Brain Breaks That Stay in Latin

Last spring, I began collecting brain breaks that can be done in a way to stay in Latin. I compiled them in a document and invited members of LBP to help me make them better in terms of rules, variations and of course, the Latin. Many people did so. Here is the draft that comes out of that great collaboration. I tried to give credit as much as I could for variations on games and humbly took all corrections for typos and suggestions for better Latin.  My students had a lot of fun with these last year. I hope you find them useful.


Brain Breaks that Stay in Latin
Collected from various contributors on LBP
Collated by Bob Patrick and Edited by the LBP community

(Any mistakes or erroneous explanations are Bob’s–contact him to repair the problem)


  1. The Counting Game (Ludus Numerandi): Students form small groups (3-4) standing in circles.  They close their eyes, and they count to 10 in Latin. No two students can say the same number at the same time.  If they do, they must start over. If/when they get good and fast at this, raise the number 1-15, 1-20, etc. (From Julie Fox)


Hic est ludus numerandi. Discipuli, surgite.  Claudite oculos et numerate Latine “usque ad decem.”  Duo discipuli eundem numerum simul dicere non possunt.  Si simul dicunt, necesse est iterum incipere. Numero decem dicto, omnes considere poterunt.


  1. Praedictio: Hold up a playing card, have students predict whether the next card in the deck is higher or lower by saying maior or minor.. Elimination-style. Lots of opportunities for questions re: predictions. (From Lance Piantaggini)


Demonstrabo vobis chartam lusoriam.  Vos praedicabitis utrum proxima charta maior an minor sit.  Vos dicetis: maior aut minor.


  1. Saxum, charta, forfices: They know and you know how to play but they must use the Latin words.  Have students stand and play in pairs with eliminated players sitting and winners re-pairing until you have a victor/victrix. (From Anne Halverson Stock)  Bob’s addition: play twice, have two victores, and then a championship.


Saxum, charta, forfices.  Dicite mecum: saxum, charta, forfices (iterum, iterumque).  Discipuli, invenite comitem et ludite saxum, charta forfices.  Victor alium comitem inveniet et iterum ludet. Iterum iterumque ludetis donec victor vel victrix restat. (Justin Bailey offers the alternative of O rem ridiculam as they throw the rock, paper scissors. Ann Martin adds: You can also have the loser form a chain behind the winner, and then the chains duel until all are in one chain with the “winner” at the front.)


  1. Unus, duo, tres (on tres, look at someone. If that person is looking back at you, you’re both out! The circle gets smaller until one person remains.) For larger classes, perhaps have students play in circles of 6 or 7 with eliminated players sitting.  When a group is down to 2 or 3 they reform with others for a new group of 6 or 7. (From Anne Halverson Stock) (Justin Bailey notes that if you start with an even number you will end with a pair that wins–just as fun).

Hic ludus “unus, duo, tres” vocatur.  Discipuli, state in circulis octonorum discipulorum.  Spectate ad pavimentum et numerate: unus, duo, tres. Statim, alius alium spectat.  Si tu in oculos alius spectas, ambo consident. Facite iterum circulos et ludite donec unus restat.


  1. Trigon Vocabulorum:  Students stand in a triangle shape (or with large classes more like a circle around the room). Have three balls ready to throw. Students say a Latin word and throw the ball to another person. That one says a Latin word and throws it to another person. And so on. You have to keep three balls going as long as we can. When a ball is dropped, it is out of play. When all three balls have fallen to the ground, the game is over. This could go one longer than the usual brain break–but could be used for 2-3 brain breaks in the same class–or brain breaks all week long–or for an extended game pre or post assessment. (From Chris Buczek)


Hic ludus “trigon vocabulorum” vocatur. Discipuli, facite circulum circum conclave.  Sunt tres pilae. Discipulus qui pilam habet vocabulum Latinum dicit et pilam ad alium discipulum iacit. Pergite hoc modo. Cum pila delabitur, non iam iaci potest.  Cum omnes pilae delabuntur ludus perficitur.


  1. Ecce Vacca: Achi pachi (a nonsense spanish word that I render as Ecce vacca). Students sit in chairs in a circle. One student in the middle asks random students a Latin question and the student answers in Latin (anything: How are you? What day of the week is it?). When he/she asks the one (predetermined) student, that student yells “Ecce vacca!” And everybody gets up and runs to a different seat. The one who doesn’t get a seat is the new person in the center. (With a large class, you might just have 5, 7, 9–whatever your space allows–chairs in a circle. Student whose birthday is closest to today is “it” in the center.  Students close their eyes and teacher walks around outside of circle and taps one person on the back and that person is the one who yells “Ecce vacca!” when asked a question. As with Trigon Vocabulorum above, this might be used for 2-3 brain breaks in one class period, the same brain break all week, or an extended game pre/post assessment. (From Sam Spaulding. Justin Bailey notes that it is also played with Metius Fufetius. May also let students decide what phrase to use here).


