"Back Pocket" Activities

You can find these with many different names:
 "Sponge" Activities
 'early finisher' ideas, 'free time' activities, mini-lessons, puzzles, word games, ...

I call them "Back Pocket" Activities.  Here's why ...

"Whole Class" Activities

Time-Filler Ideas – Games along with short explanations

  • Hangman Headlines - An enjoyable game which creates interest in current news issues.
  • Noughts and Crosses - A fun way of questioning children about any topic.
  • Kids' Questions - A fun time-filler which you can use every day of the school year.
  • Odd One Out! - A simple game requiring children to find the odd one out in a group.
  • If I were... - Find out what your class would do if they could take on the role of another person.
  • Title Pages - A simple way of using a few spare minutes, which reinforces the concepts you are teaching within your topics.
  • News Headlines - Turn a mundane event into a filler activity, using this headlines activity.
  • Slam! - A fast-paced game which can be used within any curriculum subject. This game is called SLAM. It can be used in all the subjects.
  • http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/more/timefiller/contents.htm

Timefilling ideas, Puzzles, Word games, Fun, Other Ideas

  • Just A Minute - like the famous radio show. Pupils must speak for one minute without hesitating, repeating a word or deviating from the topic.
  • Newspaper - sensationalize a mundane event around school. For example "Mrs Smith tragically runs out of rice pudding".
  • Getting To Know You - throw a ball of wool at a named individual. You keep hold of part of it and eventually there should be a spider's web in the circle.
  • Listen & Draw - One child has to describe a picture to the rest of the class who have to draw it.
  • Class Timeline - Create a timeline for the class. This could relate to the current year or the previous one.
  • TOAST - "Think Of A Sentence Together": teacher or pupil writes a series of letters on the board and children have to create a sentence using the initial letters. For example BFASFbr becomes "Big fish always swim fast".

Be the Teacher
Submitted by: April Roberts, Franklin County Middle School, GA
For my middle school, Latino, ESL kids, I often wrap up the last ten minutes by having one or two of the students "be the teacher" for a mini-lesson. I'll call on someone at random, and ask them to go to the board and in two minutes or less re-teach what they've learned that day. I'll call them "Mr." or "Ms." and ask them questions as they demonstrate their lesson re-cap. I encourage the other students to ask questions so the teacher can field them. The "teacher" is allowed to choose to give their lesson in English or Spanish, depending on their language ability level. This option allows even the beginner to participate effectively and show off a bit. It works well with grammar, because they can write examples, diagram a sentence, and list or categorize. This also works effectively in other content areas.



Who Has It? Who Doesn't?
     from Cathy Jimenez, a bilingual teacher in the Escondido,California Union School District.
Teacher chooses an observable object such as hair ribbons, watch, white shirt, and says, "Ann has it, James doesn't." When someone thinks they know, they raise their hand and guess. Each student may make only one guess per object until everyone has had a chance, or until a given time limit has passed.

With younger students, the students who "have it" line up on one wall and the ones who don't "have it" line up on the other wall, so they can have visual clues to the criteria or concept.



Individual or Small Group Activities

'Acceptable' Free Time Activities - One teacher's list of "acceptable" free time activities (selected /partial list):

  • write a story
  • write a poem
  • write a song
  • play an educational game
  • pleasure read
  • make a game to practice a recent concept (states/capitals, reducing fractions, times tables, continents, minerals....)
  • put together a puzzle

Go to the teacher store and find some fun workbooks.....like logic puzzles or those pictures (i can't think of the name) like:  [RESEARCH]
      heels       (that means "head over heels")

and make copies of the most interesting ones and have a "puzzler" station .

Early Finishers Ideas - select ideas Try adapting this list to make it more suitable for your local context.



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