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Saturday, March 7, 2009


Even the best lesson planners get to the end of class and find they have five minutes for the fifteen minute activity they had planned. Teachers sometimes have a tendency to end class early and tell the students to sit and talk quietly until the end of class. The classroom environment can quickly fall apart if students are not involved in an organized activity, even if it is only for 5 minutes. Most classroom disruptions start during either the first five minutes or the last five minutes of class. Most teacher referrals are written during these times, and this is why bell to bell instruction is so important.

If you need a quick activity always be prepared. Below are four ways to constructively use the remaining five minutes of a class period.

What You Know? – This is a game you can use to review the day with your students. Each student’s name is placed on an index card and these serve as game pieces. The teacher poses a question and pulls a card from the card stack and calls on that student to answer a question. This is a good time to give bonus points to students who have paid attention during the class. Cards should have been made up ahead of time.

Sponge – Students are placed in pairs and told to make a list, on one sheet of paper, of everything they learned to date on the current unit being taught. The teacher will tell the students the number of facts they must have to get a grade of C, B, and A. To encourage participation I would give 1 bonus point for each five additional facts given over the number needed to get an A. The number should be determined based upon the amount of time left in class. I always gave extra points to the top five pairs who had the most facts in class. To grade a sponge you must give one point for each fact given. For example: George Washington = 1 point --- George Washington, president, appointed the first Cabinet, served 2 terms = 4 points. I felt sponges were only effective when graded and returned to students on the next day of class.

Roundtable – A roundtable is a brainstorming activity where students are given a question to respond to. The teacher puts the students in groups of four and each student in the group takes out a piece of paper and writes whatever question the teacher tells them to write on the top of the paper. The students then number the paper 1-20. The teacher tells them to begin and each student will write as many responses to the question as they can in the time the teacher gives. The teacher will then say pass and the students will pass their list to the left and receive a new list from the right. Each student will read what is already on this list and add their own comments to the new list. It is important that the students do not repeat answers. The process will continue until all students get their own list back. Each rotation should last about 15-20 seconds and the pass should take about 2 seconds. I usually bring closure to this activity by having each student star the five best answers on his/her list. If possible I always gave each member of a group a different color ink pen. This is a method of monitoring who is contributing to the brainstorming activity. It is also important to note that there is no talking or discussion during this activity.

Roundrobin – Roundrobin is another brainstorming activity but this one allows talking. The teacher puts the students in groups of four and a group writer is appointed. The writer gets out a piece of paper and writes whatever question the teacher tells them to write on the top of the paper. The writer then numbers the paper 1-20. The teacher tells them to begin and the writer turns to his/her left and asks the student sitting there to respond to the question. The writer jots down the answer and goes to the next student and asks him/her to respond and so on. When the writer gets to themselves they add their own response and go on to the next student. There is only one person speaking at a time and no other student in the group can help the person being addressed by the writer. If you cannot respond to the writer you just say pass and the writer will go on to the next person. Once you have said pass you are not out of the activity you have just missed one round. A sample question might be, “what have you learned in class this week?”

Note: Roundtables and Roundrobins are strategies that can be used anytime to brainstorm a specific subject; for example; list specific characteristics of the 13 colonies, list math combinations that =21, list all the facts from todays English reading, etc.

I Can Work It – This is a math activity that allows students to practice basic math skills. The teacher will pose a problem 4+2 to Joe; Joe will answer and say 6x2, Mary. Mary will say 12 – 8, John and so forth. If one of the persons called on makes a mistake any member in the class can challenge by standing. If the teacher calls on you and you answer correctly, you will add the next application to the problem and call on a student.

Find more Teaching Strategies like this on the Teaching Strategies Page


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