Transition and Sponge Activities
In a classroom, it seems like something usually happens which was not in the plan for the day. Sometimes this leaves the teacher rushing to get through the day’s plan or having to postpone part of it for another day, but sometimes plans go more quickly than expected and the teacher is left with an odd gap of time for which there is no plan. In addition, throughout each day students are constantly moving from one subject to another or one activity to another. According to Wong and Wong, every minute of class time is valuable, and even these short sections of time can be used for academic learning (2009). As I prepare to use every available minute of class time constructively, I have put together a reliable list of transition activities to move from one subject/activity to another and sponge activities to soak up the extra few minutes when there is no plan.
o As students transition from one subject/activity to another, I will give anywhere from five to ten random students a scrap of paper. Students who receive a piece of paper will share with the class something they learned in the last activity. They will begin sharing after students have arrived at their next activity or their desks (Johnson, 2013a). This is a great way of quickly revisiting what students learned in the previous activities while keeping it fun and moving during the transition.
o In this transition activity useful while lining up or waiting in line for an activity, one student uses his/her fingers to represent a math problem silently. He/she does this by holding up the number of fingers for the first number, making the operation with his/her fingers, holding up the second number of fingers, and then making the equal sign. The first student to hold up the correct answer gets to “ask” the next problem. Students must be silent during this activity. I am especially excited about this transition because it is a great way for students to practice math facts, as well as remain quiet, in time which might otherwise be wasted (Johnson, 2013b).
Clean-up in Character
o When cleaning up from an activity or moving from one activity to another, I will call out a type of person/object/scene for students to act out while they are transitioning. The characters students will be acting out will relate to either the previous lesson or new activity (e.g. While transitioning into a social studies lesson on pioneers, students act as if they are journeying on the Oregon Trail). Acting is often a fantastic motivator for getting students to do something, so having them act while cleaning up seems like a good way to engage students as well as to get their minds ready for the new subject they are transitioning to. If students are told to act out a scene from the lesson before, the acting can help solidify what they learned (Sandefur, Gamble, Warren, & Hicks, 2006)
o When lining up to transition to another classroom or activity, I will have students line up in a certain way. For example, they may have to line up according to height, or alphabetically according to middle name. I will be creative with the ways I have students line up so that they never line up the same way more than once or twice in the school year. This is a beneficial transition activity because it is somewhat academic in nature, since students are required to think mathematically in lining up (more for some activities or for some this more, and it is also just a fun way to encourage community in the classroom by changing up which students are standing next to each other (Douglas & Friedman).
o I will begin with a special ball or stuffed animal and will lead off with one sentence to start a story. I will then toss this object to a student, who will add another sentence to the story. This student will toss it to another, and so on. If this game is played with an object making sound when squeezed, students could be “out” of the game for making the noise when the object is caught. Overall, this game is quick and easy, helps students develop story-telling skills, and helps students work on focusing and paying attention to what is going on in a story so they do not miss out when it is their turn (Scholastic, 2013).
The Price is Right
o I will have pictures of houses, properties, or objects printed off and set aside for use in this fun activity. When we have a few spare minutes of class and I want to use this sponge activity, I will post one of these pictures at the front of the room, and everyone will get to try guessing the price of the object. As students guess, I will make a table on the board with columns showing guesses which are too high and guesses which are too low. Students use this information to eventually guess the correct price. This activity is a fun way for students to practice their estimating skills and how to use tables. More so, however, it helps students better understand mathematics in the real world and can help increase mathematical sense (Scholastic, 2013).
Add-up Mental Math
o In Add-Up Mental Math, the class works together to try to reach the number 100 (or another pre-determined number) by adding together other numbers. First, I ask one student a simple addition problem (i.e. 8+9), and the student has as long as he/she needs to answer. However, the student must only say the answer without any fillers like “um” or “I think,” etc. After the student gives the answer (in this case, 17), I quickly turn to another student and ask him/her to add another number (i.e. 11). The process continues as long as the class can go without any incorrect answers and without any words other than the answer. It is a great way for students to work on mental math, and because questions cannot be repeated students must pay close attention. The silence other than correct answers also means that the classroom noise level will be kept quite low. In addition, it is easy to differentiate in this game by asking struggling students earlier (easier) problems and saving tougher ones for students who need to be challenged with math (Scholastic, 2013).
Around the World
o In this classic math game, two students stand next each other and challenge each other in answering a math problem on a flash card first (held by me). The student who gets the right answer quickest moves on to challenge the student in the next desk, and so on. This is a valuable game because students get a chance to practice mental math, and are motivated to learn their math facts in order to do well in this game. Around the World can be used for any mathematical operation and could possibly also be adapted for other subjects, as long as the questions asked have absolute objective answers (Roo. 2008) .
