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Classroom Activities: 5 Sponge Ideas to Keep Students Busy

Janelle Cox

No matter how far in advance you’ve planned your day, there will be times when you will have a few minutes to spare or an unexpected gap in your schedule. Instead of panicking and letting your students get out of control, you’ll need some “Sponge” activities to have in your back pocket. Sponge activities, or as some call them “Fillers,” are quick classroom activities that students work on as they come into the classroom or when they have some extra time. These classroom activities can be used during classroom transitions or when you have a few extra minutes to spare. They can be a lifesaver, and save you from the chaos that can occur when children don’t have anything to do. Here are some of the top teacher-tested classroom activities that you can have students do before the bell, in-between classes, or when they’re just waiting patiently for something to start.  

Bell Ringer Classroom Activities

Bell ringers are sponge activities that students do first thing in the morning as they enter the classroom. They can be written on the front board or in a packet at the students’ desks. They’re the perfect classroom activities for students to do independently while you are taking attendance or while students are doing other chores in the morning. Here are a few suggestions on what students can do for a bell ringer activity.

  • Copy a paragraph that has grammar and spelling mistakes and correct them.
  • Ask students to write down five things they learned from class yesterday.
  • Display a photograph and have students write a short story based on it. 
  • Write a complex math problem on the board and have students try and solve it.
  • Have a crossword puzzle or word search using the spelling words of the week.

Tweet of the Day

The Tweet of the day is like a recap of what the students learned throughout the day. Just like on Twitter, students must use 140 characters or less to describe what stuck out to them the most out of all of the things that they learned during that day. At the end of the day, if you have time, you can have students share their tweets. This classroom activity is not only a fun way to fill in some time for the students, but it’s also a great way for you to learn what students got out of the day. It’s also really good practice for the students to learn how to condense tie writing into 140 characters or less.

Get 6

This competitive classroom sponge activity will have students excited to learn while they review concepts learned. This game can last two minutes or 10 minutes depending on how much time you have to fill. To get started, pair students into teams of two and give them one die. Each student rolls the die, and whoever has the larger number goes first. When prompted, the student then writes down as many (vocabulary words, definitions, spelling words, etc.) as they can. While this is happening, the other student is continually rolling the die until they get the number six, then the rolls change until the teacher says time is up. It’s a great filler for review and teachers love it because it can be as short or as long as you have time for.

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Quick as a Blink

Have students try and name as many of something as they can in a specific amount of time. The amount of time spent on this activity will depend upon the amount of time that you have. If you have a lot of time you can have students go down the list and try and name as many things as they can. If you only have a little bit of time, then you can just have students take one topic off of the list and try and name as many things as they can under that topic. Here are a few suggestions.

Name as many as you can of the following:

  • Colors                    
  •  Animals  
  • States                                      
  • Mammals
  • Presidents                            
  • Movies
  • Types of ice cream          
  • Cartoons
  • Countries                              
  • Holidays
  • Teachers in their school               
  • Fruits
  • Automobiles
  • Vegetables

Writing for a Reason

This classroom activity will have students writing for a reason. The purpose of this quick sponge activity is to give students a purpose for why they are writing. The goal is for students to respond to a variety of topics that will help you check for understanding. This will not only keep students engaged, but it will also give you a deeper understanding of what students are thinking. Here are a few suggestions.

  • What were you surprised to learn about in school today?
  • How did you feel when you got to the ending of the book?
  • Write an adjective for each letter in your first and last name.
  • Tell me about your favorite book and why it is your favorite.
  • Write five things you like to do after school when you get home.

Having a variety of sponge activities in your back pocket will help alleviate the need for students to sit and wait patiently when a lesson finishes early or you have a few minutes to spare. When you are prepared, then no instructional time will ever be wasted.   

What are your favorite sponge classroom activities? Please share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas on this topic.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.