When emergencies happen, it’s hard to focus, especially when you’ve got classrooms of middle schoolers waiting for your lessons. Having a subfolder with backup plans is a necessity for all teachers. The following ideas incorporate what you’re currently studying no matter the subject and help the kids stay focused on the content while giving you formative feedback in your absence.
1. Write a Letter
Have students brainstorm people or things they’ve been studying, and then pose questions relating to their lists. Have them write a letter from one thing to the other either presenting a problem and/or posing a solution. For example, you might have an electron write a love letter to a proton expressing the attraction they feel in scientific terms.
Learn More: NCTE
2. Traveling Story
Have students write for 2-3 minutes on lined notebook paper about something they’ve been studying, and then fold the top down so only the last line remains visible. Then they pass their paper to the student next to them, and the timer begins again. When the paper is full, it’s time to read and affirm.
Learn More: Education World
3. Pseudo-Magnetic Poetry
Have students each contribute a vocabulary word to the board that references something they’ve been studying. Then have them add the most interesting word they know or a difficult word. Ask them to write a poem combining as many of the words as possible in 10 lines or less…and share!
Learn More: Literacy Worldwide
4. Text, Tweet, or Post
Brainstorm a list of concepts or vocabulary from something they’ve recently studied and assume a personified form. Students then write either a text message, tweet, or post of their choice. Trade with other classmates and see how they reply as their personified forms.
Learn More: NATALIALZAM
#5 - Makeshift Jeopardy
Have students each write an answer and then a question about a concept they’ve learned. You can even have them do this in groups. Then form teams, tape these to the board, and get playing! You can randomly assign dollar amounts for a more competitive environment.
Learn More: Pinterest
6. You Be the Teacher
Have students break up into groups and prepare mini-lessons based on the current things they’ve studied to see if they can educate YOU, the sub! It’s a great way to see how well they’ve understood the material.
Learn More: EFL Magazine
7. Carousel Brainstorming
Supply a large sheet of paper (if possible) and have teams of 4-5 students write everything they know about a topic they’re studying in a different color marker. Trade the sheets among groups, having them add question marks, underlines for emphasis, and stars next to the best answers.
Learn More: NWEA
8. Backwards Jigsaw
In this jigsaw, students write down a concept on which they aren’t clear and then are grouped by this topic. They work together to find the answer or clarify the topic. You can also elicit experts from other teams to help them in their research.
Learn More: Science Edventures
9. Visual Understanding
Elicit the artists in your group by asking them to illustrate a concept that they’ve learned about. Non-artists could cut out magazine pics or could supply the caption to the artwork.
Learn More: Pinterest
Ask students to create a brainstorming chart or flow chart for something they’ve recently studied. This will serve as a visual representation of how things are related within a subject.
Learn More: EL Education
11. Tournament Mode
Think March Madness brackets, and have students construct the 16 or 32 entry points with concepts, vocabulary, characters, or anything they can effectively defend. Then faceoff! Divide into four groups and have each represent a region, explaining why they advanced their pick to the final four. Then the class decides the winner!
Learn More: Cairn University
12. Sketch Notes
Have students review concepts with sketch notes, using graphics and artistic renderings to illustrate principles. Working with a group can make this activity even more creative.
Learn More: Pinterest
Ask students in groups to choose a difficult concept and brainstorm three tripwires to understanding. Then each group shares with the class for further collaboration.
14. Two Truths & a Lie
Have students each brainstorm two facts they’ve learned about a subject and then add an incorrect statement. Each student presents their 3 to the class, and then you vote on which is the lie, with an explanation of why from one or more students.
Learn More: Teaching Professor
15. TEDEd Talks
Play a related TEDEd talk in the classroom and have students record salient points to share with the class. Discuss something they found interesting, something they were confused about, and something that surprised them.
Learn More: TEDEd
16. Facebook Profile
If the students were to create a Facebook profile for a concept, what would the About Me have in it? Who would they follow? What would their handle be? What would their profile pic look like? What would be listed in the informational sections?
Learn More: Template.net
If you were to choose three songs that illustrated a character’s personality, what would they be and why? This is a great way to incorporate music and lyrics into the current subject begin studied.
18. Boilerplate Marketing
In public relations and marketing, boilerplates are often created to use in different situations, often in 25-, 50-, 75-, and 100+ word explanations. How concisely can students explain topics or concepts or characters in each one of these limited descriptions?
Learn More: G2
19. Elementary Explanation
Have students choose a vocabulary word or concept and explain it in such a way that a kindergartener could understand it. Choose different grade levels and see how the wording would change. Use illustrations to help!
20. ABC List
Trickier than it sounds, have students create an ABC list of words that relate to a given concept, chapter, or subject area. You can divide into groups and then trade when they get stuck.