Teacher for a Time
o In this easy activity, students get a chance to “be teacher” for a few minutes. When there are a few minutes at the end of an activity or class, I may draw a stick and choose a student to be teacher. This student will have two to three minutes as teacher of the class, and will be expected to “teach” the class what he/she learned in class that day. This activity is fantastic because it not only gives quality experience to the sharing student in recalling what was just learned, but also reinforces the ideas to the rest of the students as well. This would be a good activity to use at the end of a very important lesson, in which the learned information must be well-retained for use on upcoming lessons (Roberts, 2006-7).
o Similar to the board game, in this activity I will provide a topic on the board such as “Natural Landforms” or “Famous Inventions” (making sure the topics relate to concepts we have learned in class). Students will have a time limit to come up with as many words which fit the topic, and one student will win with the most words. This is a good way to keep students thinking about class topics and putting into words what they remember. It can also be used for any subject (Bowman, 2013).
Would You Rather?
o Similar to the board game with this title, this sponge activity also requires students to choose one of two options. In order to make the game academic, however, I will ask the students comparison questions about topics we have been learning about in class (i.e. Would you rather live as a pioneer on the Wild West or live in a city in New York, etc.). Depending on how much time we have and how much writing the class has recently completed, students can either write a one paragraph description of why they chose the option they did or the class can discuss answers. This is a great sponge activity to get students thinking critically about the subject material and actually applying it to themselves (Trim, 2009).
o In this sponge activity, groups of students are each given a pile of pipe cleaners and instructed to build a model representing something learned in the previous lesson. These models do not actually have to represent objects. For example, in a government class, students could build a model to represent justice. This is a great sponge activity because it allows students to be creative and demonstrate their own understanding of a subject. It would be especially good for artistic or even kinesthetic learners (Trim, 2009).
Supply the Punch line
o In this fun sponge activity, students are provided with a one-clip cartoon from a newspaper or online source. However, I will cut the punch line out of the cartoon. Students will then have the job of assigning a new punch line to the cartoon. The punch line should have something to do with what we have been learning in class. I chose to include this sponge activity in this compilation because I feel it is a way for students to make the subjects they learn about in class a little more fun, and it even gives them freedom to poke fun at some of what they have been learning. These might be especially good in history or language arts (Trim, 2009).
o A Tweet on the popular social network Twitter can only be up to 140 characters long. The challenge for students in this sponge activity is to come up with Tweets by well-known people they have been studying. For example, in social studies students might supply a tweet from Benjamin Franklin, or in science a tweet from Galileo. This is a fantastic way for students to sum up what they have learned in a few short words while connecting what they have learned to their own world and giving them a chance to be creative. I can definitely see myself using this sponge activity in all subject areas (Trim, 2009).
Pass the Chicken
o In this unusual but fun and educational sponge activity, the teacher chooses a category appropriate for something the students have been learning in class. The first student holds a rubber chicken. As soon as the student passes the chicken to the next person, he/she starts listing off as many words from the category on the board as he/she can before the chicken circles all the way around the room and ends up back at the first student. Several students have a chance to do this, and the student with the most amount of words wins the game. I really like this sponge because it helps students remember important vocabulary about subjects they have learning. It is also a great activity because even students not involved in guessing words have an important part in the game, and are just as motivated (Shelby, 2009).
Card Name Game
o For this sponge, the teacher begins by writing the name of each student in the class on a separate playing card (popsicle sticks would work as well). Each student in the class is then dealt one card. Once all students have received cards, each student must share something nice about that student with the rest of the class. This is a fantastic way to build student confidence as well as help create community in the classroom. In order to make this game more academic, students could be required to use one vocabulary word in their description (Shelby, 2009).
o In this classic activity, a student or the teacher will choose one person, place, or thing, and the rest of the class will have twenty questions to try to guess it correctly. To make this activity more academic, students must choose a person, place, or thing they have been learning about in a specific subject. This is a good sponge because it is simple but also a good way for students to really think about characteristics of people, places, and things they have been learning about in class (Shelby, 2009).
o Mad libs are stories which have purposefully left with certain blanks in them. Each of the blanks tells which part of speech the word is (noun, adjective, etc.) Before reading the story, students fill in the blanks with random words. The teacher then reads through the story, and it often is very funny because the words have nothing to do with the real story. Although this sponge may seem silly, it really is a great way for students to practice their parts of speech, which seems to be an area of language arts many students (in my own experience) struggle with. To add an extra element of creativity, the teacher can even have students write their own Mad Libs and share them with each other (Shelby, 2009).