As teachers, we know those special moments in the classroom in between activities when there is too
much time to transition to the next activity, but not enough time to really teach a full lesson. These moments are the perfect time for the “sponge activities” that I remember learning about years ago when I first started teaching. Now that I am in my 35th year of teaching, these little sponges (fun, short and engaging) have become second nature to me. Here are some examples:
MovementWhen we have five extra minutes it is a great time to get up and move. We can sing along with a song, such as the ABC song, patriotic songs such as You’re A Grand Old Flag, or movement oriented songs like B-I-N-G-O. The children love to sing and they love it even more when they can move by clapping their hands, stamping feet, marching, snapping or following movements that I begin, such as touching my head. It is a great time to get in some bi-lateral movements and crossing the body activates both sides of the brain. Vigorous clapping stimulates nerves in the hands and helps to “wake up” the brain and stretching to touch toes, twisting or reaching high really help to get the wiggles under control. A great song is “Heads Shoulders, Knees and Toes” which combines movement, following directions and vocal modulation (leaving out words until the last verse is performed with the movements only).
MathI love to look for ways to throw in a little math activity whenever possible so lately, I have been giving a simple addition problem to each student as I call attendance. I make sure that every child is able to come up with the correct answer (with help and support) and have taught the children how to “add on” by saying the larger number first and using their fingers to continue counting, adding the smaller number. The children feel great answering big kid math questions and everyone is getting a little taste of math facts from 1-10. We enjoy practicing sorting, such as sorting into groups by the kind of shoes you are wearing, how many buttons we have on our clothing, the color of hair, or eyes. We then count up the groups and compare using math terms: more than, greater than, smaller, less, and equal. If you have 5 minutes, you can take a survey or create a simple graph by asking a question such as, “Which pet would your rather have, a cat or a dog?” You can tally the answers by using names on popsicle sticks, write names on the board, have the children sort themselves into groups or simply have a show of hands.
Language ArtsMany times when we have a few extra minutes, we go around the carpet circle answering a simple question, for example, what is your favorite kind of ice cream? This activity reinforces answering in complete sentences, speech articulation as they speak loudly and clearly enough for everyone to understand, listening skills as they listen to each other’s answers and problem solving skills as they think up an answer of their own.
Sponge activities are designed to soak up time and have a little fun doing it, but our children’s brains are also sponges, soaking up little bits of information. In an informal setting, in-between activities, this is a win-win!
Mrs. Amy K. Weisberg has been teaching for 35 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District in California. She has taught in East LA, South Central LA, the East San Fernando Valley, the West San Fernando Valley and has been teaching at Topanga Elementary Charter School for the past 20 years. She has taught Pre-School, Transitional Kindergarten, Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd, grade, 4th grade and 6th grade.
Mrs. Weisberg has conducted numerous professional developments for school staff including the LAUSD West Area, and District training sessions for the School Readiness Language Development Program. She has presented at the California Kindergarten Conference, Southern California Kindergarten Conference, and the SCAEYC. She served on an Instructional Transformation Team instituting education reform during the LEARN movement in the LAUSD. In June 2007, Mrs. Weisberg was awarded the Lori Petrick Educator Award for Excellence in Education from the Palisades Charter Schools Foundation.