Site icon Laura Randazzo – Solutions for the Secondary Classroom

Make ‘Em Count

Know that awkward moment when you’ve finish a lecture early, all questions have been answered, and there’s still – yikes! – 10 minutes left in the period? Or ever have one of those classes that seems to finish everything about 15 minutes earlier than all of your other sections?

Your first instinct might be to just let the kids goof around on their phones until the bell. They’ll be quiet and you’ll have a few minutes to check your email. Hey, I get it. I’ve been there. Surrendering to the cell phone siren song, however, is a huge mistake. Three reasons why:

1. Teens get enough screen time at brunch/lunch/every other conscious moment they’re not in class. (Hey kids, we know you’re not really going to the bathroom when you ask for a pass. Your pocket was glowing when you asked. And, besides, who needs to take a phone into a bathroom? At best, unsanitary. At worst, creepy. Either way – ew.)

2. You just know that the moment you allow the smartphone cell-ebration to begin is the exact same moment your principal has his hand on your classroom doorknob, about to walk in with two or three school board members on a campus tour. Great. Now you’re that teacher.

3. Most importantly, we have a ton to teach and limited minutes each day to make those huge strides. A fellow teacher in my hallway did the math. If we waste just five minutes a day, that’s nearly a half an hour of missed instruction each week. If a student was absent for a half-period every single week, we’d argue that was a major reason why he wasn’t achieving success, no? So let’s do something about this. Email can wait.

I propose that we rage against cell phone zombification by keeping students engaged until the end of each hour with a toolbox full of fun and meaningful activities. I just posted this handy (and free!) “Just Give the Word” print-and-teach worksheet, a word play activity that can be used several times in a semester. The handout works as an in-class or homework assignment, game/contest sheet, or even substitute teacher materials. (A completed example is also included in the download for teacher and student reference.)

This year, I want to add more game-based learning and team contests to my classes, so here’s how I plan to use “Just Give the Word.” First, I’ll place students in teams of two or three and give one sheet to each team. Then, I’ll announce the chosen letter (a common one, like “e,” “s,” or “t,” or I might have a student roll an old Boggle die) and the amount of time (from 5 to 12 minutes) I’m giving teams to work on their answers.

To increase buy-in for all students, I’ll announce that any team scoring more than, say, 50 word points will win an extra credit point/Jolly Rancher/homework pass/whatever. (If you teach lower-level classes, give teams a few minutes to work and then allow the use of a dictionary and/or thesaurus for the remaining contest time.)

Now that this activity is ready to print-and-go (I’m also adding analogy sheets and these brain teasers to the mix), I’m on the prowl for more rigorous fun to fill those last few minutes of class. Any games, activities, routines you use to make every minute count? Don’t be shy about adding your ideas/comments below. I’m suffering from (enjoying?) summer vacation mush-brain right now and definitely need the help of my teacher friends.

Teach on, everyone!

[UPDATE: Based on the awesome suggestion of blog reader Meg (see the first comment below), I’m happy to offer yet another challenging freebie to help soak up those final few minutes in class. Click here for Word ADDiction, a new activity/game/sub material worksheet that I just posted. Enjoy! And keep those great ideas coming, folks.]

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