My 4 Favorite Activities in a Pinch
We’ve all had ‘those days’ in the classroom. You know what I mean, the days where it seems like nothing can go right. The math lesson flopped, the social studies’ guest speaker canceled at the last minute, a child is in tears because their paper is” too wrinkled”… and you are about to lose it. This is #teacherlife, am I right?
I am currently spending a year substitute teaching, and I can’t tell you how many days I have walked into a classroom to a plan that says “Find something to do for reading, writing, math, and PE” or, better yet, walked into no plan at all.
These days are inevitable, and they happen to everyone. This year, more than any, I’ve learned to have a handful of on-the-go games ready at any time. These games can fill a few minutes and allow you to gather your thoughts before you proceed with the day. Sometimes I use them as a ‘re-set’ after a tough lesson. Hopefully, they can help you as well!
Activity 1: Silent Ball
I always keep a small dollar store ball in my teaching bag for this very game. In Silent Ball, students sit (gasp!) on top of their desks. Then, a ball is passed to the first student. The goal of the game is to keep the ball moving around the classroom without dropping it or making a peep. If the ball is dropped or someone speaks the round is over. You can keep ‘score’ by counting how many passes are done, or timing how long the students can keep the ball going without dropping it. I love this game because it is cooperative and forces students to work together to achieve their goal.
Activity 2: Charades
I almost always have a deck of charades cards in my teaching bag. This game is great for almost all levels, and meets some important Speaking and Listening outcomes at the same time. I play charades in a few ways. First, we play the classic version where students have to act out the card pulled. I also play an alternate version where they have 30 seconds to describe as many cards as they can. Then, after all cards have been described, students have another 30 seconds to describe the cards using only one word. That one is a lot of fun, and usually draws on students’ memory from the previous round. I haven’t yet met a class that doesn’t like a charades break!
Activity 3: Go Noodle
Wiggly group? Energy coming out of everywhere? Go Noodle is my best friend in these occasions. Accounts are free for teachers, and there is plenty of free content to get your students up, sweating, and moving around. My younger students love “Koo Koo Kangaroo” while my older students prefer “Fresh Start Fitness”. So far, all kids from K-5 have loved the track-and-field style channel “Go With the Pro”.
No internet connection or projector? Keep a few high-energy, kid-friendly songs, ready to go on your smartphone. A quick game of freeze dance will have almost the same effect on K-3 students!
Activity 4: Four Corners
This is a classic in-school game and for a good reason. Students love being able to get out of their desk and try to win in a game of Four Corners. To play this game, label each ‘corner’ of the classroom 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then designate a student to be “it”. This students sits in the middle of the room with a blindfold (or very covered eyes) and slowly counts down from 10. During this time, students must sneak to one of the designated corners. The ‘it’ students then yells out a corner number, and all of the students in that corner are out. The game continues until only one student is left. To keep things moving, I tend to ‘close’ a corner as fewer students remain in the game. By the end, the final few students are only allowed to choose from two of the corners.
What are your go-to activities for a tough day? Do you have any favorite classroom games or activities? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.