If you are a teacher, or if you were ever in elementary school, you have probably heard of the game 4 corners (If you don’t know what it is, don’t worry; I’ll explain). Usually, 4 corners is used as an easy indoor recess when you get that dreaded announcement over the intercom that it has somehow snowed 10 feet and you’ll have to keep your students inside. And, in my class because I had to do indoor recess once every day, I would use 4 corners frequently. However, I also used it to teach, and I’ll show you how.
4 corners is a great way to get your students moving and engaged without them even realizing that they are learning. You can use it as a practice game, or you can use it to get students’ opinions, or even as a fun way to introduce debates. Here is how to use it:
The great thing about this activity is that not only is it very engaging, but it is so easy to change up. You can change it to 2, or even 3 corners to fit your multiple choice questions. You can even let students who are behaving well decide how to travel to the corners, such as skip, crab walk, etc.
You can also make it a competition if you want. Simply have students sit down if they get the answer wrong. They can still answer the questions, just they can’t leave their desk. The last one standing wins. Or, if you don’t want to compete, just let your students keep playing even if they get the answer wrong.
Now you might be thinking, “Oh, well my students will just change their answers when they see other people’s answers.” Or maybe, “My students will make fun of students that get the answer wrong.” But, if you establish clear rules the first time, you won’t have these issues. So here are the expectations I set with my students.
Teaching these simple expectations at the beginning will save you in the long run. Help your students to understand that this activity is a privilege. And if you students don’t follow the expectations, stop. Showing them that you expect them to follow the rules is much more important than trying to be a “fun” teacher and letting them do the activity anyway.
So, as you can see, this is so easy to use for any subject. If you try this in your class, let me know how it works for you.
“It’s so much easier to manage students when they are at the rug.” I’ve overheard this several times in the workroom and at professional developments, but I think that this is only partially true. So, I wanted to take some time to address this.
Yes, there are some advantages to having your students at the class rug. They are all in one spot, you can easily see them, and they don’t have anything with them to distract them.
But, there are also downsides to it. It’s more difficult to move around and use proximity when the students are sitting so close together. And, it doesn’t work well if you need the students to be doing any writing. You have to have the students get their pencils and clip boards, and then wait for those students who forget to awkwardly climb over their peers and spend forever digging through their desk trying to find their pencil.
I would say that it is easier to manage students when they are at the rug for some types of instruction. But, for other times it is just easier to have them at their desks. Don't limit yourself by only teaching at the rug! You can teach your students wherever they are sitting if you just manage them correctly. So, if you are a teacher who avoids having your students stay at their desks while you instruct them, or if have your students stay at their desks but they are out of control, read on.
This first tip I have to credit to my amazing coworker who shared this idea with me. It saved my life! Plus, it’s as simple as having your students change the way their chairs face. All you need to do is teach your students these 2 chair positions. (Note: This will not work for all seating arrangements. This is meant for arrangements in which the desks aren’t facing the front of the classroom, such as some table group arrangements.)
The first chair position is called learning position. This means having your students turn their chairs and their bodies to face the front of the class, folding their arms, and looking at you. (If you are confused, don't worry. I thought of you and included a diagram to show what in the world I am talking about.) If you have a compatible seating arrangement, this means that your students will have their desk to the side of them. This helps to discourage students from playing with anything because they can’t hide it as easily, plus it is now easy for you to see when their arms aren’t folded. (If you have a student who still plays with things in their desk, turn their desk around so that the desk opening isn’t facing them anymore.) It also makes it so none of the students are facing each other, so they are less likely to talk. Have your students turn into learning position whenever you are instructing them and they don’t need to be writing or doing anything they need a hard surface for at the moment.
If you need your students to be able to write during your instruction, then simply have them turn into the second position, which is called working position. All this means is that the students turn out of learning position to face their desk again.
This next tip works no matter your seating arrangement, and it is essential to managing your students throughout the day, but especially when they are at their desks. Proximity. I know that you have probably heard this term hundreds of times, but it is key to managing your students when you instruct them at their desks. Walk around the classroom while you instruct. This keeps the kids on their toes because they don’t know when you will walk by them. So, if you notice a student misbehaving, simply walk over to their desk and instruct the class from there. The students won’t think anything of it, but most of the time it corrects their behavior.
