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No-Prep and Low-Prep Classroom Activities

Janelle Cox

When was the last time that you felt so overwhelmed that you decided to buy a lesson plan online instead of create one yourself? We have all been there and done that, except for many of us, it just isn’t affordable. Sure, there are plenty of free teaching resources out there, but many of them are worksheets and we all know that worksheets can get boring fast. Children are hardwired to move and connect with their peers. Even though you may wonder how they can sit in front of the television or play video games for hours on end, they still are children and children love to talk and move and connect with their friends. In this fast-paced world that we live in, filled with ever-changing technology (that teachers need to keep up with), as well as high-stakes testing and teacher evaluations, many teachers are opting for the ready-made lessons rather than engaging classroom activities because their lives have gotten so busy. Unfortunately, with pre-made lessons, you get what you pay for, which sometimes means the students are silently seated thought out the whole lesson. While they may look fancy on the outside, there is a chance that you may have to spend endless hours cutting and copying and laminating in order for the lesson to be ready. With all of that work, you could have just created your own lesson from the beginning. So, how can we teachers create no-prep or low-prep classroom activities that our students will love and be engaged in without breaking the bank? With the help of some fellow teachers, we have come up with a few classroom activities for you.

No-Prep and Low-Prep Classroom Activities

No time to plan? No problem. These no-prep and low-prep activities are grab and go and easy to do.

Sentence Relay

This activity is adapted from an ESL lesson for elementary students. To begin, split students into two teams like you would in a relay race.

  • Next, ask a question and have students take turns coming to the front board to write the question you just asked one word at a time. The last person has to begin writing the answer one word at a time. The first team to have the question and answer correct gets a point. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
  • The only prep time you need for this activity is to find the questions to ask your students. However, you may not need any prep time because you can find the questions in your teacher manual.

Hungry Hippos

This low-prep activity is adapted from a middle school English class. To begin, you must have at least as many “Ball pit” balls as there are students in the classroom. Take these balls and number them to correlate with the worksheet that you will be using.

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  • You will need a premade worksheet that you can copy from one of your teacher manuals. Make sure that you have enough worksheets for all students.
  • Divide children into small teams of about 4-5 students. Give each student a worksheet. Place all of the balls onto the carpet or in a specific place that is easy to access from all points of the classroom.
  • On your go, one member from each group will run to the balls and collect a ball for each group member. When the student gets back to the group, they will hand out the balls that were collected, and then students must quickly answer the question on the worksheet that corresponds with their ball.
  • The first team to complete their questions and place their balls back into the center receives a point for their team. The team with the most points at the end wins.

A-Z Reflection

This is the perfect no-prep activity to try in the beginning of the school year or at the end of the school year. All you have to do for this activity is to have students write down the letters A-Z on a piece of paper.

Next, instruct students to reflect upon what they did during the summer and to write down one thing for each letter. If you are doing this activity at the end of the school year then have students reflect upon what they learned during the school year.

Student Choice

This activity requires zero prep time. Challenge students to become the teacher for a moment. Divide students into small groups of four and have them create a Tic Tac Toe board. Each student is responsible to come up with two tasks to write on their group Tic Tac Toe board. Each group should have a total of nine tasks, one for each square on the board. Have students turn their choice boards in and make copies of all of them. If you have a total of five groups, then you should have five different student choice boards.

On Monday, pass out one choice board to all students and challenge them to choose any three tasks to complete on the board, just as long as they choose three squares in a row. Each day of the week, pass out a new choice board and have students complete it. This is a fun, interactive way to let students have some control over their learning, with the added bonus of no prep time except for making photo copies.

Do you have any no-prep or low-prep classroom activity ideas that you would like to share? Please share your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.

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 a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.