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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Sponge Activities That Make Classroom Life More Manageable
Theresa London Cooper

Have you ever heard of “sponge activities”?

As the term indicates, sponge activities soak up excessive time and minimize dead time. They give the students something meaningful to think about, say and/or do during the downtime that may occur when a lesson finishes a little earlier than expected; or when a teacher providing a preparation period is a few minutes late; or a guest speaker is running late It’s not enough time to begin a lesson–perhaps not even a mini-lesson. So, what do you do with those extra few minutes? Employ a sponge activity.

Where can you get them? Well, you probably already have them. Think about activities that you do with your students that are quick, get them thinking, keep them engaged, and take little preparation. If you’re still at a loss, do a simple Google search. Or just read on. Here are some sponge activities I find effective:

Early Elementary Grades

  1. Sing a song.
  2. Do a finger play.
  3. Recite a poem or nursery rhyme.
  4. Count by multiples.
  5. State rhyming words using word families like "at" and "et."
  6. Use flashcards and have students pantomime action words (verbs).

Upper Elementary Grades

  1. Create two and three letter words from a longer word.
  2. Take turns naming different states.
  3. Complete stretches or calisthenics by multiples of twos, fives, tens.
  4. Rehearse oral exercises with the times tables. Example : 6 x 3 =  or 6 x [ ] = 18
  5. Utilize flashcards to review synonyms and antonyms.
  6. Make use of flashcards to review vocabulary and have students create meaningful sentences.

Remember, sponge activities help you manage your time with students more effectively and keep you sanity.

Which will you add to your repertoire?

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail Theresa.


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