Every teacher has a set of activities that they have found to increase classroom engagement. And we all know when to bring them out. Even I get bored with myself sometimes, so I know the students are bored with doing the same activities each day.
An interesting research study showed that an increase of 1% in engagement will result in nearly 8% mathematic achievement. Just 1%, so try to infuse a little more engagement for big results this year.
Here are my best go-to activities when the class needs to re-energize.
My students love anything to do with drawing, creating, cutting, gluing, etc. Even making math posters. If you are starting a new unit, instead of you preparing the classroom posters or word wall, have students create posters in groups.
Give each group a set of words or concept to illustrate, provide materials and let them go. Note: I do not grade this – I don’t even correct it for errors. I let the students do this themselves.
Student names need to go on the back so when they are posted on bulletin boards or walls, students are not embarrassed.
In a previous blog post, students created Polynomial Posters to review vocabulary before a quiz. Read that post here: https://bluemountainmath.com/i-love-polynomials/
2. Gallery Walks
Once you have the posters on the wall, have students circulate in groups to note a positive thing about the poster and what could be improved.
The first time this is done in class, I pass out the feedback form and model for the students. I actually stand in front of the poster with a student and model the type of conversation and comments that are appropriate.
3. Jeopardy Style Games
Students love games and there is no reason not to use them. This is one of my favorite ways of reviewing before an assessment. In the past I have used Jeopardy style games with the categories being the content we were reviewing.
The drawback to this time of game is that the same students tend to win. Every. Single. Time. Would you ever play a game voluntarily if you knew you would not win?
For this reason, I adapted the rules so that the group who answered correctly would not get the points. Instead, they either gave the points to another group or took points from another group.
Students loved this idea because anyone could win. It was a game of strategy as well as correct answers and groups quickly formed alliances about giving and taking.
4. Take the Wheel
One of my favorite participation activities is using the Wheel of Names. You do have to prepare the wheel in advance. When I ask a question, I spin the wheel to see who will answer.
There are two options: once a student has been chosen you can remove them from the wheel or you can keep them in. I find that removing a student means they have now “checked-out” and will not be listening as carefully.
So if a student is called on the second time they get to pick the person to answer.
The wheel is online and you can get the wheel here: https://wheelofnames.com/
5: Corner Collaboration
In corner collaboration, there are 4 different versions of a worksheet or practice to complete. In each group of 4 each students gets a different version.
Teacher sets the timer and students work together to help each other complete the problems. When the timer goes off, students move to one of the four corners with other students that have the same version of the worksheet.
Teacher sets timer again. They compare answers, and ask each other for help. When the timer goes off, students return to their home group.
At this point, teacher can address any remaining questions or review a problem. This helps students get moving in the classroom (and they are standing in the corner) instead of just sitting passively.
Note: Using a timer with any activity keeps students on task. They understand there is a finite amount of time and it is a bonus if you display the timer so they can see time slipping away.
Here are a great selection of fun online timers to use in the classroom: https://www.online-stopwatch.com/classroom-timers/
6. Scavenger Hunts
Just as in Corner Collaboration, whenever you can get students up and moving, they will be more active. Print out the pages of a scavenger hunt and post around the room (mix up, don’t place in order).
Students can start anywhere, work a problem and using that answer they move to question with that previous answer. They walk and talk as they do the math, it is a low stress way to learn and review.
Students love bingo especially if you are giving a prize (and I always do). The first bingo a student gets a jolly rancher or other small candy and if that student gets a second bingo on the same card, they get points toward a missing assignment.
Make sure you explain how to play bingo. I assume that all students have played bingo at some point, especially since I teach at the high school, but this is not the story.
I usually play a math bingo but there are lots of ways to do this without preparing boards in advance. The easy way is to do DIY bingo.
DIY Bingo Explained
Create a worksheet for the students with 25-30 problems. Print out the answer key (just the answers, no problem and not numbered) and display for the students. Give them a blank card and tell them to place a free space (in the middle, if you are traditional) and then put one of the answers in each of the boxes on the card. Tell them to mix them up good.
Then pass out the worksheet and as the students work the problem on the worksheet and get an answer, if they have the answer on their card, they cross it out.
When they get a bingo they bring it up. This works for review and gives the teacher opportunities to work with students who may be struggling. And students can work at their own pace.
Another option is to use that worksheet and use an online bingo generator to enter the answers and print the bingo cards. This saves time in the students writing the answers.
Whatever activity you use, the goal is to give students a refresh, get them excited about learning again. If you have an activity you love, drop me a comment below or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.