10 Tips for Teachers: Ideas for active breaks while learning remotely

8 January 2021

Creative ideas and resources to help your students take regular screen and brain breaks while learning at home

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While your students are working remotely, they might find it hard to remember to take regular screen and brain breaks. Without all the running around outside – and in many cases, no timetabled P.E lessons – they may not be moving around as much as they should be. All teachers know that students concentrate better on their learning if they regularly exercise and can take a break before distraction and frustration set in.

Below is a list of 10 ideas and resources you can send out to your students to help them take regular breaks. You may want to suggest how often they do them, or you may want to leave it up to them to self-regulate.

Short screen-breaks

1. Quick dice breaks

Make a list of activities numbered 1-6 that are a mix of exercises and challenges. For example:

  1. Star jumps
  2. Draw your favourite animal
  3. Wall push-ups
  4. Invent a gadget and draw it
  5. Toe touches
  6. Make a short tune using body percussion
  7. Lunges
  8. Make a model (use Lego, tin foil, sticky tack or playdough)
  9. Arm circles
  10. Create a new emoji

Students then roll a die to choose which to do whenever they need a quick break. You might also want to suggest a time limit of 3 minutes. If they need to make a die, that could count as their first break, or they could use an online one. You could change the list regularly, or encourage students to write their own.

2. Scavenger hunt

This one works well during a live virtual lesson. Challenge your students to retrieve 3-5 items around the house (e.g. a book, a hat, something yellow, something you have made, etc.) and then come back together to see who got the most items from the list.

We would recommend not making it a race for health & safety reasons! Points for the most creative items could be a motivator if they need one.

3. Notice new things walk

Students take a walk, either in their garden or just around their home, and come up with three new things they have ‘noticed’. They may need to do a few laps of the space and this might become harder as time goes on, but the idea is to focus and pay attention, rather than just spot an item they haven’t set eyes on before!

4. Quick-maths relay

Starting at one end of the room, students randomly generate two numbers using a spinner, two dice, or even numbers on bits of paper pulled out of a bowl. They then need to multiply those numbers and write the answer on a piece of paper on the opposite side of the room.

How many can they do in the time limit? This can be adapted for other to practice other arithmetic, such as adding or subtracting too.

This activity works well for all ages – even older students who know their times tables like the back of their hands – as the level should be set at something easy which they know already.

5. Running pop quiz

Another one for virtual lessons, this can be adapted to anything you want students to practice – maths, spelling, foreign language vocabulary, history dates etc. Ideally, have students turn off their screens (to make it a screen break!) – you only need your microphone on so they can hear you call out the questions.

Students run on the spot and then do a movement you call out. This might be to wiggle their fingers, mime playing an instrument or sport, acting out an animal – anything you like. Along with those instructions you also call out a question, which students then need to stop and write down before carrying on running on the spot.

Keeping active resources

6. Dance workshops

Sadler’s Wells Theatre has lots of family dance workshops on their YouTube channel. You can find more dance tutorials on Dance Days website.

7. Moving to music

Go Noodle’s YouTube channel has a range of different types of videos for students to dance, move and sing along to – with the aim of children letting lose and being a little bit silly. There are different playlists, such as free movement or guided dancing.

Another YouTube channel for children to dance along to is Kidz Bop – reminiscent of dance arcade games without the judgement, but all the fun!

8. Choreographing your own dance

If you want to set your students something that doesn’t involved YouTube, Corali have challenges on their website to inspire children to create their own dances which are also accessible for students with learning disabilities.

Trinity Laban have a few different resources to try at home for a range of ages, including using art to create a routine for teenagers, or being inspired by Star Wars for younger children.

A couple of our Keeping Creative at Home blogs focus on using movement creatively, coming up with your own dance and being inspired by things in the home.

9. Yoga

Cosmic Kids Yoga has lessons on YouTube for younger students, while older students might want to try Yoga Ed’s classes for teens.

10. P.E. with Joe

I am sure every teacher in the country knows about this already, but a list on keeping active at home wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Joe Wick’s YouTube channel! You can watch back all his P.E. With Joe live broadcasts from Spring 2020 in the playlists section, and there is a new live schedule for January 2021.

You can also find more dance and movement resources on or LookUp site.


Where next?

More creative tips for teachers blogs

Reset – programme of support in response to the pandemic

LookUp – search for free creative resources