I just happened to see something like this in a classroom that I was walking through and immediately loved the idea. It’s easy to use, easy for students to understand, and makes my classroom – a place of organized chaos – a little more organized and a little less chaos.
It works like this: I cut out and laminated the “What to Do” cards and put a magnet on the back of each. I kept them in a little basket on the tray of my white board.
Throughout the day, depending on what the students were doing at any given time, I would take down or put up options for choices the students could make when they were finished with their assignment.
This way, no one ever had to ask what to do next, never had an excuse to wander around the classroom aimlessly not knowing what to do. It also gave them a chance to make a choice for themselves, something I think is incredibly important for students to have.
- Read: This one was pretty much up there as an option always. Really, is there ever a time I wouldn’t want students to read in my class? If the students were taking a test or otherwise needed the room to stay quiet, then this would be the ONLY option on the board. Sometimes students just needed to be in their seats and quiet.
- Work on an Assignment: This was on the board most of the time too. If a student needed to complete a missing assignment or finish work for another class/subject, they could use extra time in my class to finish it. I would let them work on homework too. I know other teachers who won’t allow students to work on homework in class, but that has never made sense to me.
- Draw: Sometimes kids just need some time to do not much of anything, some down time to relax. Drawing is something a lot of kids enjoy that requires pretty much no prep on my part. I kept scrap paper and a bucket of crayons in my class, even when I taught middle school, and a lot of the kids seemed to appreciate when they’d have this as an option.
- Use Computers: I didn’t use this one all that often. When I taught fifth grade I had a bank of five computers in my classroom for student use. If there was more than fifteen minutes before the bell would ring, and students could be out of their seats without being too disruptive of the others still working, then I might put this up. Notice that it says “Use Computers,” not “PLAY ON Computers.” Students knew ahead of time that this option meant they could use certain programs, not have a free-for-all on the internet. (Such a mean teacher I was…)
- Visit with Friends: This one was added by a group of giggling 5th graders one year. They thought it was hilarous that they had made their own square and stuck it to the board. I won them over by keeping it as part of the rotation. If it was the end of the day or just a few minutes before lunch and most of the class had their class work complete, then this option would go up on the board. And my students would be happy.
- Challenge Yourself: For my science and social studies units, I often had fun activities that I couldn’t fit into class time for that unit, so sometimes I would set them up on a back table for students to work on if they chose. It seemed like every year there were a particular few students who really enjoyed having the option to do these. I also had some math and critical thinking games that fit into this category.
- Free Time Activities: I kept a file box with hanging file folders in the back of the room. It was helpfully labeled “Free Time Activities.” I kept all sorts of random things in there, like crossword puzzles and mazes and coloring pages and criticial thinking activities. Many of them were seasonal; I updated them maybe once a month. This was a good way to use the fun puzzles and activities that I’d find online or borrow from a teacher friend but that I didn’t have time to use for the whole class.
- Centers: I never actually had “centers” in my classroom, but I always thought that I would. So I was ready. Just in case.