Hic ludus “ecce vacca” vocatur. Discipuli in sellis sedent, uno discipulo medio in circulo stante. Magister/Magistra post discipulos circumambulat et unum/unam in tergo tangit.  Discipulus/a tactus/a est “ille/illa.” Discipulus/a medio in circulo alios de variis Latine rogat. Cum rogat illum/am, ille/illa respondet “ecce vacca!” et omnes surgunt et in aliis sellis consident.  Unus/una qui/quae restat nunc quaestiones rogat.  


  1. Facite gregem….All Ss stand up. Teacher announces, “Facite gregem ______ (numerus) discipulorum” and Ss have to SILENTLY (though this rule is often broken) form a group of that number. I go around and count the kids in the groups. Kids that don’t make into a group sit down. Keep going until 3-5 Ss remain, then I usually declare them all the winners, lest we break any friendships and/or ribs. (From Eric Mentges)

Discipuli, surgite.  Ponite sellas ad marginem conclavis.  Hic ludus “facite gregem” vocatur. Dicam “facite greges (numeri) discipulorum.”  vos circumitis circum conclave et greges huius numeri facitis. Si gregem huius numeri facere non potestis, e ludo excludimini.


  1. In Ordine: Write anything on a small whiteboard and then form into a logicial line. e.g., Write your age in the full Latin number form (or even a full sentence) and then line up oldest to youngest; write any number down and then line up low to high; write any word down and then line up a-z; write how many siblings you have and then line up least to most, etc. All pretty low effort but gets the kids up and moving at least. (Eric Mentges)


  1. Comites collidentes: Stand up and face the kid sitting next to you. When I say sinistra manus, clap your left hands together. If I say dextra manus, clap your right hand to each other. Sinister pes, clap your left feet. Dexter pes, clap your right feet. I’ll speed up and slow down and vary it so listen closely and do not fall down!! (From Elaine Virginia Zamonski)


Discipuli, invenite comitem.  Alter contra alterum stat.. Cum dico “manus sinistra”, collidite manus sinistras.  Cum dico “manus dextra”, collidite manus dextras. Cum dico “pes sinister, collidite pedes sinistros.  Cum dico “pes dexter,” collidite pedes dextros. Cum dico “summutate comites” omnes novum comitem invenient.


  1. Vocabulum volans: Everyone stands up. Everyone must say a word/short sentence (whatever works best), and you cannot repeat a word/sentence. If you say a word, you can sit back down. If you say a sentence (or a longer sentence if they’re already doing short sentences) you can sit down AND choose someone who is sitting to stand back up and say something again. Very low pressure output. (From Eric Mentges)  Variation: Use a ball with this activity, and allow for 3 strikes.  Student says word or phrase in Latin and throws ball to another person.  That person says word or phrase and throws ball to another person. Strikes happen when a word is repeated.  Three strikes and game is over, or it’s over when everyone in the room has received the ball and given a different word. (Bob Patrick’s variation).


Hic ludus “vocabulum volans” vocatur.  Omnes circum conclave stant. Quisque discipulus/a vocabulum Latinum dicit.  Vocabulo dicto, discipulus/a considit. Si quis sententiam integram dicit, potest considere ET eligere aliquem sedentem qui nunc stare iterum debet.


  1. Naufragium–based on a game played in Costa Rica. You tell your class there has been a naufragium and the ship is taking on water. To survive, students must get into the life boats (rates is what I said), but there’s a catch. They must enter the life boats in numbers according to your directions. You might start saying “ad rates…bini”, so kids two at a time huddle together. Then you might say “ad rates…octoni”, so kids have to form groups of eight, exactly. If there are nine trying to get in, the group must decide whom to kick out. If there are seven, and therefore not eight, pro dolor, they all perish. You can alternate odds and evens, high numbers and low numbers, in an effort to widdle the group down to two or one or even none! This break can be a lot of fun, it can be noisy, and I have even seen students volunteering “to take one for the team”. Enjoy, and any ways to improve the Latin in this are appreciated. For this activity, use distributives: singuli, bini, terni, quaterni, quini, seni, septeni, octoni, noveni, deni, etc.


  1. Poculum–picked up off one of the CI FB pages, I sadly cannot remember who the source is.  If someone knows, I’ll gladly add the name. Two students play at a time (you could have several “play stations” set up, though).  They face each other with a stool or other item standing between them. On top of the stool is a plastic cup. The teacher calls out various body parts in Latin.  The students have to touch that body part. So, “caput” means they touch their own head, manus sinistra–they touch their left hand, nasus–they touch their nose, etc.  When the teacher says “poculum” they grab the plastic cup. The one who gets it is the winner. At any time that a student touches the wrong body part or goes for the cup when a body part is called, he/she is out and a new player takes their place.  The winner of the round can remain and face challengers, or you can have a winners round where they play off for a victor/victrix omnium. 


Hic ludus “poculum” vocatur.  Duo lusores alter contra alterum stant scamno interposito.  In scamno est poculum. Magister/ra partes corporis vocat. Si magister/ra “caput” vocat, lusores tangere caput debent.  Si “manus sinistra”, lusores tangere manum sinistram debent. Si lusor prave tangit, considendum est. Cum magister/ra “poculum” vocat, lusor qui prior poculum capit est victor/victrix. 

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