No matter how well you plan out the day, there are going to be times when you have to quickly and creatively fill up a five- to ten-minute gap in the schedule. That's where "sponge activities" come into play. Sponge activities soak up those in-between-minutes with easy-to-implement challenges that motivate students to stretch their minds in new directions. Most of the activities can be done independently, in teams, or as a class, depending on your needs. As the year continues, you'll develop many sponge activities of your own based on the lessons you are teaching. Until then, these ideas will keep students involved and learning when there are unexpected minutes to fill.

Grades K–2

  • When I say a number (day of the week, month...), tell me what comes next (before).

  • What number comes between 2 and 4 (13 and 15, 31 and 33, 49 and 51...)?

  • Name or list words that rhyme with red (mom, bug, box...).

  • Name, draw, or list animals that live in the desert (jungle, farm, forest, mountains...).

  • Name, draw, or list kinds of foods (dinosaurs, plants, holidays, cars...)

  • Name, draw, or list things that are big (small, tall, short, wide...).

  • Name, draw, or list all the colors you are wearing.

  • Name, draw, or list things that are scratchy (smooth, soft, sharp, cold, sour, rough, fast, warm...).

  • Name, draw, or list objects in the room that are the shape of a square (circle, triangle...).

  • Use as many words as you can to describe the weather today (your friend, your teacher, your home...).

  • Mime an animal.

  • Find something in the room that starts with the letter b (t, c,...).

  • Play hangman (or snowman) using names of the students in the class or spelling words.

  • Perform finger plays or sing favorite songs.

  • Play Simon Says or I Spy.

Grades 3–5

  • List all the foods you can think of that you like (or don't like) to eat.

  • List all the words you can make using the letters in your name.

  • Draw a map of the furniture in your bedroom (living room, classroom, block...).

  • List or name one city (country, piece of clothing, type of food, animal...) that begins with each letter of the alphabet.

  • List or name synonyms or antonyms for nice, (said, bad, mean, pretty and other simple descriptive words).

  • Write or tell your partner what you would do if you found a dog ($100, a ring, a treasure map...).

  • Add the numbers of all the days of the month (all the numbers from 1–12, 1–100, numbers in your phone number, ages of family members, ages of kids in the class...).

  • Alphabetize the names of the students in this class.

  • List or name all the words you can think of that end with the suffix -y (-tion, -dom, -ness...) and/or begin with the prefix re- (pre-, in-, mis-...).

  • Write advice for the President (actor, rock star, your grandma, your parents, your principal, your teacher...).

  • Write or tell your partner "I feel happy (sad, angry, frustrated, curious...) when _____."

  • Make a word search with spelling words (theme words, holiday words...).

  • Write clues about types of animals (foods, plants, the planets, your classmates...).

  • Make up math problems for a friend to solve; make sure you can figure out the answer too.


This article was adapted from The New Teacher Complete Sourcebook by Bonnie P. Murray (©2002, Scholastic).