For Teachers

10 Alternatives for Those Classes Before Break

By The Room 241 Team November 22, 2019

The days before break can be equal parts exhausting and exciting. It’s often hard to plan valuable learning experiences for students when they’re counting down the minutes till break. So what do most teachers do? Pop in a movie.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with movies. They can be very informational and relevant for curriculum learning. But on these days before a long break, as so many teachers are struggling with the same situation, students can find themselves in movie overload. And attention spans can start to break down quickly.

Do yourself a favor and avoid this scenario altogether. Check out these 10 options to keep kids engaged and having fun during your next before-break class.

1. Scavenger hunt

Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? There are so many variations to a scavenger hunt lesson, and they can be modified for content and grade level. Incorporate technology or go with the good old pencil and paper. Use it as a review session or as a stand-alone activity. The possibilities are endless. Check out some of these variations for inspiration and find the perfect fit for your classroom.

2. Speed dating with books

Vacation is a great time for some independent reading, and this lesson can help students find their next read. Set up a speed dating lesson to introduce students to different books from your classroom library, or enlist the help of your school librarian to find some new favorites.

Although there are so many internet sites regarding a multitude of ways to speed date in the classroom, check out Mrs. Readerpants’ Book Speed Dating lesson. Simple, to the point, and realistic for students and teachers, it’s a great place to start planning your classroom speed-dating adventure.

3. Kahoot

Kahoot is a fantastic site to get kids involved in learning and technology. One-to-one technology such as computers or cell phones are required for the program. Kahoot can be used as a chance to review material before break, or just for fun trivia. Kids love the interactive element and often forget they are learning in the process!

4. Word games like Scattergories or Boggle

Although multiple online versions of these games are designed to be played on a computer, nothing says you can’t hand the kids some paper and project the game on the board. Print out answer sheets that allow students to play and then let the program do the work!

5. Create a creature

Designed for upper elementary as well as middle and high school students, this activity challenges students to be as descriptive as they can. 

  • Give students a piece of paper, and direct them not to show anyone what they are about to draw. 
  • Give them about five minutes to draw a creature — any kind of creature. They can draw stick figures, fanged monsters, unicorn kitties, or whatever their imagination provides. It’s not really about drawing ability. 
  • Then, give the students 5-10 minutes to write a paragraph about their creature using as much visual detail as possible. They can include names and background information if they wish, but the most important element is to describe what the creature looks like. 
  • Still keeping their drawing a secret, have the students partner up. 
  • Sitting together, one student will read their description — and only the description written on the page.  They’re not allowed to add any additional details. The other partner will listen to the description and draw the creature being described. 
  • When partners are both finished, they can compare the original drawing to their partner’s. Laughter is sure to follow.
  • Students then trade tasks and repeat steps 5-7. 

This activity reinforces the importance of descriptive writing in communication and is so much fun. Your students will love it. 

6. Brain games

Kids love a mystery, no matter how much they complain they don’t get it. One favorite activity is to challenge students to think differently about words and images. Thinkablepuzzles.com has a wide variety of printable games, but probably the best is Bamboozables.

A bamboozable is a saying/phrase that is made up of a display of words, in an interesting way. The object is to try to figure out the well-known saying, person, place, or thing that each bamboozable is meant to represent. Kids will scratch their head, beg you for answers, and have a blast while practicing problem-solving skills and alternative thinking.

7. Clean-up day

Sometimes, these days before break are a fantastic opportunity for students and teachers to get organized. Allow time for students to sort through papers, notebooks, lockers, and desks for a clean start after break. Involve students in organizing the classroom: take down holiday decorations, redo a bulletin board, organize books and toys. It’s amazing how helpful students can be when a teacher asks them to join in organizing the classroom.

8. Thank you notes

In today’s tech-savvy world, some old traditions are frequently overlooked. But so many people cherish a hand-written note of appreciation. There can be many reasons for sending a thank you card. Scholastic has taken on some of the work with this lesson. Take the time before a vacation to discuss the importance of gratitude and have the kids revisit some classic etiquette education.

9. Minute to win it games

Based on the hit NBC show, Minute to Win It!, bringing the game into your classroom involves completing a set number of tasks using normal, everyday items in 60 seconds or less. Though Scholastic’s post is geared toward end-of-year lesson planning, go ahead and incorporate some of these ideas for those classes before break.>

10. STEAM challenges

There’s nothing greater than a child’s imagination. STEAM challenges are geared toward pushing students to engineer creative solutions. Incorporate STEAM activities into your before-break lesson plans the kids will love. 

Everyone loves a vacation. But, if you take some time to inject different learning opportunities and a little fun into your lessons leading up to vacation, you just may find students love those classes right before break too!

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