These entries from our Winning Ideas Monthly Contest were suggested and tested by teachers like you!

Be the Teacher

Submitted by: April Roberts, Franklin County Middle School, GA

For my middle school, Latino, ESL kids, I often wrap up the last ten minutes by having one or two of the students "be the teacher" for a mini-lesson.

I'll call on someone at random, and ask them to go to the board and in two minutes or less re-teach what they've learned that day. I'll call them "Mr." or "Ms." and ask them questions as they demonstrate their lesson re-cap. I encourage the other students to ask questions so the teacher can field them. The "teacher" is allowed to choose to give their lesson in English or Spanish, depending on their language ability level. This option allows even the beginner to participate effectively and show off a bit. It works well with grammar, because they can write examples, diagram a sentence, and list or categorize. This also works effectively in other content areas.

Flashlight Sight Words

Submitted by: Kelley Key, Athens City School District, TN

As a 1st grade teacher, I spend a lot of time helping students master basic sight words. Here is a fun, kinesthetic activity to make learning those sight words a little more enjoyable.

Write your designated sight words on star shapes and place them on the ceiling. (Precut foam star shapes are available. Magnetic strips work well to use with a suspended ceiling.) At the end of the day or when you have a few extra minutes, grab a flashlight and turn out the lights in the classroom. Have students repeat the following chant with you:

Flashlight, flashlight
Oh, so bright!
Shine on the word _______
with all your light!

Then, choose a volunteer to find the "star" word in the night sky with the flashlight. This activity could be adapted for use with reading vocabulary or science/social studies/math terms.

Fishbowl Songs

Submitted by: Geraldine Fogle, Parents As Teachers, NY

For a quick activity with my PreK students, I use a plastic fishbowl filled with fish- shaped cutouts in various colors. The kids seem to really enjoy the ones I cut out from wrapping paper, leftover cards, and junk mail because they have interesting patterns. On each fish we place the name of a song or finger play. I usually use seasonally appropriate titles and have some year-round favorites too.

The children can then take turns taking a fish out of the bowl and that is the song we sing. This is a great time-filler when waiting for dismissal, since we have to get ready a little earlier than the older classes, or waiting for an assembly to start. I've also placed a fish net nearby for the fish we have used earlier in the week. This insures that we are not singing the same songs every time.

Get As Close As You Can

Submitted by: Caroll Spencer, Dodson Mid-Mag School, CA

I call this sponge activity "Get as close as you can." I pick a random number (at least in the thousands or greater depending on what grade you teach) and I write it on the board. This is the target number. Then I write about five other random numbers. The students then can use any math operation and any of the five numbers once to try to get as close as they can to the target number. The student who gets the closest wins.

For example:

Target number: 1,050
Random numbers: 5, 87, 24, 13, 9
Sample answer: [(87*13)-(24*5)] + 9 = 1,020

Students usually want to keep on going and challenge the winner. They love this and it can take as little or as much time as you have.

Leopard Story Time

Submitted by: Alice Garner, Lincoln Elementary School, NC

On the rare occasions that we're all packed and ready to go with time to spare, we get out our pet leopard (our school's mascot). It is loosely stuffed, only about five inches long, and has a voice box so it roars if dropped or squeezed too tightly. We use him while we are verbally "writing" a story. I usually begin with an opening sentence, and then gently throw the leopard to a student. That student must come up with the next line in the story then pass the leopard to another student. If the leopard roars, the one who caused the roar sits down. We have come up with some zany stories and practiced important story-writing skills as well as classroom behavior skills at the same time.