Does anyone have a class in which every student is the same? Silly question, right? Of course not.

Every student is significantly different, and each student brings a variety of talents, interests and preferred modalities. Students still got the squiggles after lunch? Students distracted by the snow? Students lethargic in the morning or after lunch?

Try a processing break! Processing allows teachers the opportunity to reach every learner while assessing understanding and maximizing our precious instructional time.

Neuroscientists and educators agree alike that the learning brain needs processing breaks, moments to pause and conceptualize new information. Spence Rogers calls this processing break, "chunk and chew;" Robert Marzano refers the "act of chunking" as time for students to acquire essential information; and Eric Jensen uses brain research on the brain to support the "10:2" processing break rule (following 10 minutes of instruction and information, allow students two minutes to process the information).

I connect all three important vantage points by sharing the endless benefits of providing students with processing breaks. The top three benefits of using processing breaks are: they infuse multiple modalities, they can regenerate and engage students, and they can help us assess student understanding to adjust instruction.

Many of the processing breaks can connect with multiple modalities and some can be used for one student with a specific learning or emotional need. Try a few of these today!


  • Roll a dice with a partner, based on your roll, follow the specific task (predict, solve, make an inference, graph, provide a synonym).
  • Hopscotch on a floormat (with order of operations written, parts of a story, etc.)
  • Type your answer by jumping on an enlarged floormat replica of a computer keyboard.
  • Stand up "If I read a statement that is true"/sit down.
  • Cross your arms if you agree.
  • Use response cards (true/false or A, B, C).
  • Touch your toes while saying two key words from today.
  • 2 steps forward for a correct statement and 1 step backwards for an incorrect one.
  • Four corners (Walk to the corner that best represents your thought. Discuss with peers).
  • Bean bag toss on a board with comprehension questions with a peer or in small groups.
  • In small groups, toss a cube containing various blooms questions. Answer the question on the cube.
  • Sculpture garden — students move each other to form a position that represents a concept.
  • Image walk — collect or find an image that connects with the essential question. Share with a partner and justify your connection.


  • Fist to five: students’ respond to a whole class question by showing the number of fingers that corresponds to their level of understanding (one being the lowest, five the highest).
  • Use Wikki Stix to make an image that best represents the topic.
  • Use modeling clay to make an image that best represents the topic.
  • Air-write and draw in the air the answer to a question.
  • Draw the answer in the sand pit, on sand paper, on felt, etc.
  • Sort the terms on your desk into groups that make the most sense to you.


  • Listen to the music while thinking about ____. When it stops discuss the answer with the student closest to you.
  • Listen to the main idea on odd cast ( provides a song to text you enter in).
  • Chant the main idea five times while patting your head and rubbing your tummy.
  • Have students rotate and record an answer to an essential question using iPads or recorder.


  • Use a whiteboard to draw two images that relate to the topic.
  • Post three images on the board from "Google Images" or "Google Arts and Culture." Ask the students to select the one they think best represents the concept.
  • Look out the window and find an image that best relates to what we just learned.


  • $2 summary: each word is worth 10 cents.
  • In six words, tell your peer what you learned. This is a variation of the Smith Magazine writing contest. See
  • Kids write notes to peers describing what they learned from them during class discussions.
  • Snowstorm: Students write down what they learned on a piece of scratch paper and wad it up. Given a signal, they throw their paper snowballs in the air. Then each learner picks up a nearby response and reads it aloud.
  • Pick an image out of the envelope and write about how it connects to objective/EQ.
  • Write a tweet to summarize the main idea (or have them send one).
  • Summarize the main idea in 10 words or less. Work with a partner until you have only 10 words. Optional: Have students write it on a post it and place in the text.
  • Write down three main points from the lesson; highlight the one you feel is most important.
  • In your own words, write two definitions for a vocab word: one correct definition and one incorrect definition. Quiz a partner. Their goal is to identify the correction definition.


Processing breaks have the potential to regenerate and refresh students, raising levels of dopamine, alertness, engagement, and retention or calming and refocusing the student.

They can be quick, individualized, and help us differentiate instruction to support our students. Try a processing break a few times today and see which ones work for your student(s)!