Blog post

Brain Breaks with Nearpod

May 18, 2018Robin McLean

It’s rewarding to hear students say “I wish every class did notes like this” or “Yes, it’s Nearpod day!” When I ask my class what specifically is the reason for the love of Nearpod, they respond with answers such as “it puts the information right in my face” and “you give us little breaks between the information that we are learning.” Those little breaks are the purpose of this post. What is a brain break? According to an Edutopia post by Judy Willis, “Brain breaks are planned learning activity shifts that mobilize different networks of the brain.”

As a middle school teacher, I recognize that motion brain breaks might be done in an elementary classroom more often than my classroom since space is a limiting factor. However, Nearpod provides the opportunity to give breaks that help students process what they are learning while at the same time shifting the way they are thinking about the information. As a result, we’re giving their minds a chance to rest and reset.

How do I use Nearpod for such brain breaks?


Willis suggests brain breaks that help connect learning for the students and suggests “Use dopamine boosts from personal connections and personal relevance by inviting students to share … about how the learning relates to their lives or interests.”

Collaborate is a perfect feature to let students move from learning about a topic to thinking about connections to their lives. It’s interesting to see how some students will process this with words and others might tie in a picture. After the collaborate posts are made, a brief pair share about what they noticed in the posts helps to further reset the brain and prepare students for the next activity.

VR Field Trips

Another easy brain break is to add virtual reality in a lesson. It’s important to frame the trip with a question so that students have some focus. However, letting students see, experience, and explore a new location helps “fire up” parts of the brain and give other areas a moment to “breathe”.

Letting students see, experience, and explore a new location helps fire up parts of the brain and give other areas a moment to breathe. - Brain Break blog post via @NBMiddleAg.

To create a deeper connection about forestry, we took a virtual field trip to Giant Sequoias. This is a refreshing break that gets students thinking about the diversity of trees. I paired this VR with purposeful questioning, such as:  “Notice how the forest you are seeing in our next activity might differ from what you are used to seeing near the school and your home.”


A poll provides a quick brain break. Polls give students a chance to think about something that relates to the content without delving too deeply or spending too much time processing it. Polls provide opportunities for students to see how their classmates may be reacting to a concept as well. For example, after a discussion on the importance of bark, the class was polled about cutting into trees with a multitude of answers that lead to a group chat about behaviors and the environment.

Draw It

This is a student favorite. This activity allows students to take what they are learning and look at it differently. #NearpodTip: Incorporate this as brain break that can be completed in a 3-5 minute break. Set aside time to share examples after completion.


Memory is another brain break option that you can easily add to your lessons. Some students absolutely love it and like the change of pace from content learning. Some brace it as a competition to have the fewest attempts in matchmaking.

Bottom Line

Brain breaks don’t disrupt the flow of learning but rather give students an additional way to focus on the content without some of the direct written or verbal processing they may have been engaging in prior. Not every brain break will work for every student so it’s important to mix up the strategies used.


Dr. Robin McLean is a middle school Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources teacher in New Jersey. She has over 20 years of teaching experience in both middle and high school. In addition to her role as teacher, she is one of her school districts Facilitators of Instructional Technology. Her classroom vision statement is “Learn Together. Grow Together. Open Eyes.”

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