When kids are engaged and excited about learning they retain more. So much of school is repetitive which means teachers are constantly trying to come up with ways to engage students better. To put it eloquently we are trying to put an extraordinary twist on ordinary activities.
Routine Classroom Activity
I love routines. Patterns and habits make life easier to accomplish what we need to do. If a boring routine will get the job done and it’s something I have time to implement easily I am in. I don’t need more excitement than solving the latest upper elementary drama with a heart-to-heart conversation.
Students Want More Than the Usual Classroom Activity.
Our students don’t feel the same way. They want anything that is fun and different from a usual classroom activity. There has to be an efficient way to get the necessary lessons done and put an interesting twist on them. Isn’t that why interactive notebooks took off? They are ordinary learning with a slight twist.
What Does it Mean to Put a Twist on a Classroom Activity?
A twist on a classroom activity is when the teacher makes the lesson slightly different and unexpected from usual activities. Putting a twist on a classroom activity can be simple and just slightly different or it can be a big change from the usual lesson.
It can be a challenge to think of creative ways to flip a classroom upside down. The truth is something you will think of an amazing idea and other times it will be a slight twist.
7 Ways to Put a Twist on Any Classroom Activity
To engage our students we need to make school more interesting than it used to be. Our students are bombarded with entertainment everywhere because technology is readily available. It’s time to get creative and start putting a twist on more classroom activities. Here are seven ways you can put a twist on almost any classroom activity. Think about the learning goal and your group of students as you decide which to use.
Who They Work With Classroom Activity Twists
Students love working with other students. It’s fun to work together and collaborate. They have someone they can trust to ask questions and check their work. Much of their grade is based on individual ability, but in real life, they will need to work with others constantly. Not only will it make your job as a teacher easier, but they will gain life skills too.
Partner work is nothing new, but try offering it on an assignment you normally wouldn’t. The great thing about partner work is that you can decide if they choose, you choose or it will be random. You can have them work with one partner for a few minutes and then switch to a new partner. Get creative with how you want to use partner work.
Breaking your students into small groups give you less to grade and students more people to bounce ideas off of. In some of my projects, I like to have students work individually to start and then bring them together as a group. They could also start together and then finish a project alone. Think about creative ways to group kids differently than you usually have.
Talk to some of the other grades in your school and see if you can figure out a way for your students to work with theirs. Students love meeting up with other grades because it’s nice a break from the usual. If you can think of one project that students can partner with another grade then you are golden.
- Help with research
- Share a story
- Read a book
- History project
- Science experiment
- Math tutors
Bring in people from outside the school to work with your students. There are lots of ways that you could go about bringing extra adults to your classroom. They could come in to help with a project you usually do or you could plan an extra project to involve them. Here are a few quick ideas. (Always be sure to check with your principal when you want to bring visitors to the school.)
- Once we took our students to bake at a local restaurant as part of their preparations for a tea party that went with a book.
- Mystery readers can be someone from the local community
- First responders love to visit schools and talk with students
- You could also just have a day where you have a few volunteers come into to play games with your class.
Audience Classroom Activity Twists
The teacher is usually the audience for student work. That’s not the best motivation to get students to work hard. It’s time to start to try to provide our students with a bigger audience. When students have a real audience to create for they work harder, are more engaged, and learn more too. It simply makes their work more meaningful when there are more people to share it with.
A new audience also helps students practice for real life. They will have to communicate their ideas in effective and interesting ways. The more practice they get from different types of audiences the better.
Read this article for more ideas on sharing student work. Here are a few other audiences to consider.
- Other Grades
- Experts in the Field
- School or City Officials
- Internet Audience (with school permission)
- Anyone You Can Think Of
Use Projects to Twist a Classroom Activity
Worksheets are boring. Writing and grading papers is boring. Projects are fun, interesting, and engaging, and teach many of the same skills. I am not saying that we can get rid of all essays or worksheets, but think about the number of papers kids write compared to the number of projects. Is it about even? In our modern world, I think kids need to be just as good at creating projects as they are at writing papers. Take a look at your plan for the year and see if you need to up the number of projects you do.
Also, think about the type of project you assign. Posters and slide shows are overused. Do a search online, brainstorm, or check out my Choice Board Ideas lesson.
Use Real World Problems to Add a Twist to a Classroom Activity
Problem-Based Learn is when students work through real-world open-ended problems. They take on a task or project and work on it from start to finish. Often these problems and solutions can impact their communities too.
A popular example of this is starting a school garden. Students need to calculate the space needed, pick plants, price materials, and create a care schedule. Then along the way, students realize their disable classmate will have trouble helping plants so they need to create raised beds. This problem means they need to find a builder, make new measurements, make building plans, and pay for materials. Then students can also figure out what to do with the food grown. Should the cafeteria use it, for a homeless shelter, or should they sell it to buy new recess equipment?
Real-world problems engage students because they know it will be more than a grade on a report card.
Social Media Classroom Activity Twists
I must proceed this section by saying you must be extremely careful when you use social media and internet activities with your students. It can be very effective, but you must be vigilant and have permission. It can also be effective to assign mock social activities.
I heard about a teacher who records part of his classes to post on YouTube and the parents love it. They get to see their children in class including how they interact, what their learning, and the activities that are going on. So often students tell their parents’ school was fine, but this teacher posts so parents know a whole lot more and other teachers can learn from him too.
You can create real or fake social media accounts, posts, videos, or podcasts. Students love to put social media out into the world and when they are going to get a good grade for it that’s even better. Think about creative ways you can incorporate social media projects into your curriculum, even if it is just for a grade.
Video Games Classroom Activity Twists
One teacher I worked with loved to try to engage her students by having them make the setting of a story in Minecraft. She set rules and guidelines to ensure the project was completed. The kids love the opportunity to use a video game to complete school work. It took them time and effort to create the setting but they were all in. If you know the video games or other things your students love see if you can turn them into a twist on classroom activity.
Classroom Activity Twists When Students Choose
What if we asked our students what they wanted to do to show what they know? We reserve the right to veto anything, but giving them a voice and choice is powerful. My one suggestion would be to take all of their ideas before vetoing anything. This helps to ensure that students share, their ideas can inspire ideas that work for everyone, and it’s nice.
You Can Make a Classroom Activity with a Twist
Teachers are smart, creative, and funny. Teachers can engage students with creative ideas that make teaching more fun and engaging. Start trying out some of these twists to help transform your classroom.
Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry
I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing. Here is an entire lesson for FREE. My Our School Poem guides students by using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.