Impromptu Fun in the Classroom

I’m sure many of you, who can still remember back to your elementary school days, recall playing that super fun but really a big waste of time game called Heads up, Seven Up.  Seven students are chosen and while the remaining students put their heads down on their desks, those seven volunteers walk around and tap other students.  Then, the students tapped stand up and guess who tapped them.  If they guess accurately, they switch spots with their tapper.  It was always fun trying to guess or being the one to carefully tap a student in a way that would prevent him or her from guessing it was you.  The students loved this game.  I even brought it into my classroom on many occasions, with rave reviews.  It’s a fun activity when a break is needed or if you have just a few extra minutes to kill between classes or lessons.

As one of my personal, professional goals for the year is to better close or conclude my STEM class, I’ve been really focused on having the students clean up and finish working five minutes prior to the end of class so that we have time to wrap things up.  Sometimes I end with an Exit Ticket assessment or just a review of the content covered.  On Friday, though, I wanted to try something different, much like Heads Up, Seven Up.

As the students concluded their awesome work period in STEM class on Friday, I didn’t have a concrete plan for how to end class.  What was I going to do?  The students had been working on a series of different activities in class.  Because it was a math day, some students had a mini-lesson with me on angle types and completed a worksheet packet, one student completed his Algebra Test, and the rest of the students completed independent work on the distributive property.  Then, as the students completed their assigned task, they transitioned into working on their Geology packet.  So, as you can see, there were many different concepts and topics worked on in class.  How could I possibly review all of them in five minutes?  Then, it hit me: Take advantage of the wide variety of content covered and turn it into a Grab Bag game.  Sure, not all of the students will know everything because they didn’t necessarily learn it, but that’s okay.  Give them all a chance and make it fun.  So, that’s exactly what I did.

I asked each student, at random by using the popsicle sticks name cup that was held by one of the students, a question.  Some of the questions focused on the Geology concepts we learned in class on Thursday, some of the questions focused on the Distributive Property, and some of the questions focused on angle types.  The students could leave class and move onto lunch when they answered one question correctly.  If they had a question but were not able to answer it properly, their popsicle stick was put back into the choosing cup.  The laughter and excitement in the classroom was phenomenal.  They had so much fun competing with and against one another.  Not only did they have fun and enjoy this impromptu closing activity, it also allowed me to informally assess the students on the concepts covered in class.  I was impressed that most of the students in each of the two main math groups could apply the skills they learned in class to answer the questions posed.  I was a bit surprised that many of the students struggled to name the layers of Earth considering how much time we spent on it in class yesterday and that they also reviewed the topic for homework.  With this in mind, I am tweaking Monday’s class to further review the layers of Earth with the boys.  Hopefully this will help solidify their bedrock of geological knowledge.

Purposefully ending class with a review, fun game, assessment, or introduction of what’s to come is necessary for the students to feel whole and complete.  It also breeds fun and creates formative assessment opportunities.  While I do plan most of my closing activities in advance, prior to the end of class, sometimes, the best happenings in class aren’t planned or scripted, they just happen.


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