Brain Breaks and The Story Circle – A Fun Twist on Class Stories

I have been using brain breaks in my classroom a lot this year, mostly to move kids around in my classroom and to get their wiggles out. I have been trying out all kinds of things for them to do:

  1. Simon Says – It’s always fun to do quick round of my favorite game in the classroom. It can use structures that we’re talking about in class or it can be something totally different, either way, it’s CI and it’s fun and the kids have the opportunity to get up and move around.
  2. Teléfono – A quick round using a phrase/word that we have been targeting that day can be fun and give each student an opportunity to hear the word said by other than me and to say it themselves.
  3. Reordering seating arrangement – The students, whether they choose their own seats or they are in assigned seats, sometimes need opportunities to be around kids they wouldn’t necessarily choose to be around. I have used lots of ideas for how to reorder them, mostly the standard things: In order by birth month, by height, by hair color, by where they live (the Orlando area has lots of little towns and our school draws from all of them), etc. The kids don’t always realize that they’re getting CI in Spanish or that I’m actually slipping in concepts I need them to understand, but they still participate and get that input. It’s great.
  4. “Aplauso en un circulo” – This is a super simple little activity and it’s very quick: The students stand in a circle, and they clap once or twice and then the next person claps and it goes on and on around the circle. This is great for letting them express themselves and get attention from friends for doing silly things (they do little dances while they clap or say something funny) all without the fear of getting in trouble.
  5. 30 Second or 1 Minute Dance Party – I have written about this before, but it still works and with Spotify, it is so easy to do: Put on music and the kids can get up and move around and dance to culturally authentic music. As an extension, you can have the kids move to a new seat – sit across from where you were, sit in a friend’s seat, sit next to someone you don’t normally sit with, etc.
  6. Animales – (This one can get a little out of control, it’s best to use it on a really low-energy day) I tell the students what to do with their arms and legs and then they guess what animal we’re going to be (right hand, touch your right shoulder; left hand, touch your left shoulder; lift your right foot and touch it to your left knee; move your arms up and down – by this time kids are shouting “Flamingo!”)

Story Circle: My New Favorite Storytelling Activity

This one has become my new favorite activity to do with my kids, especially 5th – 7th grade. I don’t think I’ve read about another teacher doing this, it was a spur of the moment thing the first time it happened and it felt like something I had come up with on my own (but I may have read about it before and forgotten about it and then had it pop back in my brain–that sort of thing happens when so much of what I do has been learned from others). If someone else knows of another teacher who has written about something like this, please let me know in the comments so I can give credit where it is due.

We stand in a circle and the students all add a detail to our story. So far, I have kept the stories in the format of our Madlib Story activity that we have used in the past. The best part is that I get new reading material for my other classes. And I let the kids in the Story Circle know that their story will be read by other classes.

The novelty of this kind of storytelling (it’s a brand new format of storytelling for them this year), along with the ownership of the story and the personalization that comes from each student getting to have a say in a detail of the story (not just the high-fliers or the really confident students getting to hog all the answers) lead to this being a very engaging and fun activity. They love the idea that they will be reading other classes’ stories and that theirs will be read by others.

While we go around the circle, I have a student take notes on what we say so that I can type it up later. I make sure that this student doesn’t worry at all about spelling or grammar. They don’t even have to write complete sentences (the one below was written by a 7th Grader who can write very quickly, so he decided to write in sentences, which is helpful for us here because you can see how it was told around the room). Each sentence is said by me with the main detail provided by the students (each student provides one detail).

This is the same kind of story I would tell or that we would come up with by voting in a madlib story activity, but each student gets to add something. I say the beginning part of the sentence with the high-frequency vocabulary and the students add whatever they’d like (as long as it makes sense grammatically and syntactically…It doesn’t have to make sense in realistic terms).

Here’s an example:



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