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Short school days are a student’s dream, but they are often some of the most frustrating days of the year for educators. You still want your students to learn something while they’re at school, but short class periods or days where you don’t see all your students can make that very challenging. You want to make the most of your class time, but you also don’t want to be unrealistic about what you can fit into a short day or how long you’re going to have the attention of your students. Here are a handful of quick activities that you can use on short days to optimize student engagement, learning, and concept retention in the classroom.
Clean Up and Catch Up
Give students some time to clean out their notebooks, backpacks, and lockers. Have them go through old papers and tidy up and organize their belongings so they are more organized moving forward. You can also pull out some cleaning supplies and have them clean and disinfect your classroom. They can wipe down desks, clean the whiteboard, vacuum the carpet, and more. If you still have time after that, give them a chance to catch up on some school work for other classes. Be sure to give them alternatives so that they’re not just talking to other students if they’re already caught up.
Write Thank You Notes
Remember that school isn’t just about teaching academic lessons. Students need to learn the importance of being grateful and showing it. Provide index cards if you’re in a pinch or pick up some inexpensive thank you notes and envelopes. Let them write out a thank you card to whomever they wish and make sure they deliver or mail it. If you have time, encourage students to share with the class who they wrote to and what they thanked them for.
Make Compliments Books
This is something you could work on over the course of a few weeks or during a week of standardized testing. Have students write their names across the top of a sheet of paper and hang them up around the room. Then the whole class makes their way around the room and writes compliments on the papers about the student whose name is on top. Once everyone has written something on every paper, hand out the pages to the students they belong to and let them read the compliments from their classmates. This can be incredibly powerful for students and is a great way to pick them up after a hard test.
Play This or That
Designate one side of the room as “Agree” and one for “Disagree.” Have students get up out of their chairs and begin reading statements that students may have different opinions about. You could say things like, “School uniforms are a great idea” or “School should be year-round.” You can do a quick search for icebreakers or statements, and you can choose how serious (or not) you want it to be. Have students explain their opinions to those on the other side of the room. This is a fun game to play, but it’s also a great way to explore political ideas and learn about how government works, too.
Create a Podcast Master List
If you have access to computers or want to let students use their phones, have everyone find a podcast that is relevant to something you’re studying in class and listen to it during class time. Each student should write out the title and a brief summary of the podcast on an index card, which can be posted in the classroom. That way, students can look at the index cards at any time to get an idea of some educational or interesting podcasts they can listen to. You can even offer extra credit when students listen to extra podcasts and present notes or a paragraph summary!
Play Board Games
While this isn’t super educational on its own, students can learn important lessons from classic board games, and it gives them a chance to interact with their peers without a screen between them. Bring in games like Monopoly, Clue, Life, Pictionary, Scrabble, Scattergories, and some decks of cards, and let students just play!
Print out multiple copies of crossword puzzles, Sudoku, word searches, logic puzzles, and more. Put students in small groups and have them compete to see who can finish a particular puzzle first. You can create a puzzle tournament where there is ultimately one winner, or have students pick which type of puzzle they want to do and have a winner for each type of puzzle. Students love doing puzzles like this and even though they’re not usually super difficult, they challenge their brains and sharpen their logic skills, which is always a plus.
Every student gets 2-4 small pieces of paper and writes something on each, either a person, place, or thing. Place the papers into a fish bowl, then divide students into two teams, and pass the fish bowl in a circle around the room. For the first round, students draw a piece of paper and must explain and describe what is written on it. They then get their team members to guess as many things as possible in 30 seconds. Play continues on until all the papers are gone. Then the papers go back into the fish bowl and play continues to round two, where students must act out the thing written on the paper. For round three, they can use only one word to get their team members to guess what is written down. This is a super fun game and will test students’ memory and creativity.