Brain Breaks for ELLs

Brain Breaks for ELLs

A brain break allows students to take a short break from learning and refocus their attention. This can be particularly important to ELLs as they are not only absorbing new content but are processing a new language as well.


Especially for younger children incorporating movement into a brain break will help to keep their attention for further learning.

  • Act like an animal- Name an animal and have students move like that animal.
  • Stretching- One person can be the leader and model different stretches for the rest of the group.
  • Yoga- Model different yoga moves for children. You can incorporate a theme or even phonics, based on the yoga pose. I have a set of alphabet yoga cards that has a yoga move for each letter of the alphabet.
  • Dance party- Put on music and allow students to dance. Establish ground rules first including how far students can move and keeping their bodies to themself. GoNoodle has a library of free videos that are great of brain breaks!


Setting aside a few minutes for drawing can help many students refocus. You can also have students do a quick drawing sketch before beginning a new topic or a writing assignment.

  • Pictionary- One person sketches a simple picture and the other players have to guess what they are drawing. To help ELLs you can choose a theme such as animals or classroom materials. For higher students, you can use random pictures a random word generator is an online tool that will show random words to play with.

Talking Games

Games where students are talking and listening can be a way to give students a break and help them practice their speaking and listening skills.

  • I spy- The leader says “I spy something that _______.” and gives clues about an object that they can see.
  • 20 questions- The leader chooses an object. The other students take turns asking questions to try and figure out what the object is.
  • Two truths and a lie- The leader tells two facts about themself and one made-up statement. The students guess which is not true.

brain break

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