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Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour for a Second Stop in Arkansas

November 9th, 2016

As Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar has made its first tour across the country engaging youth in both classroom and after-school settings, creators Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor couldn’t be more pleased with the response and look forward to seeing Brain Boosters in even more places where the activities can interact with youth groups and bring energy and fun brain development!

Here’s a review from a “tour” stop in Little Rock, Arkansas with Our House:

“The youth and adults, who facilitated the activity, preferred the 20 second challenges because they were quick and simple. In addition, the youth enjoyed the Show Me Your Moves cards because they were able to improvise and “think on their feet.”
“The instructions were simple, therefore it took very little time to explain the instructions to the youth. Please note that we tested this on youth K – 8th grade.

“The youth said the following:

  • It was fun!
  • It got us moving!
  • We had to think fast!
  • It required us to work as a team!
  • We had to use our brain
  • We were able to get some energy out

“Most of the students liked acting out the various scenarios but some youth felt extremely uncomfortable because they do not like being the center of attention. (editor’s note:  the activities do include the right to “pass”).  Our group did not like the activities that required additional time (5 – 10 minutes). We passed over all of the cards that required an extensive amount of time.

“We would recommend this to other programs – It is an easy way to get the kids moving, thinking, and working together.”

- Desirae Holmes, Our House


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Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: on Tour in Arkansas

October 26th, 2016

In its trek across the country, Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor made its way to Arkansas over the summer to engage youth and build the brain through fun, interactive ways.  Here’s what the staff from Life Skills for Youth had to say:

Our youth liked the 20-second Challenges, Show Me Your Moves and Make a Melody games the best.  Some of the favorite activities were  the music challenges and showing off their moves – making up skits.  They liked making a song to the star spangled banner.  I would say what they most liked about the activities overall was the chance they had to express themselves in front of classmates.  The activities were amusing for their peers. 

The only critique was that some students thought some of the music items could have been a bit more relatable for their age group (over 15).

What I enjoyed most, as a facilitator, was  was the engagement and humor for those who participated.  I would recommend these activities to other programs.  The activities created involvement between students and teacher.  It allowed children to work together and support their classmates.

- Gary Casey, Life Skills for Youth


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Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: A Teacher’s Review

October 19th, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar is definitely a very worthwhile, unique find.   I have used it in my classroom in many different ways since it serves multiple purposes.  My students, primarily 5th graders, have absolutely loved the crazy challenges found on the cards.


This game comes with 101 small cards in a plastic jar and a die.  There are four categories: Make a Melody, Show Me Your Moves, 20-Second Challenge, and Wild Cards.  The 20- second challenges are my favorite.  These cards are great for when students need a quick break from long stretches of learning, yet I do not want to lose valuable instructional time.  Many of these cards include debates, like arguing whether texting or face-to-face conversation is more important.  Others include telling a story about a time the teller was brave, or acting out a scene from a movie.  With these cards, I usually give one to each of my six groups, and each person in the group gets to go around and do it.  Because each student only has 20 seconds, the groups get done at the same time, making it easy to resume the lesson.


The Make a Melody cards were my students’ favorite.  They elicited hilarious responses, such as singing a song using a cat or a dog voice (woof-woof or meow-meow), and seeing if the group could tell what it was.  The only problem with these is that when multiple groups are doing this category at once, the room gets pretty noisy! I ended up using these with the whole group, and would have one representative from each group perform them, and then they would rotate. This solution worked well.


Most of the Show Me Your Move cards require movement in the classroom, so they are great when I had to have indoor activity time.  Some of them include making up dance moves, completing stretches, and doing short relay races.


Wild Cards can be any mixture of the following, but most of them include writing and discussing.  My favorite ones are those that have students share information about themselves with each other, like their favorite hobbies.  The card also tells them to roll the die to determine how many things they share about that hobby with the group.  These really help students get along better in my classroom as they make stronger connections with each other.


