Brain Exercises

Although you can’t get inside your students’ heads and shake up their brains, there are some activities that you can do to make their brains more alert and to help improve learning. Vigorous physical activity gets the blood flowing and releases stress. According to Eric Jensen (BRAIN-BASED LEARNING), children need to “stand up and stretch” every 20 minutes. I think most teachers could use “brain breaks” as well! It’s also important to build cross-lateral exercises into your day. Cross-lateral movements are those in which arms and legs cross over from one side of the body to the other. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side. Both sides are forced to communicate when arms and legs cross over. This “unsticks” the brain and energizes learning.

You can use these activities to start your day, between activities, or whenever your students appear bored or restless. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try them before, during, or after testing! They are simple, inexpensive, and might even create some smiles!

Try out one at a time and see how your class responds. Write those they like on a poster or put them on an index card and store them in a “brain break” can. After several weeks, children can choose their favorite exercises and lead the class.

Hint! Most of these are a lot more fun if you do them to some catchy music with a strong beat.

Cross the Midline

Stand with arms at sides. Touch right hand to left knee. Stand with arms at sides and touch left hand to right knee. Count or sing as you do this.

Hint! Put a piece of painter’s tape down the middle of children’s bodies so they can be aware of crossing the midline.

Elbow Tap

Stand with arms at sides. Bend and touch right elbow to left knee as you raise your leg. Stand and then touch left elbow to right knee.


Feet spread apart and arms extended. Bend over at waist and tap right hand to left foot. Back up and then bend and tap left hand to right foot.


Bend left knee and put foot behind right leg. Reach back around with right hand and touch left foot. Reverse and put right foot behind your left leg as you touch it with your left hand.