Have you ever had a lesson go really wrong? The only thing worse is to finish the lesson early. Have students sitting, looking at you confused and say “what do we do now?”. If you are in high school, they all want to pull out their phones, which will probably be the very instant that an administrator walks in.
Every teacher needs a few activities in their teacher bag to pull out. Prepare some of these early and then you are always ready. Since we are short staffed in my district, these activities have also come in handy when subbing in a classroom with no lesson plan :(.
Try a silly bingo type card with pictures of fruit, superheroes or party items on it. Instead of calling out the item, describe it in one word. Try laminating the cards for repeated use.
Or use a math bingo game. If your students have devices, you can use a bingo game where the cards are online and students can mark their cards. This eliminates the need for printing cards ahead of time unless you keep them laminated for several uses. This does take a bit more time than some of the other shorter activities. But it works great when called to cover a class with no lesson plan.
Three of a kind
3 related words are written on board and students find what they have in common. These are tricky, you could use this to show at the beginning of class or post on a bulletin board.
Display a trivia boom deck for the class and let them play in groups to get the answer. I use my trivia boom cards and students love them since they can play along and then shout out the answer. Note: most students are surprisingly good at trivia and some of the trivia questions are so random that everyone will be surprised at the answers.
I Have, who Has
Pass out at random and play a round. In my first year of teaching I used this activity in class one day. I explained the rules, even did a couple of examples but a few students were so confused that it was frustrating. But when we were finished, a student in the back yelled out “Oh, I get it now, let’s do it again”. Try printing and laminating several decks so you are always ready.
If you want to try this activity and need cards, I’ve got you covered. There are 30 cards in each activity. You just need to print and cut then let the math begin. I usually start the round by reading Who Has on my card. When the last student reads their who has, then I answer ” I Have”. Just click the link below and you can download 3 versions of the activity.
I hesitate to do this because I have so many students who have auditory processing issues so it would seem to be unfair in those cases. But, you can try counting by 10 backwards from some random number like 911 or 567.
Or you can display a table like the ones below and have students complete it. Any activity that helps students see patterns and find the next item in the group is helpful in developing logical processing.
You could use 4-7’s and any math operation to arrive at a number. For instance, the number one could be 7 * 7 divided by 7 * 7. It could also be 7+7-7-7. You could use 4 4’s or 4 8’s, and even use exponents to make it more exciting. Keep up a big poster to display the numbers created and add to it when needed.
Beach Ball Toss
Write some simple math questions (or not so simple) on a big blow up beach ball and toss in the classroom. Whoever catches it answers the question on their right (or left) thumb. This is also a great idea for the beginning of the year. Write some simple questions such as “Favorite TV show” or “Vegetable you hate” to get to know students in a fun way.
Note: Keep some extras (beach balls, that is) ready in the cabinet. These will last a long time but sometimes things happen.
Pows and Wows
Have students share 1 great thing (Wow) and I bad thing that happened that day (Pow). If they are not comfortable sharing, then ask them to share something that happened to a friend.
When I was in middle school I used this more than at the high school level. Middle school kids seems to want to share more to the group than at the high school.
Take A Step
Have students line up. Read a list of questions. If it is true for them, they take a step forward. For example: I have a cat. If the student has a cat, they take a step forward. You can also ask questions that require a step forward or a step backward. For example “If you have a sister, take a step forward, if you have a brother, take a step backwards”. This works great outside as well. My room is in the lunch area so there is lots of room to spread out–just need to keep an eye that students don’t wander off, lol.
This is one of those activities that is successful anytime, but especially fun at the beginning of the year when everyone is getting to know each other. Students will discover facts about classmates that will help them get settled quicker and the teacher learns more about the students.
Have students draw on the board while the rest of the class guesses. You can have them pull names or phrases from a basket or let them think up one.
If you want to get tricky you can use vocabulary from the previous unit, or previous year to see how much they have retained. Try drawing a rhombus on the board and see if the answer is a rhombus or a diamond.
Display a Sudoku or logic puzzle and ask students to complete a section. If you display on an interactive white board, they can write on the board in the space. These type of logic puzzles are fun for students because they have pictures and are less intimidating than just numbers.
Logic puzzles are fun for kids, build on math logic skills and seem like a game. Have several of these (laminated of course) and you will be ready for anything.
Any type of task card works well for this, just pull out a card you already have and ask students to solve a problem for 5 points or a jolly rancher. I like to use task cards for content we have covered. This is a great way to keep that content fresh with continual review without feeling like review time. And the jolly ranchers make everything more fun.
I hope you find this helpful next time you are stuck with an extra 5 or 10 minutes in class. I think using every minute of instructional time sends a message that class is important and should be respected. Of course, there is always an exception to the rule.
Drop me a comment at email@example.com if you have another sponge activity to offer or add a comment below.