I highly recommend choosing the cards that students receive. The one factor that I am always concerned about is time. It was very important for me to pre-select the cards, as some of them can be more time-consuming than others.  I also factor in noise level of the cards occasionally, depending on how I use the cards that day.  Selecting them matters as well because some of them need materials, like tape, balls, and various other objects.


Students do always have the choice to pass if they feel too uncomfortable doing the activities.  On the first day we tried the cards, I had a handful of students who did not want to participate.  However, once they realized how much fun the other students were having who did participate, everyone engaged with them from then on.


Ways that I utilize them in my classroom:

  •  Short brain breaks for students during long periods of work time (like essay writing)
  • Icebreakers/getting to know you activities when students are placed in new groups
  • During indoor activity time
  • As tie-breakers following review games (especially the 20-second challenges)
  • At the beginning of the year as students simply get used to group rotations
  • As bellwork when the card coincides with the lesson (debate cards, for example)


There are many other ways that the cards can be used, I am sure! I am very pleased with them, and I definitely plan on using them in my classroom again this year.  Overall, this is a great product, and it certainly deserves two-thumbs up!

- Bethany Riggs Weeks, Fifth Grade Language Arts & Volleyball Coach

Sycamore Middle School



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Get it On: The Dance Challenge

May 8th, 2016

In our dance series of moves we’ve learned from teens, we’ve highlighted several dance moves. Did you take the time to demonstrate the moves you know and that your youth know?

Not only is dancing (movement) good as a brain booster, it’s also good as an inter-generational activity and a cultural activity where we exchange things we know and love about music AND share stories.

One last clip . . . just because – watch and see who knows what, who does what and what other epic moves it brings to mind.  Let the fun begin!  Enjoy!


Boost Your Brain: The Final 3 Dance Moves

May 2nd, 2016

On our journey to learn new dance steps from youth, we leave you with these three.  Are they still the latest?

Ask your teens to teach you the newest moves.  Ask the to share dance stories – the flopped moves, the great moves, maybe even the embarrassing moves.  It’s fun what you’ll learn as you move, laugh and dance together . . . which brings us back to the point of this series: boost the brain, boost the relationships.


for this next one, it takes about 30 seconds in to get to it.  :-)

Boost Your Brain: The Dancing Goes On

April 25th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

For this week’s dance moves, these three steps are easy (supposedly) beginner moves that anyone can do – even those of us with two left feet!  Poll your teens – do these moves still make the cool list? Or do they help them get away with “looking” cool?


Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®

April 12th, 2016

Did you know that you can boost brain power through play? Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® includes activities that engage the brain through music, movement, challenge, conversation, novelty and more. Some of the games are very individual in nature – draw a card and perform for the group. Some are more group oriented – inviting the whole group to play. Some games include props that should be on hand: pencils, paper, or tape.

Players always have the opt-out option to keep the environment safe so if someone pulls a game card and doesn’t want to lead it, he can put it back and pull another card out. (This option may help with cultural gaps of understanding as well as any language issues.). Have fun boosting brainpower!


Game Creations*

Divide into even-numbered teams. Give each team 8 minutes to create a new game. The catch? The game must utilize a mirror, a suitcase, a ball, and a shovel. Present the game to the group. Have each team share how to play the game.

game invention

Anthony proudly displays the game he and Emily Sue created.

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*Excerpted from Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, copyright © 2016, forthcoming. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; All rights reserved.

Boost Your Brain: Dance Move #4

April 11th, 2016

For this week’s dance move that we learned from youth we know, we bring you the Running Man.

Ask your teens? Is this still hot? Or has it gone cold?  What IS the latest, greatest move?


Boost Your Brain: Dance Move #3

April 4th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

As Ann and I led a series for workshops, we tested various dance games.  We quickly learned that not all dance moves are universal . . . or equal.   As always, we love learning from youth . . .

Here’s this week’s moves that we learned. (One I can do!)

Ask your teens: are these moves in? Or are they now “so last year”?