Five Minute Brain Breaks

Whether it’s a flat feeling on the Friday afternoon homestretch, or a lesson that winds up five minutes earlier than you were planning…sometimes we just need a five-minute exercise we can rely on.

Rather than charging on when the mood in the classroom is flat, or losing an opportunity to engage students in a fun activity that still involves learning, there are a range of quick activities that can keep students engaged. I wanted to capture some of the better ideas I’ve come across here:

Heads or Tails

All students stand up and select heads or tails. One person (teacher or helper) flips a coin – if it lands on heads all the students who selected tails must sit down. Keep flipping until only one person is left standing. A variation on this is to flip two coins at a time, giving students the choice of heads, tails or one of each.

It’s good for…teaching students about probability, getting students up and stretching, re-energising the class.


Pick a category such as type of food, colour, verbs, emotions etc. Going around the room, each student says one word that fits in the category.

It’s good for…synonym and vocabulary development.

Four Corners

Each of the four corners of the classroom is given an identifier (could be as simple as front left, front right, back left, back right, or could be more symbolic such as colours). One person is ‘it’, they must stand at the front of the class with their back turned and eyes closed. The rest of the class must distribute themselves, selecting one of the corners to stand in (quietly). The person who is ‘it’ picks a corner (they may have heard some jangling or loud footsteps) and whoever is standing there is out. Students can change their corners between guesses. The game continues until everyone is out, or one player is left standing, who becomes ‘it’.

It’s good for…getting the class moving, picking up the energy in the room, it can also be good for memory and vocab depending on how you label the corners.

Twenty Questions

The teacher or one student thinks of a person or object. The class has 20 opportunities to ask yes/no questions to determine what the object is. The first time it is played, students will need specific guidance about the best questions to ask.

It’s good for…practising questioning routines, especially for EALD students, deductive reasoning

Good Afternoon, Your Majesty

One student is ‘Your Majesty’ and faces away from the class. Picking one student at a time, classmates creep up behind them and say “good afternoon Your Majesty” in a funny voice. If they guess their classmate correctly, the class says “congratulations Your Majesty” and a new student is ‘it’.

It’s good for…drama and giggles (i.e. re-energising).

Mystery Box

Put an item in a closed box and ask the class to figure out what is inside. Students can hold and shake the box, and must ask yes/no questions.

It’s good for…stipulations in questioning (yes/no), deductive reasoning and inferences.

Groups of…

Students roam about the classroom until the teachers says “groups of…4”. Students must then group themselves accordingly. Students who are left over must do 3 star jumps before the next round.

It’s good for…spatial awareness, getting students moving.

Red Elbow

This game involves the teacher calling out a colour and a body part.  Students must find an object in the room that is that colour and then touch the selected body part to that object.  For example, if the teacher calls out red elbow, then students must find an object that is red and touch it with their elbow.

It’s good for…getting students moving, colours and body parts vocabulary for Early Stage 1 classes or EALD learners

Would You Rather

Have a list of questions  ready that start with “Would you rather…” For example, Would you rather be a leader or a follower? Would you rather live in the country or the city? Would you rather be a teacher or a doctor?  Have students move to one side of the room if they answer one way, and the other if they another way. You can randomly select students and ask them to justify their response.

It’s good for…imaginative thinking (depending on the questions you ask), reasoning, getting students moving.

Line Up

In this game, students must sort themselves depending on specific criteria, such as birthday, height, alphabetically, alphabetically by middle name, hair length etc.

It’s good for…getting students moving and talking to each other.


Using the class vocabulary list, one student must come to the front to act out a word from the list, without saying anything. Divide the class in half – the first group to guess the word wins a point.

It’s good for…getting students to engage with vocab lists, word comprehension

Class Story

Write a sentence on the board. Select students to take turns to come up and add one sentence to the story. The whole class must police grammar and spelling. Students can be as imaginative and creative as they like.

It’s good for…collaboration, thinking creatively.

Naughts and Crosses

Draw a naughts and crosses grid on the IWB. Divide the class into two teams – circles and squares. Decide the skill/topic you will reinforce during the game and ask a question (could be the maths topic of focus, could be grammar questions, content knowledge). If the student answer correctly, they can place one of their shapes on the board. If the student gets the answer wrong, the question moves to the other team. The game ends when one of the team’s wins at naughts and crosses i.e. gets three of their shapes in a row. I’ve also seen this played as ‘the class versus the teacher’ – this allows the teacher to model the thinking and skills and gets the class working as a team.

It’s good for…re-energising, practising content knowledge.




White Board Slam

Write a word on the board that has four letters. Students must come up and change only one letter of the word to make a new word. If someone has an answer, get them to come up and make the change. See how many words your students can list by changing one letter at a time with no word repeats.

It’s good for for…phonological awareness, vocabulary, spelling.

Chain Spelling

Teacher starts with a word. The next person has 10 seconds to come up with a new word that begins with the last letter of the word called out. This keeps going around the classroom. You can select themes to keep it relevant to content, such as ‘cities and countries’, ‘science words’, ‘adjectives’ or ‘words relating to Australia’.

It’s good for…vocabulary and spelling.

Connection Challenge

This activity is very similar to Chain Spelling  but students must instead call out a new word that relates in some way to the preceding word.

It’s good for…assessing subject knowledge and understanding of vocabulary, developing vocabulary and synonyms.

Curious Artefacts

Explain to students that some items have been uncovered as curious artefacts from an ancient city on an archaeological dig. Using a range of strange household items (an eyelash curler, a floppy disc, a strange tool or implement), get students to to determine how the items might have been used and what this reveals about the lives of the people who might have used them.

It’s good for…creativity and imagination, inference.

Act-Out Adjectives

Whisper an adjective to a student and have the student act it out without speaking (as in Charades). Classmates must try to guess the word. You can also use nouns or verbs.

It’s good for…vocabulary, understanding grammar.


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