Whether it’s the end of the year or just another Tuesday, all teachers have days when they need a little time to record grades from the last lesson, gather materials, or talk privately to a student. Here are a few ways to keep students engaged.
Even though the work is not graded, collecting papers at the end of an activity encourages appropriate behavior and participation. The “reward” for students is interactive time with peers, a break from structured right/wrong responses, and/or a chance to share with the group at the end of the activity.
1. Free Write: Put three words on the board and have students write a story starter that logically includes all the words, or any form of the words. Remind students not to worry about spelling or handwriting during this creative time. Before starting the next lesson, allow one or two volunteers to read their story starters. Collect all papers and keep for possible later use.
►Sample word combinations:toy-magic-snow/shark-treasure-hiccups/invisible-kitten-surprise/boy-recipe-boom.
2. Brain Energizer: Students silently walk X number of laps around the desks. Have children enter the line by row and start walking in the same direction. Define the “rules of the road.” EX: No speeding, no passing. The line leader keeps track of the laps as they pass a certain “landmark.” As they go past the landmark the final time, students file back into their rows and follow the written directions on the board.
►When they get good at this, you can add marching, walking in the other direction, or having a leader introduce a different arm motion at the beginning of each lap.
3. Cooperative Puzzles: Quickly assign pairs or small groups. Give students X minutes to identify as many ways as possible to solve a problem. Ask one or two students to share the solutions they came up with at the end. Collect any papers.
►Sample puzzles: list of ten items for a camping trip/three ways to raise $50 for a charity/create a new classroom seating chart/plan a menu for a week of healthy school lunches/use only hands to form all the vowels/make up at least 12 math problems that have 7 as the answer/create a rhyme that could help teach the importance of one of the classroom rules.
4. Eye Spy: Set the timer. Students will have X number of minutes to silently list all the things they can see that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet. They must remain seated. Spelling and handwriting don’t count. You can quickly glance at lists and reward 2-3 students for their work.
5. The Classic: Students read silently. They may choose a book from their desks to read for pleasure, or the teacher can assign a specific reading selection.
►Students can be given a task such as locating six examples of figurative language, identifying 12 words with the long a sound, finding twelve, three-syllable nouns, or whatever. Require students to write out their answers and provide the appropriate page numbers.
6. Art Activity: Turn on some classical music and let students express themselves with drawing.
►Sample ideas: draw a machine with 10+ parts that turns on a light switch/draw a desert (or other) animal in its natural habitat/make an advertisement to sell your favorite book.