January 2009




“Neurobics” is a new term I discovered recently on the internet. It refers to brain exercises or activities that can improve students’ learning. And, the more we know about the brain, the more effective we can be as educators. Eric Jensen’s BRAIN BASED LEARNING remains my favorite resource for learning about the brain. Carla Hannaford’s SMART MOVES and Pam Schiller’s START SMART are two other favorites. NEWSWEEK (March 28, 2007) had an excellent article called “Stronger, Faster, Smarter” that suggested that exercise may be just what we all need to boost brain power. I encourage you to do your own research on the internet to learn more about music, movement, and learning. It’s fascinating and validating! This link should help you get started.

You can’t get inside your students’ heads and shake up their brains, but these activities can help make your students’ brains more alert and can help improve learning. According to Eric Jensen, children need to “stand up and stretch” every 20 minutes. Vigorous exercise sends blood to the brain and can reduce stress. (I think most teachers could use “brain breaks” as well!)

You can use these activities to start your day, between lessons, 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, free, and might even create some smiles! Play some catchy music to add to the fun.

Try out one at a time and see 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. After several weeks, children can choose their favorite exercises and lead the class.

There are some awesome websites where you can find additional brain energizers and activities. The North Carolina Department of Education has a book of “energizers” that connect movement with learning. Go to North Carolina PE Energizers to download your free copy. The state of Michigan also has some terrific ideas for reinforcing skills as you get children to move. You can access this by going to Michigan Dept. of Education - Brainbreaks.


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 your brain. Midline

Put on some music and have children follow along as you do some of these exercises where you cross over the 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.
  • 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. (You can also pick apples, oranges, or any other fruit you like to eat.)
  • Windmills – Stretch out feet. Touch right hand to left foot. Stand. Touch left hand to right foot.
  • Pat on the Back – Alternate patting the back of your left shoulder with your right hand and your right shoulder with your left hand.
  • 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.
  • Push and Pull – Stand with hands on hips. Twist left and push with palms up and then pretend to pull something towards you. Twist and push and pull to the right.
  • Piddle Paddle – Put fists on top of each other as if holding an oar. Pretend to paddle on the right side of the body and then sweep hands and pretend to paddle on the left.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Crazy Eights – Make the figure eight in front of you with your right hand and then your left hand. Make “lazy” eights by making eight laying down with your right hand. Make lazy eights with your left hand.
            Clasp your right and left hand and make large lazy eights.
    Lean over and pretend to draw an imaginary “lazy” eight on
            the floor with your right hand and then your left hand.

Next Page -->