Brain Gym Exercises for the Classroom

Brain Gym exercises are short activities teachers can do with their students to release stress, expend excess energy and enhance learning. Each exercise can be done in a small area in the classroom or at the student's seat. They are generally fun movements that are designed to engage the brain. While many of the activities work best with younger students, older students and even adults can benefit from Brain Gym exercises.

Young students drawing at desks. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Figure 8s

Students draw figure 8s either in the air with their fingers or on a piece of paper. When students use their non-dominant hand to draw the figure 8, it engages the creativity portions of the brain, making this variation a good warm-up for art or creative writing lessons. Drawing figure 8s with the dominant hand loosens up the muscles in the arm and wrist, and serves to ready students for writing essays. The figure 8s should be drawn quickly and loosely. Students should spend about one minute drawing figure 8s before beginning an activity.

Cross Crawl

The Cross Crawl helps burn excess energy, making it easier for students to concentrate on the teacher's lesson. Cross Crawls also help with comprehension, as the movement engages both halves of the brain and force them to work together. To perform a Cross Crawl, students touch their left elbows to their right knees while their right arms moves behind them, as if marching. Then students touch their right elbows to their left knees while their left arms moves behind them. Students continue to shift back and forth between the two positions for approximately two minutes. Students can perform Cross Crawls either sitting or standing.

Hook Ups

A Hook Up is a calming exercise that helps students de-stress and focus. It is ideal to perform Hook Ups after play time or recess to bring students' energy levels down and reengage them in the learning process. To perform Hook Ups, students sit in their chairs and cross their right legs over their left legs at their ankles. Students then place their right wrists over their left wrists, and curl their hands inward so that their fingers may interlock. Students should rotate their wrists so that their fingers are toward their bodies and their elbows point outward. The hands should then be drawn in to the breast bone. Students should stay in this position for a few minutes, breathing deeply and slowly. This exercise will calm students down and make them ready for other classroom activities.

Brain Buttons

Brain Buttons help to reduce stress and are ideal exercises between activities. For instance, if students have just completed a particularly difficult mathematics section and are showing frustration with the assignment, they should take a break and perform this exercise. Students press their fingertips lightly against their foreheads above each eye, about halfway between the eyebrows and the hairline. Students then close their eyes and breathe slowly. Teachers may find it helpful to count while the students breathe, encouraging a five-second breath inward, holding the breath for five seconds, then releasing for five seconds. Students should repeat this exercise about three times.

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