Remembering to Take a Brain Break

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Soooooo second storyasking sesh, not as successful as the first. We did Carlos el cleptómano following Martina Bex’s genius comprehensible curriculum alignment with the textbook Realidades 2. I love how her units introduce new target structures with dictionary pages and practice sentences. We’ve done this three times now and I’m really liking the routine, especially for middle schoolers. I forget how much structure they need!

Despite my own CI-superfan status, these kiddos were not about the kleptomaniac main character in the story script. They weren’t focused or engaged. Not even self-deprecating jokes about my own attempts at drawing (those usually kill!) could get ‘em back on board. I found myself at the front of the classroom, classic disappointed teacher stance with my hands on my hips like, “C’mon guys, let’s focus in here.” And they’re so bored and they’re in 8th grade and my expectation that they should be able to sit and engage with the same material in the same way for 20+ minutes is just nonsense!

Solution? Brain breaks! I keep having to relearn the brain break lesson again and again, and I can’t figure out why. It’s so obvious: I’m almost never doing the same thing the same way for 20+ minutes during a class. I’m taking attendance, and putting a stop to bickering, making sure to follow up with a student who was absent, walking around the classroom, picking dropped things up off the floor…And yet, my students sit and sit some days.

I was having too many hands-on-hips frustrated teacher moments when transitioning from one activity to another, so I reached out to a friend who is gifted with novice learners and has a real passion for teaching middle schoolers. She uses brain breaks for every transition. Every. Transition. I decided to try it. I was scared I would lose class time explaining the instructions for a brain break. I guess I did, but the change in their demeanor was so worth it. This is what we did the other day in an 80min block with Spanish 2 (Brain Breaks are from this Free Download from The Comprehensible Classroom):

  1. Warm up

  2. Review Warm up

  3. Brain break: Freeze Dancing (People: I let them choose, and they PICKED this one. Shocking. We used Shakira’s “Esto es Africa” as our song.)

  4. Música martes: Jennifer Lopez homage to Celia Cruz, American Music Awards 2013. (Was trying really hard to make a short Celia Cruz reading from Realidades 2 Chapter 1A relevant…)

  5. Actual Bathroom/Water break that lasts the length of Celia Cruz original song

  6. Dictionary Pages for new target structures

  7. Brain break: Two Parts

  8. Practice Sentences with new target structures using mini whiteboards

  9. Embedded Reading Version 1 (Building to same Celia Cruz textbook reading)

  10. “Dinero” J Lo and Cardi B clean lyric video

We had so much fun and they got so much done! Three songs in the target language? Review of body parts vocabulary? Introducing new body parts vocab (meñique!)? Dancing? You know I love dancing in the classroom!

Oh yeah. Bring on the brain breaks. Now, how to get 11th graders on board? :P

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