Lastly, I highly recommend having a table group or row management system. So, if you have your students sitting in table groups or rows, reward the tables that are following directions while you instruct them. It can be as simple as giving them points and then giving a reward to the first table group to get to a certain amount of points.
These are just a few ways to help manage your students at their desks, but I know that you fabulous teachers have so many more ideas. If you do, please share your wisdom with all of us and comment below!
It definitely feels like fall here in Seattle. I’ve actually been busy getting prepared for a big storm that is supposed to hit tomorrow. Hopefully things don’t get too crazy!
But, I really do love fall. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, except at school. For elementary teachers, it is one of the worst days of the school year. And this year it is going to be particularly bad because Halloween is on Monday. Yes. Monday. The worst day it could possibly be on. But, I just finished my Halloween Party Pack that will make planning your class Halloween party a breeze. It is packed with way more than you can fit into an hour long class party. I'm talking 100+ pages packed! I had so much fun making this, and I hope that you will find it useful in your class. Here’s a sneak peek of the pack:
First in the pack, is editable invites. I highly recommend sending out invites about the Halloween party. It’s a great way to get donations for the party and parent volunteers. Plus, it is an easy way to communicate your school’s rules on Halloween costumes so you don’t have to send any kids to the office to get a change of clothes.
Next, there are 60 Halloween bingo cards. I’ve included 30 colored and 30 B&W cards just in case your school doesn’t have a colored printer (I wish mine had!). My students loved to play bingo, and I did it for almost every class party. To add extra fun, I let my students play with candy corn.
Another fun game that is included in the pack is pumpkin bowling. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Have the kids knock over cans with a pumpkin. I’ve included the directions, supplies to make the pins, and a scoring sheet.
There’s also this adorable Frankenstein craftivity in the pack, and some super cute student gift ideas with premade gift tags.
Now, there is even more included in the pack, but if I showed you all of it, it wouldn’t be much a sneak peek, now would it? If you want to see what else is included, click here to head on over to my store.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in this pack to make your kids any less crazy on Monday…or Tuesday for that matter, but it will make life a little less stressful for you.
Well, it’s starting to get to that time of year where indoor recess is going to be happening. I know that here in Seattle, the summer weather is definitely on its way out. Indoor recess is the worst. The students are so antsy from being inside and sitting all day, and you are antsy from being with students all day. So, it is so nice to be able to send them outside where they can get their energy out and you can take a breather (or cram in more work).
I am very familiar with indoor recess. I actually had to do indoor recess once a day, every day. That’s right. Every. Day. The 2nd grade team at my school got the short end of the stick when it came to the daily schedule last year. Recess for 2nd grade was scheduled less than an hour after school started, and it made it so that I couldn’t have a one-hour, uninterrupted chunk for a lesson for the whole day. So, instead of taking my students outside for this very early morning recess, we would do an indoor recess later in the morning. It wasn’t the most ideal, but I made it work so that I could teach math without having to stop in the middle to go outside for recess.
So, as you can imagine, I had to come up with quite a few ideas for indoor recess. Now, hopefully you don’t have indoor recess every day, but on the occasions that you do, here are some things that you can try. I’ve included quite a few games that I know many of you probably know how to play, but just in case you don’t, I have included a quick summary of the rules for them. If you know the rules, great! Just skip over that part.
1. Go Noodle: If you haven’t heard of Go Noodle before, check it out. It was a life saver for me. It has free, fun videos that get the kids up and moving. All you have to do is press play.
2. Dance Dance Revolution: There are plenty of kid-friendly videos of people playing Dance Dance Revolution online. Find videos where only the screen is shown (not the actual person dancing) and have your students follow along. The kids will actually think they are the ones playing!
3. Boggle Competition: Create a 4x4 grid of random letters on the whiteboard or project it on a screen (be sure to include vowels). Give each student a piece of paper. Set a timer for 3 minutes and see how many words the students can find in that amount of time. The words must be at least 3 letters long, and they have to make the words out of letters that are touching the letter that comes before it in the word. They can touch horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. For example, if they found "cat". The c has to touch the a and the a has to touch the t, but the t and the c don't have to touch. The person who finds the most words wins.
4. Puzzles: Keep a few different puzzles on hand. If you have an unexpected indoor recess, you can just pull them out. The kids love to work on them.
