I think it’s safe to assume that all of our classrooms look relatively similar this time of year. Just the other day, I looked up from working with a student and took a quick scan of my classroom. The thermostat read 78 degrees, some kids were staring into space, one was fixated on a squirrel on the fence outside, a few had their heads down on their desks, and the rest were trying to focus but most were seemingly unsuccessful. It wasn’t even that they were misbehaving; I realized that my kids were just plain spent. Their brains were tired and their bodies lacked energy. And you know what? It’s really no surprise. We are currently in the middle of our SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) pilot tests; which, when all is said and done, will be about five days of testing for my 6th graders. When not testing, we spend our days packing absolutely everything we can into each minute of the day in preparation and because of this, my students are worn out!
I decided to ask around and get input on some of the better ways to provide my students with the physical and brain breaks that they so obviously needed. A few months ago, I posted about the best ways to engage students in the classroom. For this post, I polled my colleagues to get their input on student engagement strategies that were most successful for them. Over and over they responded that any kind of physical activity; whether injunction with learning or as a break or transition between activities was a huge factor in increased engagement and performance. My colleagues came through again and directed me to an amazing site, Go Noodle, to get your kids up and moving, and hopefully avoid the all too familiar scene that I witness in my classroom earlier in the week.
Go Noodle advertises that it provides brain breaks to help channel classroom energy for good. It also helps when students aren’t demonstrating any energy to speak of! The thing that is great about Go Noodle, is that there are a variety of activities for both energizing and calming students. They also provide activities appropriate for both younger and older students. My 6th graders were a little skeptical at first. You know how that age is; they’re very concerned about appearing “cool,” so they definitely just watched at first. Sure enough, they started asking to see more, and by the end of the week I had almost 100% participation. Another aspect of Go Noodle that was engaging to my students is that for each activity completed, the class earns points. As points are earned, the class is given the opportunity to change their Go Noodle character and access more areas of the site. Click here for a look at one of our favorite characters, Maximo!
Our classrooms are go, go, go, all year. However, the atmosphere almost always changes a bit during testing season. Sometimes we teachers get so focused on the list of things that need to be covered by test time (mine includes area and perimeter of circles, and more work on text structure!) that we forget to stop and take a breather, and allow out kids to as well. Whether it is just standing up and stretching, going outside for a quick run to the fence and back (come on, you know you’ve done it), or using a program like Go Noodle, a well-timed brain break can make all the difference!
“Go Noodle is funny, hilarious, and it can be educational.” -6th Grade Boy
“It’s interesting and active.” -6th Grade Girl