At the beginning of the year I was getting the above question about a million times a day. I had explained to my students that they always had the option of reading, finishing morning work or practicing their spelling words. Well, those options worked for a while but then the question came back and I knew something needed to change.
I took to good ol’ Pinterest to get some ideas on brain breaks or activities for fast finishers. After I found a few great things, I used a combination of those ideas and came up with my own system.
Introducing the “Sticks Center”
Now, when my students are finished and are sitting there with nothing to do, they have the option to read, finish their morning work or “do the sticks.” Simple system that works like this.
1. Draw a stick
2. Do what it says
Simple right? 🙂
Here is a closer look at the sticks in the can:
These are all of their options. The rule I have is they can’t look when they draw a stick and whatever they get, they have to do or they go back to their seat and read.(“If you’re gonna do the sticks, you do ’em right” I say that a lot) If they draw the same stick in a day they don’t have to do it twice, they can redraw. Been doing this for about four months and it has been great so far, they enjoy it and are great at completing the activities. Very little work on my part and they don’t ask me the dreaded question anymore!
Here are short explanations of each stick.
Flash Cards: There are two sets of multiplication flashcards (about 20 cards each) they take them back to their seat and go through the cards twice.
Word Problems: The students gets to be the teacher and they write me two word problems. I have to solve it by the end of the day. The only rule is, they have to know the answer to the problem! Sometimes I solve it wrong to see if they can catch my mistake… they have no idea and get so proud of themselves when they catch my mistake!
Spelling ABC Order: Write that week’s spelling words in alphabetical order.
Wrap-Ups: Subtraction and multiplication manipulatives. Buy here.
Spin Multiplication: Fun interactive multiplication flashcards. Thanks to the teacher who had my room before me!
Random Worksheet: This folder is full of random challenging worksheets. They have to draw a random one without looking. There are all kinds of things in there like crosswords, riddles, math challenges, word searches.
Book Report: Students get a piece of notebook paper and write a short summary of a book they read recently.
Just for Fun Book: I have a tub full of lower-level children’s books. I still think those are fun to read so why wouldn’t fourth graders?
Spelling Story: Students write a story containing all of their spelling words.
Rhyming Words: Students pick a word and write as many words that rhyme with it as possible.
Write a Short Story: Students write a story no longer that a page about anything they want!
Math Challenge Number: I created a worksheet with a different number at the top. They pick one and each worksheet has them adding 15 to the number, subtracting 25, writing the number with words, dividing by 3, and multiplying by 13. Really makes them think!
Write Cursive Letters: I don’t make my students write in cursive very often but they still need to practice. For this stick they simply have to write their cursive alphabet.
Spelling Pictures: Students draw a picture to go along with each spelling word.
Spelling 2x Whiteboard: Students grab a whiteboard and write their spelling words two times each.
Dictionary Hunt: I love this one! Students use a dictionary to find 3 words they don’t know. They write the word, the definition and draw a picture to go with it.
Write 20 Verbs: Pretty self explanatory.
Write 20 adjectives: Ditto!
Alphabet List: Students write their alphabet, then try to come up with a word for each letter. Bonus if they use past vocab or spelling words.
Boggle: My kids are OBSESSED with this one right now. I printed out some pre-made boggle lists with 20 letters. They are all trying to beat each other for who can come up with the most words. One of my students has a list of 112 going right now.. she won’t quit! I LOVE it!
ABC Order Challenge: In one of the trays I have multiple worksheets that have lists of words that start with the same letter and need to be put in alphabetical order. They are tricky and my kiddos like the challenge.
Addition Challenge has been replaced with Division Challenge: A large sheet of division problems with remainders. My kids love to do these and see if they can get them all right in one try!
This truly has been great for my classroom! It makes my kiddos use their brains all day long, no sitting doing nothing and a lot less getting into trouble in between activities!
Try it, you’ll like it!