Brain Break Wednesday: Thumb and Pinkie Switch

Our brain break this week takes under 1 minute to try and will prove a fun and challenging break for everyone!

1. Hold both your hands in fists in front of you.

2. Put your left thumb out and your right pinkie out.

3. Switch: put your left pinkie out and your right thumb out.

4. Keep switching and see how fast you can go!


What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Brain Break Wednesday: Oxygen to the Brain

Here is a simple Brain Break that can be done anywhere, at anytime.  It is a perfect brain break to use as Standardized Testing begins across the country.

Drum roll please………..

Take a deep breath! It sounds simple, but it is an essential brain break with a huge impact for kids and adults.

reminder take a deep breath 

Taking a deep breath involves breathing in through your nose for 4 counts

and out through your mouth for 4 counts.

Place your hand on your stomach to make sure the movement is coming from there and not your chest.

You can also use a chime or bell that students can listen to as they breath. Students come back together when they can no longer hear the note.

Watch as a sports psychologist explains how to take a simple deep breathe and why it is so important.


More information from Edutopia on how helping students “de-stress” helps them succeed in school.

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Brain Break Wednesday: Pass it On- UNO Style

This brain break comes from the AISD Physical Education website full of ideas for quick energizers.

Pass It On Uno Style


Grade Level: 1 – 3

Equipment: Uno Cards

Formation: Form a circle around the perimeter of the room


1. Teacher hands out one Uno card to each student.

2. Students identify color on card and perform activity that corresponds to that color for 10 -15 seconds:

Blue: jump to the sky

Red: squats

Yellow: twist

Green: swim

3. Students then pass the card to the right and repeat the process.


1. Teacher holds up cards to the whole class and they perform the activity that corresponds.

2. Play in partners and give each pair four cards. One partner shows the other partner a card and the partner does the corresponding activity.

3. Teach colors in Spanish.

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Brain Break Wednesday: My Turn, Your Turn

This Brain Builder/ Brain Break comes from Committee for Children, the creators of Second Step. It is a very simple one that can be adapted for any level.

My Turn, Your Turn

1. The leader says “my turn” and then says or does something for the followers to repeat or respond to. (Example of basic level: leader pats head twice. Example of higher level: leader says,”Answer: what is the square root of 64?”)

2. The followers wait to repeat or answer until the leader says “your turn.” (Ex. followers pat head twice or say “8”)

Watch the video below to hear about why Brain Builders/ Brain Breaks are so effective and to watch a Kindergarten teacher model “My Turn, Your Turn.”

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Powerful Parenting from CFChildren

Here is an article on Powerful Parenting from Committee for Children, the authors of Second Step (the resource PK-8 teachers in AISD are using to explicitly teach SEL).


Powerful Parenting: Building Relationships and Instilling Confidence

As parents, you worry about the risks your children face and the choices they will have to make. But if you have a strong relationship with your children that is built on a foundation of trust and open communication, they are more likely to tell you about their problems and gain from your values.

If your children have confidence in themselves, they are more likely to handle situations assertively. If your children have self-management, relationship-building, and problem-solving skills, they are more likely to make safe and healthy choices. As a parent, you can help strengthen these areas of your children’s lives.

Love Them for Who They Are

Unconditional acceptance of your childKren not only builds a strong relationship with them, but encourages them to have confidence and trust in themselves. Separate who your children are (their being) from what they do (their behavior). Remember, behavior can always change.

Help your children discover their interests and passions and encourage them to pursue their interests by providing opportunities and support.

Spend time with your children. This helps build strong relationships and provides opportunities for you to teach and model essential skills. Use words, gestures, and touch frequently to let your children know that you love them.

Take time to have extended conversations with your children. Bedtimes, meals, and car rides are often good times. As often as possible, have family dinners where you can share news, discuss problems, and make plans. Research shows that children who have dinner with their families several times a week are less likely to smoke or use illegal drugs, have sex at young ages, and get into serious fights.

Have frequent, brief playtimes with young children (5–10 minutes can make a difference). Allow your children to direct the play.

Read together and talk about the characters’ feelings, challenges, and solutions.

Talk about your family’s culture(s). This will help your children feel more strongly connected to their ethnic background and their culture’s values and beliefs. Research shows that positive cultural identification can improve a child’s self-esteem and protect against emotional problems.

Discipline and Guide

Positive guidance and discipline promote children’s self-control, teach them responsibility, and help them learn to make thoughtful choices. Specialists suggest that inconsistent, harsh discipline that includes physical force, threats, and negative comments may interfere with healthy development. Here are some key components of positive discipline:

  • Pay attention to what children do right. Children thrive on positive attention and are more likely to repeat a behavior if you notice it and comment on it.
  • Use consistent, caring consequences for unacceptable behavior. The consequences should be reasonable, directly related to the misbehavior, and respectful of the child.
  • Give the message that mistakes are a chance for learning.
  • Offer choices whenever possible to provide practice in making decisions.

