midline!)

Simple Tap - Touch right hand to left knee and left hand to right knee.

Bend and Stretch - Lift left knee and touch with right elbow.  Lift right knee and touch with left elbow.

Backwards Touch - Lift left foot behind you and stretch back with right hand and touch.  Reverse for the right foot and left hand.

Windmills – Stretch out feet.  Touch right hand to left foot.  Stand.  Touch left hand to right foot.

Here are stars, pats, and hugs that students can do in their chairs or while sitting on the rug to make those brain connections.

Catch a Star –Reach with right hand up in the air to your left and pretend to catch a star.  Then reach with your left hand up in the air to your right and catch a star.

Pat on the Back – Alternate patting the back of your left shoulder with your right hand and your right shoulder with your left hand.

Nose and Ears – Touch right ear with left hand and place right hand on your nose.  Touch left ear with right hand and place left hand on your nose.

Brain Hug
Thumbs up.  Thumbs down.  Cross your arms.  Clasp your fingers.        
Bring your hands under and into your chest.   Give yourself a hug.
I was ready to help the Falcons play football Sunday with my vintage leather helmet.  Our son's dogs (Blossom, Hattie, and Lily) were decked out in their Falcon's jerseys.  The great thing about sports is there's always next year!!!

Monday, January 21, 2013


In honor of Dr. King, just take a minute to thank him and the other civil rights pioneers for bringing down the racial barriers and reminding us that the world needs to hold hands, stick together, and be friends just like in kindergarten! 

Thinking about peace and love reminded me of a morning mantra a teacher in Ohio shared with me years ago.  What a great way to start each day this coming week!

Morning Mantra
Teacher:         Boys and girls, what is my job today?
Children:         Your job is to teach us and to love us.
Teacher:         Boys and girls, what is your job today.
Children:         Our job is to learn and to love each other.

*If a child is behaving inappropriately you can ask them, “What is your job today?  Show me the right thing to do!”

Here’s another tip that might encourage a little peace in your classroom.

Friendship Tools  (Liz Watras)
Teach children sign language for these words so they can use them to work through conflicts. 

Ask  (Palms together bring to your chest as if praying.)
Help  (Make a fist with one hand and place it on the open palm of the other hand.  Bring both up in the air at the same time.)
Stop  (One palm open.  Pretend to chop it with the other palm.)
Trade  (Hold one hand in front of the other. Switch places and then switch places again.)
Wait  (Hold hands up and off to the side and wiggle the fingers.)
Yes  (Make an “s” with your fist and raise and lower it like your head.)
No  (Middle and index finger straight and close toward the thumb.)
Share  (Open palm and tap thumb on open palm of the other hand.)
Include  (Pretend to grab something in the air and put it in the other hand.)
Please  (One palm open on chest and make a circular motion.)
Thank you (Touch fingertips on chin and extend out.)
Excuse me  (One palm up and brush fingtips of other hand across.)

Hint!  I’d suggest introducing one word each day and reinforcing it many times at “teachable moments” during the day.
*,, and are useful sites for learning these signs.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Most of you don’t have school tomorrow, so I bet you’re having a little fun surfing the web and getting some new ideas today.  Just in case you haven’t downloaded these cheers and limericks yet, today would be a great day to do so.  Mary Amoson ( approached me last summer about doing the alphabet cheer cards.  She’s created a large card for each letter of the alphabet, as well as a smaller version that you could download and put in a “Cheerios” box for when you need a little boost.

Mary also created a visual to go with my daughter’s “Letter Limericks.”

Mary’s for real!  Here she is on career dress up day with her kindergarten kiddos.  (Mary’s on the right.)
So, if you like the free stuff, Mary also created “Transition Tips and Tricks” you can purchase.  It’s 140 pages and well worth the $5.00 with ideas to start your day, focus children’s attention, clean up, line up, end your day and a little “magic” for all those in between times.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


I received the kindest note from a teacher that attended one of my workshops recently.  This is why I do what I do!

Your workshop brought the fun back. The science and logic behind the
singing and moving is meaningful. Today was the students' first day back
and I used the cheers, brain breaks, and attention-getting strategies you
taught. I also started the day out with your music and dances. I had them
do snip-snap books and write a story about what they got for Christmas. I
had them count by tens doing patty cake. I used just a fraction of the
things you taught me, and my class behaved completely differently than they
ever have. The kids had so much fun, and even my most challenging students
were under control and enjoying themselves. It was amazingly calm, fun, and

Thank you so much for being an authority that advocates singing, poetry,
and fun in the classroom. Most of the workshops I attend focus so much on
what the kids have to learn, and they criticize the "old" way of doing
things. What you teach and support is real and important, and it shouldn't
ever go away. Thank you so much for sharing that. I feel incredibly lucky
that I was able to experience your workshop my first year of teaching. It
has changed my outlook and attitude about kindergarten, and helped my
classroom management tremendously. My day was fantastic, and I enjoyed my students more than I ever have been able to. They got to see me have fun, and I was thrilled to bond with them in that way.

I feel incredibly lucky that I get to make a little difference in the lives of teachers and children!

Last weekend I attended the “Tea by the Sea” which raises money for scholarships at the College of Charleston.  This year there was a panel of four authors and it was fascinating to hear their stories about how they became writers.  I was particularly touched by one author who said that he was terrible student.  One high school teacher told him that he was a “good writer.”  He said nobody had ever told him he was good at anything and it was like being touched by a magic wand.  After 27 rejections, he finally had his first novel published and he was on his way to fulfilling the teacher’s comment.  You just never know!  You never know how that one kind word or glimpse of talent or a little encouragement can change a student’s life!