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If, in the middle of the lesson, your students:

  1. Pretend to communicate with their home planet.
  2. Make a paper plane and try to get it stuck in an awkward or unreachable place.
  3. Start beat boxing.
  4. Tell you they are Harry Potter and their scar hurts.
  5. Dig an escape tunnel,

or get busy with any other 99 things that are more fascinating than their lesson time (see a comprehensive list here  https://byebyeboringday.wordpress.com/school-time/99-fun-things-to-do-in-a-boring-lesson/), it means that it’s high time you gave them a break and threw in some fun. You can play a game, tell them a joke, show a funny video, or use a brain breaker.

(NB. Fun (noun) 1. enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure with the aim to get learners engaged and keep their interest in learning the language).

These are my TOP 5 of TOP 100 language brain breakers that work in the classroom and get students to think about the subtleties and nuances of the language.

1. Poetry is in the air.

Write the following poem on the board and ask your students to read it.





You don’t really need the answer, do you?

Too wise you are, too wise you be, I see you are too wise for me.

This activity may add some fun and, at the same time, become a springboard for discussion of texting in English.

2. Hangman time!

Guess the word.

_ _

Yes, two letters only. No, it’s not a preposition, and, no, it’s not OK, and, yes, it’s a noun.


And the word is….Qi

The Scrabble dictionary defines “qi” (pronounced as chich’i or ki) as “the vital force that, in Chinese thought, is inherent in all things.” This word will surely boost your learners with “natural energy” and curiosity about the language and words. You may use it as an opportunity to revise spelling of some tricky words.

3. What you hear is what you get.

Write the following seven-word sentence on the board and ask students to read it so as to give seven different meanings:

I never said she stole my money.

[I] never said she stole my money. – Someone else said it. I [never] said she stole my money. – I didn’t say it. I never [said] she stole my money. – I only implied it. I never said [she] stole my money. – I said someone did, not necessarily her. I never said she [stole] my money. – I considered it borrowed. I never said she stole [my] money. – Only that she stole money- not necessarily my own. I never said she stole my [money]. – She stole something of mine, not my money.

This activity will add some fun and show the importance of emphasizing the right words in a sentence.

4. Language matters.

Write the following sentence on the board and ask students to say what it means.

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

Noam Chomsky came up with this grammatically correct, but nonsensical sentence in order to prove that syntax and semantics are two very distinct things. My guess-the-chocolate-word activities are also based on the same principle and help practice the form without focusing on the meaning.

You can extend this idea further and play with tautograms.

Have students string together the most words that start with the same letter while still forming a complete sentence. The longer the words the better, and the more absurd it is, the better. Students cannot use a word the does not start with the chosen letter. Every word is worth 4 points. Every word that contains two or more of the letter is worth double the points. The one who earns more points wins.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo:)

Example: Most massive mammalian mammaries make me maniacally masticate my morbidly mayoed midget manwich, moreover, mother mentioned Matilda’s meager management, mostly minding migrant moth milkers.

And the last one is

5. Time is money.

Write Time = Money on the board and ask students to prove it (split students into teams).

You’re sure to hear some interesting stories and reflections on how true it is. But in the end, it’s all about the language. Use it to revise collocations.


Thank you for your time and happy teaching!

Please leave me a comment if you know a good brain breaker.

Image credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Creative Commons

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