Get Involved in Schoolwork

When you are involved in your children’s schooling, it gives the message that school is important and that you value this significant part of their lives. It also helps children achieve higher grades, finish more homework, and have better attendance, behavior, and attitudes. Here are some ways to be involved:

  • Ask your children about their day. Use open-ended questions: “What was the most fun thing about school today?”
  • Communicate frequently with your children’s teachers about your children’s progress and how to help them out at home.
  • Be aware of your children’s homework. Set a time and place for them to do it. Be around to answer questions, but do not do the homework for them.
  • Attend school activities as often as possible.

Teach Social Skills

Model and teach your children social-emotional skills. These are skills people use to deal with their feelings and dilemmas and to interact with others. Social-emotional skills include the following:

  • Empathy, which is knowing one’s own feelings and being able to recognize and respond sensitively to others’ feelings.
  • Emotion management, which is managing strong feelings such as anxiety, frustration, and anger before they become overwhelming.
  • Problem solving and decision making, including conflict resolution.

Many of the parenting skills outlined in this article can help you model and teach social-emotional skills:

  • By listening to your children and respecting their feelings, you model and teach empathy.
  • By responding to misbehavior with caring, thoughtful, and consistent consequences, you model emotion management and problem solving.
  • By giving children choices, you give them opportunities to practice decision making.
  • As you talk through plans and problems at dinner, you model and teach problem solving, decision making, and conflict resolution.
  • By reading with your child and talking about the stories, you provide opportunities to learn about empathy, emotion management, and problem solving.

As a parent you have power: power to influence, model, and listen, and power to connect with and love each of your children. By using your power in positive and thoughtful ways, you can provide a measure of protection for your children.

For more information from Committee for Children, check out their blog.

SEL Campus Wide

Social and Emotional Learning can be seen in many ways across a campus.  It may be a teacher teaching a lesson to the whole class on managing anxiety, a student helping another student after a fall on the playground, or a whole campus activity promoting SEL.  As we visited campuses in AISD, we have seen many creative ways to celebrate SEL campus wide. The following images are a few of the stellar examples we have seen so far this year.

Your ideas inspire other educators.  Send us pictures of what you have done to promote SEL campus wide to:

Linder Learner's Creed - all read daily over the PA

Here’s a way to start off your morning right! At Linder Elementary they use  positive self-talk to set daily goals in this Learners’ Creed.  It can be heard campus wide over the PA each morning.

Zavala Singing Second Step Songs

At Zavala Elementary (above) and Metz Elementary (below) students sing the Second Step songs at a special morning assembly to share the new skills they are learning with the entire student body. At Zavala, Kindergarten and 1st grade students sing The Feelings Song. At Metz, 2nd grade students show off their dance skills with The Calm It Down Song. 

Metz 2nd grade leading calm down dance

A teacher and administrator greet students as they enter Mendez Middle School in the morning, creating a warm and safe learning environment

The friendly faces of teachers and administrators at Mendez Middle School greet students with a smile and a handshake.  Nothing beats a warm welcome first thing in the morning!

Pleasant Hill NPFH

Pleasant Hill Elementary sparked students’ creativity with a No Place for Hate poster contest.

Oak Springs peace banners

Scholars at Oak Springs Elementary created peace banners for No Place for Hate. At morning assembly everyone admired their hard work while listening to The Calm It Down Song. 

Brain Break Wednesday: How Many Students Does It Take to Make 11?

This Brain Break helps build math and cooperation skills as well as giving students a chance to move around and get their blood flowing!

1. Have students make a group of 3-5 students and stand in a circle.


2. Give students a number they are aiming to make as a group (5, 11, 16, etc.).

3. Tell students on the count of three they will show a number on their hand from 0 – 5. As a group they are trying to get their numbers to add up to the goal (5, 11, 16, etc.).

hands 0 - 5

4. Say “1, 2, 3, THROW” students all show a number and check if it added up to their goal. If not- try again!

5. Once your group has made the number they can sit down.

Adaptations: To make this easier, you can give students less options for numbers to throw out (You can throw a 1 or a 2.) and/or give them a number goal that’s a multiple of the number of students in the group (For example: if there are 4 students in the group, have them try to make the number 4 or 8 or 12 or 16)

What are your favorite brain breaks? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Brain Break Wednesdays!

The SEL Blog is starting a new series. Every Wednesday we will be posting a new “brain break” for educators to use.  Brain breaks are quick and easy activities to re-energize students! They often involve honing memory, listening, and/or attention skills that students need to be active learners.

Second Step (the resource AISD has adopted for PK- 8th grade explicit instruction of SEL skills) incorporates this idea with Brain Builders included in their curriculum.

Short physical activities also increases oxygen to the brain which gets students ready to learn.

Brain image after excercise

Source: Austin ISD PE and Health Department

Now, without further ado, our first brain break, Ear and Nose Switch.  This is a quick and easy one that requires the two hemispheres of the brain to work together (an essential part of brain development).


1.  Stand up.
2.  Take your right hand and grab your left ear.  Keep your right arm close to your body.
3.  Now take your left hand and touch your nose.
4.  Uncross your arms and move your left hand to your right ear and your right hand to your nose.  Your left arm should now be closest to your body.
5.  Switch back and forth as fast as you can.

What are some of your favorite brain breaks? What did you think of this one?