5. Board Games: Buy some used board games at a thrift store to let your students play. Just be sure to buy ones that are not too complicated or long, or take forever to set up.
6. Word Searches & Crosswords: Print out word searches and crosswords from online. Laminate them and have the kids use dry erase markers on them. Then, they can be used again and again.
7. Picture Searches: Have some I Spy books in your class or print out picture searches from online, laminate them and have your students write on them with dry erase markers.
8. Coloring Books: Buy cheap coloring books from the Dollar Store or the Target dollar spot. Rip out enough pages for each student to have one. Let quiet students come and choose a page first. Your class will be so well behaved!
9. Math Manipulatives: I know this sounds like a weird activity, but my students loved to play with the pattern blocks I had, and they actually made some really cool designs out of them! So, if you have some fun math manipulatives in your class, and you don’t mind your students playing with them, it can be a really easy indoor recess.
10. I Spy: Pick an object in your classroom, and say "I spy with my little eye something [insert adjective describing the object]. Then, have the students take turns guessing what it is. You can also let your students be it; they love to! Just be sure to limit the amount of guesses for each round, or it can keep going forever!
11. Telephone: Have the students sit in a circle and play a fun game of telephone. Come up with a sentence and whisper it into a student’s ear. Have them whisper the sentence to the next student, and continue this until the last student hears the sentence. See if the sentence is still the same by the time it gets to the last person. It can be pretty funny!
12. 20 Questions: This became one of my students’ favorite things to do during recess. Pick one student to be it. They have to think of a noun and then the rest of the class tries to guess what it is by asking up to 20 yes or no questions. Whoever guesses correctly is it.
13. 4 Corners: Number the corners of your classroom 1-4. Have one student close their eyes and count to 10 while the rest of the class walks to one of the corners. The student calls out one of the corner numbers. Whoever is in the corner is out and has to go back to their desk. The last student standing wins.
14. Heads Up 7 Up: Pick 7 students to be it. Say “Heads down, thumbs up.” Everyone else puts their heads down on their desks and sticks one of their thumbs up. The 7 students each tap one person’s thumb. Then, you say “Heads up, 7 up,” and the 7 students who had their thumb tapped stand and try to guess who tapped their thumb. If they guess correctly, they take that person’s spot as being it.
15. Simon Says: I love to do this activity because it gets the kids moving, which can be hard to do during indoor recess. Pick some one to be “Simon.” The students have to follow what they "Simon" says if they say “Simon says [insert action here.” If Simon does not say “Simon says” and the students do the action, those students have to sit down. For example, if Simon said, “Simon says jump in place,” then the students have to jump in place. But if Simon says, “Jump in place,” the students are not supposed to jump in place. The last person standing is the next “Simon.”
16. Charades: Write down people, animals, common actions, etc. on slips of paper, or if you want, you can even just whisper the things into the students’ ears if you don’t want to make the slips. Have one student act out whatever is on the paper without talking. The class has 1 minute to guess what they are doing. If they guess before the minute is up, they get a point. You can divide the students into teams and have them compete against each other if you like.
17. Trashketball: Buy a medium-sized, soft ball. Set an empty trashcan at the front of the class. Divide the class into 2 teams. Ask a person from each team a trivia question, or even a question related to something you have been learning in class. The first student to raise their hand and answer correctly gets to shoot the ball into the trash can. If they make it, they get a point. You can set up tape lines at varying distances from the trash can and award a different amount of points depending on how far they shot from to make it a little more interesting.
18. Drawing: Give the students blank paper and just let them draw. Simple, but fun.
19. Freeze Dancing: Put on some fun music and have the students start dancing. When the music stops, the students have to freeze in the pose they are in. If they move, they are out.
20. The Statue Game: Pick one student to be it. They say a person, animal, or object and the students have to become a statue of that. For example, the person who is it might say, “Grandma.” Then, the rest of the students make their best statue of a grandma. The person who is it, picks the best statue, and that students is then it.
I hope that this gave you some ideas of what you can do, so that when you hear the dreaded announcement over the intercom, you’ll be ready to keep your students entertained.
Hi! I'm Mackenzie. Teacher, wife, and Washingtonian. Check out my blog to get ideas and products for your class.
© Mackenzie Allen 2016.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.