For many teachers in Tennessee, “brain breaks” are key to keeping their classrooms on track.
Using a program called GoNoodle, teachers play videos that give students brief physical activity breaks, which has been shown to help learning and improve classroom behavior.
Better Tennessee spoke with four teachers from across state to get firsthand accounts of how GoNoodle helps them.
Madison Creek Elementary
The pressure on students is extreme now, with high-stakes testing and calls for accountability from every direction.
These students are expected to perform at higher levels than ever before.
I use it in two ways:
First thing in the morning, the class has a social time when we do a greeting and share news. Then we choose a GoNoodle video that will either energize us for the day, or help us calm down or stretch our brains. It starts the day on a positive note, and the videos are so short that they don’t take away from instructional time.
We also use GoNoodle for lessons. During our math block, when the kids work on a complex or multistep problem that requires them to be very focused, I give them a break with a GoNoodle math video. It allows them to stand up and move around, to release anxiety or energy but still engage in math concepts.
GoNoodle lets you customize some videos, and I will put our vocabulary words into one of the programs, so instead of staring at a worksheet the students stand up and participate.
They engage, but in a fun way and one that is motivational to them.
They are definitely more focused as a result. For a teacher, seeing students who are enthusiastic to learn — it’s why we love what we do. We know that when students are excited to learn, they will.
Spring Creek Elementary
We use GoNoodle in kindergarten every single day, multiple times a day.
Hamilton County requires our schools to give children two 15-minute activity breaks each day, and the GoNoodle videos allow me to include an educational aspect to those breaks while meeting the requirement for movement.
For example, before kindergarten is over, all of our children are supposed to be able to count to 100. We watch math videos on counting, and the kids sing along as they move to the beat.
When kids are this young, they are so musically inclined.
They go home singing the songs, and their parents are impressed by how much they are learning through them. One of the other videos we watch features Usher on Sesame Street, singing the alphabet song with the Muppets.
That’s a great introduction at the start of the school year, especially in that phase when kids miss their mommy, because seeing those familiar characters puts them at ease. It breaks the ice.
By the end of September, 98 percent of my kids knew all the letters of the alphabet, both uppercase and lowercase, because as we dance along to the Usher video they look at the letters on the screen. They learn their letters so much faster that way.
I also use it to help with motivation and classroom management. I’ll tell my kids that if we get all our work done, then we can dance to a GoNoodle video for five minutes.
The program builds so much more than education. It builds activity. It builds their heart rate.
And it builds their love for each other.
I found out about GoNoodle four years ago when our district health and fitness director asked teachers to give it a try.
My second-graders and I immediately fell in love with it.
For the first time, I reacted right away to a classroom tool, seeing that GoNoodle would be really powerful for my kids.
I use it just as much in the classroom now that I teach fifth-graders.
While the lower grades loved dancing and silly videos, in fifth grade we do more fitness and yoga.
We also do a lot more with embedded content. GoNoodle Plus allows you to create your own questions and embed them in a video.
So we’ll do that with Think On Your Feet, which has a game show format, with the class split into teams.
- While one team answers questions the other does jumping jacks, lunges or some other fitness move.
- If we are studying the Civil War or Reconstruction, we can do a brain break and kids can get up out of their seats and move around while still learning about the subject.
When we have a day that is jam-packed with activities, we have Student Choice on which videos to watch, and they usually pick the videos that calm them down.
They focus on mindfulness, flow, making better choices — sometimes because they are having struggles in the classroom or things they want to work on.
I’ve seen the kids use what they learn from GoNoodle outside the classroom.
They congratulate their peers and stay positive when things don’t go their way.
As teachers, it’s our mission to provide our students with whatever positive experiences we can, and I really believe that GoNoodle is one of those.
It provides us an opportunity to have fun with our kids, but also to give them powerful tools they need to be successful.
Willow Oaks Elementary
Honestly, I didn’t use GoNoodle a ton at first.
I liked it, but I had a hard time finding the time to fit it into the day. I’ve been implementing it more this year though, and noticed a better classroom rapport overall. Not just among the students themselves, but also between me and my students.
I do use the videos as an educational tool for some subjects. We watch the Blazer Fresh “Vote” video and the 50 states video during social studies. Otherwise we use them for brain breaks or indoor recess.
In fourth grade, the students tend to follow each other. If one child does something they all want to do it. There’s a lot of peer pressure, but they also feel unsure of themselves, so they follow. At the same time, if they think they will be embarrassed by some activity, they won’t do it.
For some reason with GoNoodle, it doesn’t matter. Some of my shyest kids get the most into it.
The kids that I would expect to avoid participating at all actually get closest to the screen and try to lead the class. That’s fun for me — to see them come out of their shell.
But it also helps me understand their personalities even better, to see them step up and let their personality shine through. And that allows me to up my expectations of what they can do in group work or class discussions.
A lot of teachers don’t want to take away from class time because there is so much to cover, but I think using GoNoodle actually ends up allowing us to get more done.
It’s my favorite part of the day, too. I’m there teaching and standing all day. So, it’s nice for me to have that brain break, to dance it out and just be silly.
Photos by Patrick Sheehan, Tyler Oxendine, Grant Dodson, Steve Jones